Monday, May 26, 2014

Preserving Iraq’s Past, Interview With Aymen Jawad Founder and Executive Director of Iraq Heritage

Iraq is the “Cradle of Civilization.” It is the home to hundreds of ancient sites such as the Ziggurat of Ur, Taq- I-Kisra, the Citadel at Irbil, and others. Much of this history was neglected due to the wars and sanctions that Iraq suffered through over the last few decades. Now a new organization Iraq Heritage has been formed to try to preserve this legacy. Here is an interview with the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Iraq Heritage Aymen Jawad. Iraq Heritage can be followed on Twitter @iraq_heritage, Facebook, and on its webpage Iraq Heritage
1. When was Iraq Heritage founded and what is its goal?

Iraq Heritage was established in January 2013 to meet a growing demand for accurate, timely and professional information on the Iraqi Heritage and culture sector with particular emphasis on the all-important archaeological discoveries, heritage sites, caring for heritage, preserving future heritage sites, and the introduction of heritage into the education system.

Iraq Heritage is made up of leading Iraqi and international experts in the construction industry drawn from a variety of fields including industry professionals, finance and banking executives, Iraqi and multinational corporations, academics and scholars, and consultants and policy advisers.

Iraq Heritage provides four broad categories of services:
·      Information Services
·      Research & Development
·      Training & Capacity Building Consultancy Services

Iraq Heritage prides itself upon providing its clients with high quality impartial information, advice and guidance services. As founders, facilitators and organizers of the Iraq Heritage we aim to bring together annually the Iraqi Parliament, Government, Service Providers, Investors, and all the stakeholders who matter most in the development of Iraq.

2. Iraq has hundreds if not thousands of historical places of interests. How has your organization gone about identifying and cataloging all of these sites?

Iraq Heritage has begun to identify the heritage sites throughout the country, these are categorized into five separate sections:

·      Significant Discoveries
·      World Heritage List
·      Iraq Heritage Sites
·      Holy Sites
·      Other Sites

There are many sites that people aren’t even aware of and it is our mission to educate the Iraqi future generations to be aware of their heritage and more importantly to help them preserve Iraq’s heritage for the future generations.
Significant Discoveries include this the royal tomb of Queen Puabi dating back to the Sumerian Period (2600-2500 BC) (Iraq Heritage)

World Heritage sites include the city of Hatra that became a battleground between Parthians and Romans in 2 BC (Iraq Heritage)
Agargoaf built by King Kurigalzo in 15th Cen BC is on the Iraq Heritage list (Iraq Heritage)
The Kadhimiya Shrine in Baghdad is one of Iraq's holy sites (Iraq Heritage)
Al-Hadba the leaning minaret in Mosul is on Iraq Heritaage's "Other sites" list (Iraq Heritage)

3. Are there any places that are considered especially endangered and need immediate attention?

The majority of the heritage sites are in need of urgent attention due to the wars that have resulted in the heritage sites to be neglected and unmaintained. Recently we launched a newsletter regarding two sites that are in need of urgent attention, which I have attached below.

Al-Hadba also known as the hunchback minaret is in danger.

Al-Hadba minaret is the most popular heritage site in Mosul city and considered the highest minaret in Iraq. It dates back approximately 9 centuries and now it is falling down due to it being neglected and unmaintained. The name Al-Hadba has always been associated with Mosul city and when entering the city the minaret has its great presence and plays a major role as the icon of Mosul. Al-Hadba is subsiding more and more everyday and will eventually result in collapse if urgent maintenance is not carried out. Also Delal Bridge in Zakho, which dates to the Roman era and is unfortunately on the verge of collapse.

Iraq Heritage urges all lovers of Mesopotamia to stand together and support us on our mission to save Iraq’s heritage sites before we lose them.

4. The looting of the National Museum in Baghdad in 2003 was an infamous event following the U.S. invasion. Has there been damage to other sites due to fighting since the fall of the old regime?

The looting of the museum was a very upsetting event for everyone. Unfortunately the majority of the heritage sites are located in high-risk areas, so a lot of them have been damaged and affected by the upsetting regular incidents we have on a daily basis. Due to the majority of the heritage sites being in such high risk areas it is very difficult for specialist teams to be sent out to do the work required to keep the sites from deteriorating any further and to be preserved for future generations. The majority of the sites require urgent maintenance and repair.

5. How has the government responded to your effort to preserve Iraq’s historic sites?

Iraq heritage is an organization by the people and for the people. Everybody has been supportive of our organization and our projects. The government is currently being formed due to the new elections. However we are working in partnership the Ataba al Haydariya and we are working towards “The first International conference with regards to Architectural Heritage in the Holy City of Najaf with special focus on the Holy Shrine.” This will take place in mid September 2014. Five of our board members and two of our Senior fellows will be participating in this joint event.

6. Have you gotten support from the private sector and international organizations?

We have recently met with the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, which is in memory of Gertrude Bell and they where very happy to work in partnership with Iraq Heritage as we share the goal to revive Iraq’s heritage and educate people of such and amazing places that everyone deserves to know about.

Iraq Heritage is also working in partnership with Nature Iraq which was created to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s natural environment, and we are lucky enough to have the great founder Azzam Alwash as a board member on Iraq Heritage’s advisory panel.

In addition we are working towards the first international conference working in partnership to the Ataba Al-Alaywiya with specific regards to architectural heritage of the holy city.

We are happy to work in partnership with any organization that is working to help and regenerate Iraq as a whole and to revitalize its rich heritage.

7. There are some sites like the Karbala shrine, the citadel in Irbil, etc. that are still being used and are therefore appreciated by the Iraqi public. Are people as interested in some of the other places your group is working on?

All the heritage sites in Iraq are visited and are part of every Iraqi. The current security situation doesn’t encourage anyone to visit some of Iraq’s finest heritage sites due to the location they happen to be in. We hope that the security will improve so that people from all over the world can come and visit the great heritage sites of Iraq.

8. Are you interested in creating more international interest in Iraq’s history and attracting tourists?

We believe Iraq isn’t just for Iraqis it is the cradle of civilization and it is the home to every one. Our dream is for people to come from all over the world to come, visit, enjoy and more importantly learn more about Iraq’s legacy. Our current duty is to educate people of such amazing heritage sites so that people are aware of their history. More importantly our mission is to educate Iraq’s future generations just how important their heritage is and the importance of preserving such an amazing legacy.

Iraq is the future and we will work together as a team to make it a better place for the future generations.


Ameer Najim said...

Great Work ! At last something we can be proud of!

Anonymous said...

Proud to see we are moving in the right direction. I love your work by the way and love your website I recommend to every one!

James Milner said...

Thank you, this was a great read ! I didn't even know some of theses sites existed!javascript:void(0)