Sectarian violence is taking a terrible toll on …

Sectarian violence is taking a terrible toll on Iraq’s religious and cultural heritage [EPA]
Iraq’s archaeological and artistic culture is in danger of being wiped out due to a lack of protection and targeted assassinations, a group of archaeologists and artists have told Al Jazeera.

According to figures from the ministry of culture, 18 archaeologists and researchers have been killed since late 2005.
Fuad Rassi, an Iraqi archaeologist and professor of antiquities at Baghdad University, said: “We are unable to protect important historical sites and the remaining books and parchments documenting Iraq’s culture have been stolen from local libraries.”
Rassi also said the intimidation and murder of archaeologists since the 2003 US-led invasion has impeded the country’s research into, and preservation of, millennary culture.

He said: “There aren’t archaeologists remaining in Iraq because most of them have been killed and the others have fled from the violence. Our situation is getting critical in Iraq. Archaeologists and artists are being targeted by militias and insurgents.”

Bitter legacy

In May 2003, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1483 which stressed “the need for respect for the archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious heritage of Iraq, and for the continued protection of archaeological, historical, cultural, and religious sites, museums, libraries, and monuments”.

But Lamia Al-Gailani-Werr, an Iraqi archaeologist and member of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and former adviser to the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council, says the looting and destruction of Iraq’s sites has continued despite international awareness.

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