MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - Approximately 4,000 cultural heritage sites in Iraq are under immediate threat of being lost as the ongoing conflict between the ISIS and local religious groups leaves them open to looters, said Alex Nagel, a Research Associate in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.
At present it is impossible to check on the sites because of the security concerns and that leaves them open for looters, Nigel said during a public panel on the Iraq’s cultural heritage held last Friday in Washington, D.C.
According to Nigel, the danger of the sites being looted is that pieces of art are known to have been sold in order to raise money for terrorist organizations.
Nagel also mentioned one of the speakers on the panel talking about some 18,000 looting pits identified via satellite imagery since 2003 at the site of Umma.
Certain sites have been destroyed completely. Among them are the tomb of the Mosul scholar and historian Jazari, the Tomb of Jonah on the Eastern side of Mosul, the shrine of Sheikh Fathi, the golden dome of the Shiite’s Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya shrine, and the shrine of Imam Sultan bin Asim Abdullah ibn Umar, southeast of Mosul.
Among other places of worship already destroyed are the Al-Jawad Husseiniya mosque in Tal Afar and the Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque in Mosul, both important sites for Shiites. Eleven sites of Christian worship have been destroyed including the Chaldean archdiocese.
Among the libraries lost is the Diyala Province Library, where some 1,500 books were burnt.
Another speaker on the panel called for cooperation from the international community, especially from the surrounding countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey.
On July 16, an official Iraq delegation asked UNESCO for immediate help. On July 17, UNESCO held a consultation with Iraqi and international experts and agreed on an Emergency Response Action Plan to preserve Iraq’s cultural heritage.
The Action Plan is to ensure the implementation of international agreements on the protection of cultural heritage, as well as ban trafficking in cultural objects.
The plan presupposes close monitoring of the state of conservation of heritage and training of conservation professionals. It should also help professionals in place prepare emergency measures for the possible relocation of moveable heritage, including libraries.
The ISIS is a Sunni group that has been fighting in Syria against the country’s president, Bashar Assad, and launched an offensive in Iraq in June, taking over large parts of the country, with the goal of seizing Baghdad.