Statement on Iraqi Heritage


On 9-10 July 2015 an international group of scholars gathered at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to confront the destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage. We convened the seminar under the knowledge that the violence engulfing Iraq today is absolute. The group’s aim was thus to devise a conceptual and methodological framework for analyzing this tragedy, as well as documenting and preserving heritage amidst population. Six scholars presented on a diverse range of topics over the course of the two-day seminar, enumerating the impact of violence on Iraq’s social and cultural character. 

اجتمع عدد من الباحثين والمتخصصين الذين قدموا من عدة أماكن في العالم، يومي التاسع والعاشر من تموز 2015 ، في معهد رادكليف للدراسات المتقدمة المرتبط بجامعة هارفارد، في جهد يستهدف مناقشة الأضرار التي لحقت بالارث الثقافي والأقليات وتفكك النسيج الاجتماعي والثقافي نتيجة الصراع في العراق، ودراسة سبل قياس وتوثيق وحفظ هذا الارث والتحولات السكانية والذاكرات المرتبطة بهما

The working group has published a memorandum detailing their activities and providing recommendations for addressing the problems they identified. Please click the links below to access the memorandum in either Arabic or English.

مذكرة باللغة العربية

Memorandum in English

This memorandum is born from a larger, long-term project to track, catalogue, and understand teh depth of heritage destruction in Iraq as a result of recent fighting, but also to contextualize developments. The Post-War Watch is proud to be a sponsoring organization for this work as it progresses.

Executive Summary

The violence engulfing Iraq today is absolute. In the land where history was first written, the complete erasure of millennia of cultural heritage, record, and ethnic pluralism is underway. Indeed, the citadel in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, is at least 8,000 years old and represents the oldest continually-inhabited location on earth. In less than a decade, these legacies are being lost in the fighting and violent milieu of forming and dissolving tactical alliances. It is the responsibility of those concerned by the wholesale destruction of identities, culture, heritage, and history—and the ways of life they represent—to understand the extent of this tragedy and its implications in a region where its effects are most immediate and ever developing. The need to track this cultural heritage destruction, and the memories held by groups within a region under threat, is critical. This seminar brings together scholars from Iraq and the United States to discuss and refine methods by which these histories can be collected and archived under the extreme dangers posed by armed groups. Participants are also discussing the theoretical underpinnings of such work; producing definitions of “cultural heritage,” “cultural destruction,” and “narrative displacement”; and considering the linkages between “cultural destruction” and forced human migration that will further refine the project’s methodology. The larger work ultimately aims to collect statistics of the numbers of people, cultural sites, communities, towns, etc., destroyed, captured, displaced, or erased by the violence; identify perpetrators and victims of each attack or instance of violence; and follow the ongoing military operations at a tactical level.


Check this page and the official project website for updates as this work moves forward,

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