Conference Report: Radical Increments – Toward New Platforms of Engaging Iraqi Studies

 A Conference Report by Alda Benjamen, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, and TAARII Representative

On April 24 and 25, 2015 Columbia University in the City of New York hosted a conference focusing on Iraqi studies, entitled “Radical Increments: Toward New Platforms of Engaging Iraqi Studies.” The conference was co-organized by Dr. Muhsin al-Musawa (Columbia University), Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh (Portland State University), and Dr. Abeer Shaheen (Columbia University), and sponsored by the Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies Department, and Dr. Aziz and Arwa al-Shaibani. One of the goals of the conference was “to create an informed space to address major intellectual and political issues pertinent to Iraq in a manner that bears practical utility.” As a result the conference successfully intertwined speakers from interdisciplinary fields who presented rich material pertaining to institution building and spaces, secular and religious politics, literature, and Iraqi Diasporas. Presenters included highly noted academics, alongside more junior scholars with intriguing academic projects. Also accounted for were internationally acclaimed Iraqi novelists, Iraqi government representatives, and NGO activists. All panels, with the exception of one, were in English, the last being in Arabic. The intermix of disciplines and perspectives fostered an engaging conference.

Introductions by Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi, conference co-organizer (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Introductions by Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi, conference co-organizer (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

The conference commenced with a welcome speech given by Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi and opening remarks by Dr. Lila Abu-Lughod (Columbia University). This was followed by an opening presentation by Dr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Iraq Permanent Representative and Ambassador to the United Nations, who provided statistics about Iraqi higher educational institutions and the number of students enrolled inside the country and abroad with government funding. In his presentation, he strived to paint a picture of Iraq as a country with a positive future, irrespective of the decades of violence the country had been subjected to. Dr. Eric Davis (Rutgers University) gave the keynote address entitled “‘Covering’ and ‘Uncovering’ Iraq: Memory, Place, Authenticity,” in which he challenged the popular representations of Iraq as either an artificial society based on sectarian divides or a fifth column to neighboring countries, especially Iran. Instead, he argued that multiple Iraqi representations existed, where positive, civic and inclusive ones could be created as well. In his presentation, he demonstrated how Iraqi youth transgressed sectarianism within their civic society organizations and cultural production programs, such as the popular television show, “Love and War.” Davis argued that inside Iraq, teachers, academics, intellectuals, newspaper and journal editors were crucial in rebuilding Iraq’s educational system and teaching youth critical thinking skills based on the country’s history. He also advised the international academic community to stop viewing Iraq’s development, including how it was represented, as a “spectator sport,” concluding with “those of us who care about Iraq must be committed to helping it.”

Keynote address by Dr. Eric Davis (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Keynote address by Dr. Eric Davis (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Slide presentation by Dr. Eric Davis, "Anti-Sectarian activity, Iraqi youth 2013" (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Slide presentation by Dr. Eric Davis, “Anti-Sectarian activity, Iraqi youth 2013″ (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

 Slide presentation by Dr. Eric Davis, "Many Iraqis refused to celebrate their Eid in solidarity with Christians in Mosul" (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Slide presentation by Dr. Eric Davis, “Many Iraqis refused to celebrate their Eid in solidarity with Christians in Mosul” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh chaired the first session of the conference: “Institutions, Infrastructure, Space.” The session included a presentation by Dr. Abeer Shaheen, “God’s Eye View into Transparent Baghdad.” Shaheen described how Baghdad came to be defined as a city under security parameters following the U.S. invasion in 2003. The imposition of physical barriers, such as walls between neighborhoods based on sectarian divides, further segregated Baghdadis. In “Baghdad Resolve: An International Collaboration to Improve Cancer Care in Iraq,” Claudia Lefko of the Iraqi Children’s Art Exchange, described the formation of an international connection project in 2012 where American children sent art to hospitalized Iraqi children diagnosed with cancer. She provided concerning statistics about the increased mortality rate in Iraq for children under five years of age, as well as the increased cancer rates for children in general. Adding to this dilemma was the decline in Iraqi social organization and schools, along with the isolation of Iraqi doctors given years of instability and war. In “Virtual Realities: The Wartime Labor of Eden in Iraq’s Marshes,” Dr. Bridget Guarasci (Oberlin College) described the material dimension of virtuality, which she tackled by engaging in an international project that aimed to restore the marshes in Iraq post 2003. Eden’s restoration came to be considered by the international community the success story of the Iraq war, though it had little effect on the actual marshes and local population. Guarasci considered the marshes restoration project the hyper simulation that did not correspond to reality. Finally, Dr. Emily Stetler’s (Mount St. Mary’s University) presentation, “Education for a New National Identity: Sketching an Iraqi Critical Pedagogy,” stipulated that Iraq’s prospects lie in the ability of its diverse youth to envision a future. An inclusive curriculum that engaged all communities was crucial in this vision. As Stetler concluded, for “Sunnis, Shi‘is, Assyrians, Turkomens, Kurds and Caucasians, the conversation begins in the classroom.”

Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh, conference co-organizer (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Dr. Yasmeen Hanoosh, conference co-organizer (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Slide presentation by Dr. Bridget Guarasci, "Narrative Labor on Eden" (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Slide presentation by Dr. Bridget Guarasci, “Narrative Labor on Eden” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

 

Dr. Bridget Guarasci, “Virtual Realities: The Wartime Labor of Eden in Iraq’s Marshes” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Dr. Bridget Guarasci, “Virtual Realities: The Wartime Labor of Eden in Iraq’s Marshes” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Dr. Mohammad Salama chaired the second session, “Secularism, Religion, Politics.” Dr. Jabbar al-Obaidi’s (Bridgewater State University) presentation was entitled, “Iraqi Media Post 2003: An Analytical, Historical, and Political Overview.” In it, al-Obaidi described the five types of media ownership existing in Iraq post 2003: Sectarian Media Ownership, Ideological Media Ownership, Independent Media Ownership, and American Media Ownership. The Independent Media was the smallest type of media ownership, with fewer financial abilities but with an independent and inclusive voice. Al-Obaidi concluded by stressing the need for an inclusive rhetoric and denouncing the employment of racist terminology by these agencies. Henrik Andersen (independent researcher) discussed corruption in Iraq in his talk, “The Politics of Corruption and Organized Crime in Contemporary Iraq.” He described the intricate connections linking militias to Iraqi politicians and parties. As a result, average citizens felt disconnected from the state and distrustful of its ability to protect them. Andersen further described the state of corruption in other government agencies and ministries in both the Iraqi central and the KRG regional governments. Finally, the presentation of Yaseen Raad (American University of Beirut) was read in absentia as he was not able to secure a visa to the U.S. His presentation was entitled, “Consolidating Socio-Spatial Practices in a Militarized Public Space: The Case of Abu Nuwas Street in Baghdad.”

Henrik Andersen, “The Politics of Corruption and Organized Crime in Contemporary Iraq” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Henrik Andersen, “The Politics of Corruption and Organized Crime in Contemporary Iraq” (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi chaired the third session, entitled “Iraq in Literature.” Dr. Moneera al-Ghadeer (Columbia University) described the “Cannibalizing Iraq,” as relating to colonial violence, and focused specifically on the interrogation operation at Abu Ghraib prison carried out by American soldiers. Daniel Wolk’s (University of Chicago) presentation, “Confronting Corruption in the Iraqi City from Afar: Ṣakhī’s Khalfa al Saddah/Durūb al-fiqdān and al-Dāhūdī’s Dhākirat madinah munqariḍah,” described conceptual frameworks of corruption in Iraqi novels. Dr. Ikram Masmoudi’s (University of Delaware) talk, “Desertion: Then and Now,” compared the massive population flights of Yezidi, Christian, Sunni, and other Iraqis following the occupation of the Islamic State of Mosul and its vicinities in the summer of 2014, to the state of desertion Iraqis experienced during the Iran-Iraq war. Masmoudi argued that the Iraqi psyche was still narrated by the past and words such as “deserter” occupied the mind of contemporary Iraqi novelists, as desertion then and now conveyed a perennial response to coercion, abuse and killing. Dr. Mohammad Salama’s (San Francisco State University) presentation titled, “A Mimesis of the Future: The Dialectic of Writing and Forgetting in Luay Ḥamza ‘Abbās,” argued that ‘Abbās’ writing triggered an alternative thinking of effaced cities and mutilated memories in order to articulate a mimesis of the future which did not currently exist.

The fourth session, “Diasporic Continuities” was chaired by Dr. Jabbbar al-Obaidi. Deborah al-Najjar (University of Southern California), in “Iraq and the Consolidation of Grief,” engaged with cultural production as an imaginative space in which Iraqi Studies was re-conceptualized. She focused specifically on Dr. Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer. Dr. Sobia Khan (Richland College), in “Enacting Disaster: The Iraqi Nights, a Site of Conflict and Crisis,” discussed the anguish for the homeland in Dunya Mikhail’s writings, befittingly evoked by Mikhail in this verse: “homeland. I am not your mother, so why do you weep in my lap like this every time something hurts you?” The Arabic original of this verse was written along an image of a broken brick wall, resembling a Sumerian tablet. Reemah al-Urfali’s (American University in Cairo) presentation, titled, “Translating Iraqi Women’s Literature: Between Gender and Genre,” described the ways in which Iraqi female writings were translated to English, relying on certain political ideologies and gender expectations intelligible to English readers. Finally, Dena al-Adeeb (New York University), in “Architecture of Trauma: Embodied Practices and Resistance,” focused on the Shi‘i practices of mourning post 2003 and their utilization in new political, religious, and social formations to transform previously marginalized Shi‘i communities from the periphery to the center.

Panel participants Samuel Shimon, Dr. Taher al-Bakka, Dr. Jabbar al-Obaidi, Shakir Noori, Ali Badr, and Dr. Ikram Masmoudi (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

Panel participants Samuel Shimon, Dr. Taher al-Bakka, Dr. Jabbar al-Obaidi, Shakir Noori, Ali Badr, and Dr. Ikram Masmoudi (Photo Credit: Alda Benjamen, 2015)

The fifth session, chaired by Dr. Ikram Masmoudi, was presented in Arabic and titled, “Writing in Post-Occupation Iraq: Session in Arabic with Translation.” The first speaker was Dr. Taher al-Bakka, former Minister of Higher Education in Iraq, 2004–2005. Al-Bakka provided background on the effects of the 2003 war and absence of power on higher education. During this period, 1,600 Iraqi professors left their posts and 500 were killed. In the aftermath of the war, Iraqi political parties heightened their influence on academic institutions, whereby their religious and political views were imposed on universities (for example, certain deans forced female students, including Christians, to wear the Islamic veil). Al-Bakka concluded with ways in which universities can improve, chiefly in being politically and religiously independent. Turning to the audience, he stated: “Iraq and its higher education are in need of your pens and your intellects.” Samuel Shimon (Banipal Literary Magazine, U.K.) discussed his literary career focusing on his novel Iraqi in Paris. He also shed light on his current memoir, which will tackle his experience in the Iraqi civil war of the 1970s — although an Assyrian, Shimon fought in the Kurdish uprising against the Iraqi regime. Shimon further explored the importance of teaching tolerance, and how Iraqi pluralism was reflected in his novels. Shakir Noori, (Iraqi journalist and novelist) illustrated the important relationship between a historical period and the novel. He lamented the absence of the Iraqi novel within this genre and described his role in rectifying this by writing war novels. As a novelist, Noori wrote while war was going on instead of waiting for it to end, preferring not to distance himself from the immediate sentiments associated with war. Finally, Ali Badr (Iraqi journalist and novelist) described his numerous novels, including The Tobacco Keeper and the Sinful Woman. He vividly illustrated a lucid dream while stationed in Alqosh as soldier in the 1990s. He woke up to write what he considers to be his masterpiece, The Road to Moutran Hill, a novel about a Christian character, in 24 hours. Badr was 22 years of age at the time.

The closing remarks were provided by Dr. Muhsin al-Musawi. He introduced plans for the formation of an Iraqi Center, where larger conferences on Iraqi studies can be organized. The conference co-organizers are planning to publish the conference proceedings, along with additional compelling submissions on the topic, in a co-edited volume.

Gathering in Washington, D.C., to Protest the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq

On March 10, 2015, cultural activist Jabbar Jaafar and archaeologist Abdulameer al-Hamdani kicked off the first event of their campaign in response to an ISIS video that showed members of the terrorist group smashing irreplaceable artifacts, relics, and statues at the Mosul Museum. The March 10 event was a public gathering in front of the White House. Although it took place on a rainy day, a number of American and Iraqi activists and supporters attended the noon gathering to express their solidarity with the co-organizers.

The objectives for the gathering were: (1) to urge and pressure the policy and decision makers in order to take immediate action against the terrorist group ISIS; (2) to familiarize a general audience in the United States with the savage and uncivilized acts that ISIS has performed against the people of Iraq and their heritage; (3) to inform the international community that Iraqis are civilized people who love their heritage and are determined to exert every effort to preserve their civilizations; and (4) to state that what is rumored by ISIS, that the statutes and relics of the ancient civilizations are forbidden by Islam, is absolutely untrue according to senior moderate Islam clerics.

The logo of the campaign for protecting Iraq’s heritage. The logo shows that the terrorist groups of ISIS have destroyed the ancient Mesopotamian antiquities. The winged-bull in the poster is a symbol of power in the Assyrian civilization. (Image credit: Ayad al-Hiti, 2015)

The logo of the campaign for protecting Iraq’s heritage. The logo shows that the terrorist groups of ISIS have destroyed the ancient Mesopotamian antiquities. The winged-bull in the poster is a symbol of power in the Assyrian civilization. (Image credit: Ayad al-Hiti, 2015)

 

People gathering in front of the White house holding posters that indicate that Iraq’s heritage is facing a new wave of destruction, and that the international community should act to stop the destruction and to support Iraqis to protect humankind’s heritage. (Photo Credit: Mustafa Al Shwaili, 2015)

People gathering in front of the White house holding posters that indicate that Iraq’s heritage is facing a new wave of destruction, and that the international community should act to stop the destruction and to support Iraqis to protect humankind’s heritage. (Photo Credit: Mustafa Al Shwaili, 2015)

 

Abdulameer al-Hamdani holds a poster that says “Stop ISIS… Stop Terrorism… Save Mesopotamian Civilization.” (Photo credit: Marie-Helene Carleton, Four Corners Media, 2015)

Abdulameer al-Hamdani holds a poster that says “Stop ISIS… Stop Terrorism… Save Mesopotamian Civilization.” (Photo credit: Marie-Helene Carleton, Four Corners Media, 2015)

 

Jabbar Jaafar holds a poster in front of the White House. (Photo Credit: Marie-Helene Carleton, Four Corners Media, 2015)

Jabbar Jaafar holds a poster in front of the White House. (Photo Credit: Marie-Helene Carleton, Four Corners Media, 2015)

 

 

TAARII Supports the Penn Museum’s Statement on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s Statement on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria:

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology deplores the devastating, ongoing destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria. The continued pillaging of archaeological sites and the destruction of irreplaceable artifacts and monuments are a catastrophe for the people of the region and for all humanity. As an institution dedicated to studying, preserving, understanding, and sharing knowledge of the world’s rich and diverse cultural heritage—and with an especially strong history of work and study in Iraq—the Penn Museum particularly laments the destruction of archaeological sites, museums, and libraries in and around Mosul. Alongside our colleagues throughout the world, we urge the international community and all relevant organizations to do all they can to find solutions to halt this abhorrent destruction.

Joint Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq—Archaeological Institute of America
Statement from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq

The Penn Museum is actively involved in this pursuit through its Penn Cultural Heritage Center (PennCHC) which is a partner of Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project (SHOSI), a consortium of the PennCHC; the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution; the Geospatial Technologies Project at the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Shawnee State University; The Day After, a Syrian NGO; and the U.S. Institute of Peace. The SHOSI Project supports the efforts of heritage professionals and local communities in Syria and Iraq, who are working under dire circumstances to protect their cultural heritage for the future. The SHOSI Project’s ongoing work includes working with displaced heritage professionals and community members who are attempting to preserve cultural heritage, documenting high-risk sites in Syria and Iraq, first-aid conservation treatment of damaged sites, geospatial site monitoring, and periodic workshops and training activities.

For the original statement, visit the Penn Museum website.

TAARII Supports the Royal Ontario Museum’s Statement on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage Sites

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the Royal Ontario Museum’s Statement on the Destruction of Cultural Heritage Sites in Northern Iraq by ISIS/ISIL:

The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the deliberate destruction of archaeological sites and museum collections, as well as the systematic looting and sale of artifacts in northern Iraq by the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria/Lebanon” (ISIS/ISIL). This destruction, occurring at an unprecedented scale, represents an irreparable loss of cultural heritage – not only for Iraq but for all humanity.

Since taking over Mosul province in June 2014, ISIS/ISIL has systematically destroyed monuments of cultural and religious significance, including mosques, shrines, churches, and temples. More recently, their focus turned towards indiscriminately attacking archaeological sites and museums. In late February, members of ISIS/ISIL engaged in the large-scale destruction of artifacts in Mosul Museum, Iraq’s second largest museum. These artifacts include reliefs and statuary from the Assyrian capitals of Nimrud and Nineveh (900 – 612 BC), and a large number of statues of kings and gods from Hatra dating to the Parthian period (300 BC – 100 AD). In early March, the attention of ISIS/ISIL turned to archaeological sites themselves, including those of Nineveh, Nimrud, Hatra and Khorsabad, Assyria’s capital during the reign of Sargon II (721-705 BC).

The destruction of some of the world’s most important archaeological treasures is a vile attack on the cultural heritage of all people. The Royal Ontario Museum is ready and committed to share its resources to help assess and limit the damage to archaeological sites and monuments, and to stop the sale of looted artifacts from Iraq. We call upon everybody to voice their concerns regarding the ongoing cultural devastation by ISIS/ISIL to political leaders and, further, to report to the authorities any suspicious appearances of cultural artifacts from Iraq on the antiquities market.

For the original statement, please visit the Royal Ontario Museum’s website.

TAARII Supports the WAC Statement on Mosul and Nimrud Destruction

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the World Archaeological Congress’ Statement on the Mosul and Nimrud Destruction:

The Executive Committee and members of the World Archaeological Congress (WAC) join other archaeological and cultural heritage organizations in denouncing the recent destruction of ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum and architecture at Nimrud in Iraq. As noted in the recently published WAC Dead Sea Accord on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, it is a foundational belief of WAC that the expression and preservation of culture, both tangible and intangible, are basic human rights. Material culture informs our collective and individual identities and reflects the histories and experiences of humanity. Therefore the destruction of antiquities at the Mosul Museum and Nimrud has caused lasting harm to the people of Iraq and the entire world.

WAC calls on its membership to assist archaeological and other communities in this time of need by offering preservation assistance or other help. We also call on States and other parties to bolster and support legislation, at all levels, aimed at protecting the human right to culture and cultural heritage.

Finally, WAC wishes to highlight the roles cultural heritage can play in reconciliation and education in today’s world riddled with conflicts. Cultural heritage is the embodiment of human experiences that include suffering from, coming to terms with, and solving conflicts of various natures and scales. We should put our knowledge and efforts together to prevent the destruction of cultural heritage of this nature from happening again and protect our common human heritage.

For the original statement, visit the WAC website.

Click here for the text of the Dead Sea Accord.

TAARII Supports the Statement from the BISI Council

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the Statement from The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) Council 9 March 2015:

The British Institute for the Study of Iraq (BISI) greatly regrets the appalling damage that has been done to statues and reliefs in the Mosul Museum, to Assyrian gateway figures at Nineveh, and to the ancient sites of Nimrud and Hatra. This is a cultural disaster of  the greatest magnitude, and BISI urges the international community including UN and UNESCO to give all possible assistance to the government of Iraq in its struggle to protect the unique and irreplaceable heritage of Iraq.

Visit the BISI website for the original statement.

TAARII Supports the Oriental Institute’s Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the Oriental Institute’s Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq:

The deliberate vandalism and destruction of heritage from Mosul’s Library, the Mosul Museum, and the archaeological site of Nineveh at Mosul constitute a moral and cultural outrage that adds to the growing spiral of despair from both Iraq and Syria concerning heritage, looting, and damage due to armed conflict. Without the past, we cannot understand our present, and without understanding our present, we cannot plan for our future. We hope that whatever remnants of this shattered heritage still surviving in Mosul may be salvaged and restored, but it is already clear that so much has been irreparably destroyed or looted.  Mosul’s heritage is an important part of Mesopotamian civilization and the heritage of the entire world.

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago is a leading institution for the study of the ancient Middle East that focuses on research, heritage and knowledge preservation, and public education. Iconic  artifacts from Iraq on display in the Museum of the Oriental Institute are accessible today for all to see. Many are counterparts to objects on display in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, that come from the Oriental Institute’s excavations in Iraq. The Oriental Institute’s colossal human-headed winged bull, or Lamassu, was excavated from Khorsabad, ancient Dur Sharrukin, several miles north of Mosul. Carved in the late eighth century BC during the reign of King Sargon II (721–705 BC), it is one of the finest examples of Assyrian sculptor’s art in the world. At the site of Nineveh and in the Mosul Museum, similar sculptures have been smashed and mutilated in minutes by the Islamic State. The Oriental Institute condemns this callous eradication of the cultural treasures of Mesopotamia. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of the people who are suffering in northern Iraq and Syria, and offer our support to the archaeological and heritage community of Iraq to help document, salvage, and restore the heritage of Mosul and other provinces of Iraq affected by looting and destruction.

We support the joint statement published by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), and the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), as well as statements from the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII).

Visit the Oriental Institute’s website for the original statement.

TAARII Supports Joint Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq supports the following Joint Statement on Cultural Destruction in Iraq:

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) released the following joint statement in response to news reports of the destruction of a gate of Nineveh and other works of ancient art in the Mosul Museum, Iraq.

The members of the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD), Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), Society for American Archaeology (SAA), and the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) deplore in the strongest possible terms the destruction of works of art held by the Mosul Museum. Pillaging of archaeological sites and cultural repositories to destroy irreplaceable cultural heritage and to disperse rare and important artifacts is reprehensible.  This has caused irreparable damage to the heritage of the people of Iraq and humanity worldwide.

In the face of the current crisis in Iraq, we urge all members with appropriate expertise to provide professional support to the archaeological community to repair damaged works to the degree possible and to identify and reclaim missing objects. We call on authorities, even in these unsettled times, to do what they can to protect the world’s archaeological and cultural materials. And we urge museums and archaeological communities around the world to alert the appropriate international authorities if they believe they have information regarding objects recently stolen from Mosul. While the full extent of the damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage will only become clear after greater stability is restored, the material culture from more than 5,000 years of history is under extremely serious threat and we must take immediate action.

Visit here for a full copy of the statement.

Dissertation Prizes for 2013/14 & 2014/15 Academic Years

The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII) announces its bi-annual prizes for the best U.S. doctoral dissertations on Iraq. Dissertations defended during the 2013–2014 and 2014–2015 academic years are eligible and may come from any discipline for the study of any time period. The competition is open to U.S. citizens at any university worldwide and any student at a U.S. university. One award of $1,500 will be made for The Donny George Youkhana Dissertation Prize for the best dissertation on ancient Iraq. Another award of $1,500 will be made for the best dissertation on medieval or modern Iraq.

Nominations and submissions should come directly from dissertation advisors. Advisors should submit a PDF copy of the dissertation manuscript and a letter explaining the importance of the dissertation. Please send all nominations/submissions, along with contact information for dissertation authors, by July 1, 2015, to The American Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TAARII), contact@taarii.org. Only electronic submissions will be accepted.

For a list of previous winners, visit our website. Queries may be addressed to Dr. Beth Kangas, Executive Director, at beth@taarii.org.

Fellow Update: Adeed Dawisha (2006 US TAARII Fellow)

After the removal of Saddam Hussein, and the possibility of a new political order in the horizon after 2003, I thought of writing a book that would integrate the new political arrangements into the political history of Iraq since the crowning of King Faisal I in 1921.

I began my research in early 2004, and after two years I had accumulated enough data to begin writing. The summer of 2006 was ideal, and as someone who had written a number of books, I knew that the first two or three chapters were pivotal in setting the tone and rhythm of the whole writing project.

The TAARII grant allowed me to devote all of the summer of 2006 to writing. It freed me from having to teach summer school, and the end result was that by September 2006, I had completed the first three chapters of the book Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation. The book was published in early 2009 by Princeton University Press, and I am happy to say it received good reviews. It was reprinted three times, and a paperback edition was published in 2011.

Would I have been able to write the book without TAARII’s help? Absolutely. But the grant undoubtedly supplied a crucial kick-start that made the whole endeavor easier and certainly shorter, and I am very grateful to TAARII for that.