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.

Institutional Member: American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR)

American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Marian Feldman (Johns Hopkins University), ASOR institutional representative

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that supports and encourages the study of the cultures and history of the Near East, from the earliest times to the present. Founded in 1900 by twenty-one institutions, ASOR now has three affiliated overseas research centers, more than 90 consortium institutions, including universities, seminaries, museums, foundations, and libraries, as well as more than 1,550 individual members.

ASOR fosters original research, archaeological excavations and explorations; encourages scholarship in the Near East’s basic languages, cultural histories and traditions; builds support for Near Eastern studies; and advocates high academic standards. ASOR also offers educational opportunities in Near Eastern history and archaeology to students from all over the world, and through outreach activities to the public. ASOR communicates news of the latest research findings through its journals, books, lectures, and annual meeting. It awards dozens of fellowships for fieldwork in the eastern Mediterranean annually.

Within ASOR, two primary vehicles for support of the study of Iraq are the Annual Meeting session on the Archaeology of Mesopotamia and the standing Committee on Mesopotamian Civilization. ASOR also hosts a web page dedicated to archaeological research in Iraq, the Iraq information page.

The Committee on Mesopotamian Civilization (commonly referred to as the Baghdad Committee) is dedicated to promoting through research, excavation, and publication, the dissemination of knowledge of Mesopotamian civilization. The committee serves as the functional arm of ASOR’s overseas school in Baghdad, Iraq, which was founded in 1923 through a 1922 bequest (the Nies bequest) to ASOR for excavations and the publication of their results. In 1947, ASOR’s Baghdad School began publication of the Journal of Cuneiform Studies (JCS). The School also sponsored one or more annual professors and fellows until the late 1960s, when residency in Iraq became difficult. The School (with a director) was changed to a Committee (with a chair) in 1970 when the Iraqi government decided to close all foreign schools. Since 1970, the Committee has overseen the Mesopotamian Fellowship. For more information, read a history of ASOR’s Baghdad School that operated in Iraq from 1923–1969.