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Protecting Iraq’s Antiquities and Cultural History: Q&A with Iraqi President, Barham Salih

October 4, 2019

Iraqi President Barham SalihIraq has seen unbelievable destruction from war and senseless violence for years affecting their citizens, way of life, and cultural history. Still, their government is working to repair the damage that has been done and foster unity among its people as well as protect its historical sites.

On September 27th, the Council on Foreign Relations hosted the President of Iraq, Barham Salih, in a Q&A session where he discussed Iraq’s current state, goals for the future, and how he and his government are working to protect their country’s rich history.

Antiquities Coalition’s Executive Director, Tess Davis, was among attendees and was able to pose a question to President Salih regarding his stance on Iraqi Antiquities.

Question: How do Iraq’s history and culture play a role in the country’s postwar recovery and reconstruction?

“I will admit to the fact that even though I was intellectually enamored with the idea of antiquities and—but somehow never touched me until I visited Nasiriyah about two years ago,” President Salih began. “My wife and I went there, and we went to the marshes—an amazing, amazing place. One of the most wonderful positive stories about Iraq is the restoration of the marshlands, and truly heaven. This is where the garden of Eden was, supposedly, and is unbelievable.” – President Salih

The Role Iraq’s Antiquities Plays: Fostering Unity Among Iraqi Citizens

UNESCO recently designated Babylon as a world heritage.

  • Iraq’s citizens came together to get that designation, despite any differences in belief or conflict around them.
  • President Salih says protecting these sites is “very valuable, amazing, but also of political consequence today because it really brings people together.”

The Iraqi government is working on getting the Pope involved.

  • They would like the Pope to preach in Ur as a display of unity.
  • He expressed the importance of coming together against anti-religious bigotry and resolving conflicts in spite of destructive groups like Daesh (ISIS).
  • By protecting these religious sites, people have come together against anti-religious violence, which can lead to a more peaceful future.

Watch the full session with President Salih:

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