From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Some of Iraq’s most significant archaeological discoveries have been made in the city of Samara. Samara lies on both sides of the River Tigris north of Baghdad.

It marks the site of a powerful Islamic capital that ruled over the Abbasid Empire which stretched from Tunisia to Central Asia for a century.

It’s estimated 80 per cent of it still lies undiscovered. UNESCO says it should be protected as a World Heritage Site.

But locals say some of its landmarks are being left to crumble.

Al Jazeera‘s Rob Matheson reports from Baghdad, Iraq:

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced new investment opportunities in Iraq:

  1. Glass production, State Company for Glass and Refractories Industry (SCGR)
  2. Drugs and Medical Appliances (Samarra), State Company for Drugs and Medical Appliances

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC), and the State Company for Drugs and Medical Appliances, have announced an opportunity to invest in the rehabilitation, modernization and operation of the Samarra drugs plant.

In a statement, the NIC said:

It invites reliable Arab and foreign companies directly or their agents – not mediator or supported – to participate in this investment opportunity to rehabilitate and modernize this plant on basisof participating in management, production, increasing the production capacities and take pasrt in this valuable opportunity to satisfy the Iraqi market demands and for the economic feasibility and the realizable privileges for the investors such as the availability of the essential materials for production .

“Willing investors can obtain the investment profile from the company HQ in Samarra as per the companies law no. 22 for the year 1997 as amended, article 15/3rd ; for an amount of (500,000) IDR non- refundable.

“The company shall offer all detailed information and facilitate the visit to the plan. Applications shall be according to the terms stated in the investment profile , provided that applications should be submitted by a sealed envelope before the end of the work time of Thursday 12.07.2018.

You may also visit the website www.sdisamarra.com

More details can be downloaded here (English from page 43)

(Source: National Investment Commission)

By Adnan Abu Zeed for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Will Great Mosque of Samarra and its minaret survive?

The Malwiya Minaret, an impressive tower at a height of 52 meters (171 feet) with a spiral ramp, still recalls the past glory of the Great Mosque of Samarra, which had been the largest mosque in the world during the Abbasid Caliphate.

However, the spiraling structure of more than a thousand years now runs the risk of crumbling because of the many attacks it has suffered, according to Iraqi media reports.

Its external stairway is unstable, with some stones missing, and the minaret has shaky walls that have the names of visitors carved into them. There is no security at the site, and a young man fell from the minaret and died on March 29, 2017, after having attempted to climb it.

Malwiya is known for its spiraling structure; it does not look like any other minaret in the world. It is one of the many historical landmarks of Samarra, which was put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2007. Located on both sides of the Tigris River, 130 kilometers (81 miles) north of Baghdad, the ancient capital of Samarra shows the reach of the Abbasid Caliphate, which was the major Islamic empire of the 8th century; it extended from Tunisia to Central Asia.

Today, Samarra is the only surviving Islamic capital that retains its original plan, architecture and arts such as mosaics and carvings.

The Al Ahram Gate website reported that a study (“Suggested techniques to preserve Samarra Mosque with its Malwiya Minaret”) conducted last year by Issam Hishmat of South Valley University in Egypt said the mosque has suffered damage of various sorts over the years. In 2003, during the American invasion of Iraq, the mosque served as a military base, and in 2005, the minaret was damaged during a terrorist attack, destroying many of the architectural elements of the 1,200-year-old monument.

Mahmoud Khalaf, the mayor of the Samarra district, said some of the damage to the mosque is caused by weather conditions and humidity. Khalaf told Al-Monitor that maintenance work on the site of the mosque is well underway. In 2017, UNESCO and the Iraqi authorities signed an agreement for the conservation and management of the archaeological city of Samarra, starting with the restoration of the Great Mosque and the Malwiya Minaret.

“I have tried to communicate with officials from both the local and federal governments to obtain more funds for the rehabilitation of this old monument, but we get the same answer every time: ‘The top priority is the war against the Islamic State, the country’s security and stability,’” Khalaf said, explaining that a UNESCO delegation has been studying the site to find a solution to the damage caused by humidity and the deterioration of the bricks.

Khalaf has been in touch with engineer and archaeologist Giovanni Fontana Antonelli, a member of the UNESCO delegation who works on the restoration of the site. “We are trying to assess the condition of the mosque in a bid to find appropriate solutions to stop environmental and human risks, as well as to [correct the damage caused by] previous unfit maintenance work [during the Baath regime in the 1990s],” Antonelli told Al-Monitor.

“We will be conducting field visits and meetings with local authorities and concerned parties to achieve our objectives,” he said.

Antonelli added, “We are also looking at assessing the impact of the construction of a nearby museum.” UNESCO has concerns about the visual impact on the minaret of the museum, which is planned by local authorities.

Antonelli said “a joint technical committee monitors the quality of the works that are to be implemented and the establishment of a joint project between Iraqi and international experts to formulate a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation.”

Al-Monitor met with Algerian archaeologist Mahmoud Bandakir, who is also a member of the UNESCO delegation. “The historical city of Samarra was included on the list of endangered world heritage in 2007. Therefore, several corrective measures must be implemented at the site, which is the government’s responsibility.”

He said, “There has been a delay in the implementation of the maintenance works due to the security situation and the lack of financial allocations, which means that Iraq has violated the decision of the World Heritage Committee issued in 2013” whereby governments are tasked with carrying out suitable maintenance work.

Bandakir said, “After consultations with the local government of Salahuddin province, it has been decided to start work on the Great Mosque as it is the most damaged — not to mention the previous inappropriate maintenance and rehabilitation work. This is in addition to the bombing of the mosque during the US invasion in 2003.” He said the maintenance work should be carried out according to international standards as called for under the Venice Charter of 1964.

The head of the parliamentary Media and Culture Committee, Maysoon al-Damluji, told Al-Monitor, “The coming period will witness a facelift for the archaeological sites and monuments and the establishment of investment projects. The Iraqi Antiquities Authority said the maintenance and restoration works at the mosque will be financed by the Iraqi Sunni Endowment using proceeds” collected from mosque tourists during Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Khalaf said the restoration plan will include “the construction of infrastructure under the requirements of the World Heritage List, which will include a building for the mosque’s administration, visitor guidance center and the development of squares. The project documents were transferred to the World Heritage Center and then sent to the International Council on Monuments and Sites for evaluation.”

He concluded, “We are ready to discuss with them the tourism and cultural investment projects of the mosque in addition to other monuments in the city.”

Iranian pilgrims are forbidden from traveling to the Iraqi city of Samarra until further notice in the wake of a Sunday terrorist attack that killed and wounded scores of Iranian pilgrims in the holy city, an official announced.

Majid Aqababaei, a deputy interior minister for border affairs, told Tasnim on Monday that the decision to ban trips to Samarra has been made for security concerns.

He said the car bomb blast that blew up two buses full of pilgrims in Samarra on Sunday has killed 8 Iranians and wounded 99 others.

According to the official, 88 injured pilgrims were taken back to home by plane on Sunday night, while 11 others have been admitted to Iraqi hospitals.

On Sunday, suicide bombers driving ambulances packed with explosives detonated their vehicles in the Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Samarra, killing dozens of people.

In Samarra, 125 km north of capital Baghdad, an attacker detonated the explosive-laden vehicle in a car park for pilgrims visiting one of Shiite Muslims’ holiest sites, the shrines of Imam Hadi (AS) and his son Imam Hassan al-Askari (AS).

Given the threat posed by the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Iraq, the Arab country’s security forces have stepped up security measures in Shiite-majority cities, particularly at religious sites, ahead of Arbaeen.

Arbaeen, which is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, comes 40 days after Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of the third Shiite Imam, Imam Hussein (AS).

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Around two million pilgrims from Iraq and other countries have converged on the city of Samarr for mourning rituals marking the martyrdom anniversary of Ali ibn Mohammad (AS), the tenth Shiite Imam.

According to top Iraqi military commander Emad al-Zuhairi, the huge crowd of pilgrims performed the religious rites in full security.

The city of Samarra hosts the shrines of Imam Hadi (AS) and his son Imam Hassan al-Askari (AS), the tenth and eleventh Shiite Imams. In 2006 and 2007, bomb attacks by extremists caused damage to parts of the shrine complex.

Given the threat posed by the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Iraq, the Arab country’s security forces have stepped up security measures in Shiite-majority cities, particularly at religious sites.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

The Embassy of the United States of America has released a fact sheet on the Mosul Dam, offering a detailed overview of the risk of a potential failure and, as a contingency, recommendations for how residents in Iraq should respond in the event of an emergency.

Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning. Recognizing the gravity of this challenge, the Iraqi government under Prime Minister Abadi’s leadership is preparing to take actions to mitigate the potential threat of the dam’s failure, particularly following the Da’esh attack on the facility in August 2014.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to undertake all necessary measures to rapidly finalize and implement a contract in order to address the structural integrity of Mosul Dam. We would also like to acknowledge the considerable efforts of the Italian government in supporting ongoing efforts to stabilize the dam.

We have no specific information that indicates when a breach might occur, but out of an abundance of caution, we would like to underscore that prompt evacuation offers the most effective tool to save lives of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis living in the most dangerous part of the flood path in the event of a breach.  Proper preparation could save many lives.

Therefore, in partnership with the Iraqi government’s early warning and public information efforts with respect to Mosul Dam, in the fact sheet we are providing recommendations to residents living near the Tigris River, to include:

  • Residents of Mosul, where the consequences would be the most severe, probably could avoid the initial flood wave by moving at least 6 kilometers from the current banks of the Tigris and avoiding all rivers and wadis feeding into the Tigris.
  • Residents of Tikrit probably could reach safety by moving at least 5 kilometers from the riverbank.
  • Samarra residents west of the riverbank probably could move roughly 6.5 kilometers away from the river bank to reach safety. Samarra residents on the east side of the river probably would need to flee farther — potentially around 16.5 kilometers — to avoid being cut off by multiple streams of water when the major irrigation canal floods.
  • Some parts of Baghdad would also be flooded, which could include Baghdad International Airport.

We are very encouraged that Prime Minister Abadi is already working with the United Nations to develop a detailed emergency notification plan and ensure that adequate infrastructure is in place to alert residents in the event of a breach. Just as buildings have fire alarms, there must be a way to alert people immediately in the event of a breach so they have time to respond.

We have been providing some technical assistance to the government that we believe will augment this Iraqi-led effort and contribute to general public emergency preparedness, including for the citizens of Mosul.

The United States will continue to support Prime Minister Abadi and the Iraqi government in their efforts to address this critical challenge.

Read the Fact Sheet Here (PDF 54 KB)

(Source: Embassy of the United States)

By John Lee.

A report from KUNA says that the UN World food program (WFP) urgently requires $45 million (54 billion Iraqi dinars) to continue its Emergency Operation in Iraq until June.

Elisabeth Byrs, WFP Senior Communications Officer , Geneva Spokesperson told a press briefing that the humanitarian situation in the cities of Samarra in Salah al-Din and Al-Baghdadi in Anbar is worsening.

WFP is sending 3,000 ready-to-eat-food rations, enough to feed 15,000 people for three days, to the besieged city of Al-Baghdadi in Anbar governorate, due to arrive on March 15, she revealed. Logistics teams on the ground have identified a safe route through Kerbala to reach Al-Baghdadi.

(Source: KUNA)

(WFP image via Shutterstock)

By John Lee.

A report from KUNA says that the UN World food program (WFP) urgently requires $45 million (54 billion Iraqi dinars) to continue its Emergency Operation in Iraq until June.

Elisabeth Byrs, WFP Senior Communications Officer , Geneva Spokesperson told a press briefing that the humanitarian situation in the cities of Samarra in Salah al-Din and Al-Baghdadi in Anbar is worsening.

WFP is sending 3,000 ready-to-eat-food rations, enough to feed 15,000 people for three days, to the besieged city of Al-Baghdadi in Anbar governorate, due to arrive on March 15, she revealed. Logistics teams on the ground have identified a safe route through Kerbala to reach Al-Baghdadi.

(Source: KUNA)

(WFP image via Shutterstock)

By Shukur Khilkhal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Is Samarra the key to reducing sectarian tension in Iraq?

The Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions in the city of Samarra are back on the front burner. Sunni politicians, clerics and a number of individuals have been hurling accusations on social media sites and in various newspapers at some government officials, accusing them of attempting to turn Sunni cities — which are home to the shrine of the 11th and 12th Imams in Twelver Shiite Islam — into Shiite towns.

The Samarra district is located to the east of the Tigris River, in Salahuddin governorate, 160 kilometers (99 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad. The city is of great historical value, as it was the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate during the 19th century.

It is famous for the Great Mosque of Samarra and its minaret, the Malwiya Tower (pictured below). Moreover, the Sunni-majority city is home to the shrine of Imams Ali al-Haid and Hasan al-Askari, who are the 11th and 12th Imams of Twelver Shiite Islam.

The shrine was bombed by al-Qaeda during an incident in 2006, which led to the outbreak of sectarian violence across the country.

In 2005, Iraqi law charged the Shiite Endowment — the body that manages the affairs of holy places — with the affairs of the shrine. The Sunni Endowment objected to this law, as it considered the shrine to be located within its jurisdiction. However, as per the law, the Shiite Endowment took it upon itself to rebuild and expand the destroyed shrine.

Sunnis continue to object to this law today, and it is among their most pressing and notable demands.

Tension in the city escalated in 2010, when the Shiite Endowment started buying lands surrounding the shrine. This issue preoccupied the Iraqi public for two years until the Iraqi judiciary ordered it to stop land acquisition in 2012.

In a phone interview with Al-Monitor, engineer Muhannad al-Badri, the editor-in-chief of the local Salam newspaper, confirmed that landowners started to sell their lands given the tempting offer they were receiving — $2,000 per square meter (11 square feet).

Samarra Minaret (fm Cabinet website)