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.

Can Iraq get its water wheels on UNESCO World Heritage List?

Iraq has been working for the last three months to rehabilitate its historical norias in Hit, a city located in western Iraq on the banks of the upper Euphrates River.

The Iraqi government aims to inscribe these water wheels, which played an important role in the irrigation of the land for centuries, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Iraq’s ancient city of Babylon has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Situated 85 km south of Baghdad, the property includes the ruins of the city which, between 626 and 539 BCE, was the capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

It includes villages and agricultural areas surrounding the ancient city. Its remains, outer and inner-city walls, gates, palaces and temples, are a unique testimony to one of the most influential empires of the ancient world.

Seat of successive empires, under rulers such as Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon represents the expression of the creativity of the Neo-Babylonian Empire at its height.

The city’s association with one of the seven wonders of the ancient world—the Hanging Gardens—has also inspired artistic, popular and religious culture on a global scale.

(Source: UNESCO)

By John Lee.

Iraqi President Barham Salih has called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to include the ancient city of Babylon in its World Heritage List.

The President made the request at meeting with UNESCO Director Audrey Azoulay in France.

They also discussed the provision of job opportunities within UNESCO for Iraqi workers in the area of “scientific research sector, developing plans and programs to address problems in water resources and environment, improving education and granting priority to scholarship for researchers“.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

By John Lee.

Iraqi President Barham Salih has called on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to include the ancient city of Babylon in its World Heritage List.

The President made the request at meeting with UNESCO Director Audrey Azoulay in France.

They also discussed the provision of job opportunities within UNESCO for Iraqi workers in the area of “scientific research sector, developing plans and programs to address problems in water resources and environment, improving education and granting priority to scholarship for researchers“.

(Source: Office of the Iraqi President)

EU Signs Contracts of 57.5 Million Euros with UN to Support Mosul Recovery, Promises Additional 20 Million Euros Next Month

A delegation from the United Nations in Iraq and the European Union Mission to Iraq yesterday toured a number of EU-funded and UN implemented projects in Mosul, seeing first-hand the clearance, stabilization, rehabilitation and development work undertaken in the northern Iraqi city more than a year after its liberation from Da’esh.

Illustrating the joint efforts in post-Da’esh Iraq, the EU signed a contract with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worth 47.5 million euros, another with UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) totaling 10 million euros, and announced 20 million euros in additional support for UNESCO as well as a further 15 million support for FAO, to be signed in January 2019.

The conflict with Da’esh has destroyed many areas of Mosul and Ninewa Governorate, and displaced a large number of the population. Since the military defeat of Da’esh a year ago, many people have returned, encouraged by the efforts to ensure a secure and safe environment. Some areas still lack basic services, and the UN, in support of the Iraqi authorities, are working to ensure a decent living for the people to facilitate the dignified return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The delegation called on the Governor of Ninewa, Nawfal Al-Agoub, after which a signing ceremony was held.

EU Director for Development Cooperation for Asia, Central Asia, Middle East/Gulf and the Pacific Region, Pierre Amilhat, said:

“The Iraqi people have suffered enough, and the country is on the cusp of entering into a renewed phase of state-building. Today exemplifies the strong commitment the EU along with its UN partners have in shouldering Iraq in this critical phase. With the territorial defeat of Da’esh, all of us together have a window of opportunity to build an inclusive and accountable country and restore the trust between the people and their Government. This multi-pronged initiative will join the dots between the various reconstruction components, and significantly contribute to the betterment of the Iraqi people”.

UNDP Resident Representative a.i. for Iraq, Gerardo Noto, said:

“We are grateful to EU for our excellent partnership. We jointly help people of Iraq so that no one is left behind as all UN Members Countries committed in the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is yet another practical example of support to the authorities and citizens of Iraq in regaining the trust of the local communities and rebuilding the state institutions towards a new social contract to sustaining peace and sustainable development”.

Earlier, the EU-UN delegation visited the Old City, site of some of the worst fighting – and destruction. They inspected the reconstruction work at the Al-Nuri Mosque, a symbol of Mosul’s history and culture that Da’esh deliberately destroyed its landmark leaning minaret before their retreat from the city. The work is part of ongoing projects to repair heritage sites by UNESCO throughout Mosul Old City’s funded by the EU.

UNESCO has launched “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”, an initiative that has the support of the Government of Iraq and in line with the Initial Planning Framework for Reconstruction of Mosul, which was jointly developed by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and UNESCO in collaboration with the Governorate of Ninewa, to rehabilitate Mosul’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Restoring the identities within the communities of Mosul and other liberated areas of Iraq contributes to reconciliation and promotes more just, peaceful and inclusive societies.

“UNESCO is very grateful to the EU for its contribution to the reconstruction and restoration of the Old City of Mosul, in the context of the UNESCO ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul Initiative’. This support contributes to the physical reconstruction of one of Iraq’s most emblematic historical cities, which has been severely damaged and destroyed. It also benefits directly the local community – by providing skills and jobs to thousands of young people” stated Louise Haxthausen, Head of UNESCO in Iraq. “We are particularly pleased that part of this contribution is dedicated to the urban rehabilitation of the old city of Basra, another highly significant historical city of Iraq,” added Louise Haxthausen.

UN-Habitat and UNDP are also working together in Mosul to rehabilitate damaged houses, repair secondary infrastructure, retrofit public facilities such as schools to promote the environmental responsiveness of buildings, and involve youth in redesign of public open spaces. Yuko Otsuki, Head of UN-Habitat in Iraq, expressed gratitude for the EU support “to continue improving the living conditions of Iraqi population through urban recovery investments and job and income generating opportunities in conflict-affected areas.”

The delegation toured Mosul University, once a major centre of learning in Iraq that Da’esh turned into a command post and weapons cache. Mosul University, Iraq’s second largest university, has suffered major damage, and it is estimated that rehabilitation work would require 350-500 million dollars. The university was cleared of explosive hazards, included Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

The work of UNMAS lies at the core of the stabilization and rehabilitation work. Mindful that no stabilization work and return of IDPs can be sustainable without ensuring a safe environment, the EU signed a contract granting UNMAS 10 million euros to continue the clearance of contaminated hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, religious sites and neighborhoods.

“We are very grateful for the support provided by the international community and more specifically by the EU. With this contribution, UNMAS Iraq will be expanding the clearance capacity in Mosul and also deploy capacity in Sinjar,” said Pehr Lodhammar, UNMAS Iraq Senior Programme Manager.

The group also visited the Ninewa Directorate of Agriculture where they were briefed about a project supported by the EU and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to support recovery of agricultural livelihoods by revitalizing of food production, value chains and income generation in Ninewa.

“I am so pleased to see the EU has agreed to help us rehabilitate key facilities and equipment of the Directorate as well as rebuilding livelihoods for so many smallholder farmers. Creating jobs in this heart land of agriculture is really key to community stabilization,” said Dr Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Country Representative in Iraq.

The EU has contributed a total of 184.4 million euros since 2016 to support stabilization and humanitarian efforts undertaken by the UN in support of the Government of Iraq.

(Source: UN)

UN-Habitat and UNESCO presented the Initial Planning Framework for Reconstruction of Mosul

On 15 November 2018, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) presented the Initial Planning Framework for the Reconstruction of Mosul, offering perspectives on how to ‘Build Back Better’ the city for the people of Mosul.

Over 100 participants from the local government, private sector, civil society organizations and the United Nations agencies gathered at the Ninewa Governor’s office to discuss the priorities and recommendations for the reconstruction of Mosul, with special attention to the Old City.

The event highlighted the complex challenges ensuring a fast reconstruction, while protecting the heritage and historical characteristics of the Old City. It also touched upon the problems that wider Mosul is currently facing in the housing sector and the urgent need to support vulnerable returnees whose houses were completely destroyed, which continues to be a major obstacle for the return of internally displaced persons in camps to Mosul.

H.E. Mr. Nawfal Al Sultan, Governor of Ninewa, noted the prominent role of the United Nations agencies in the reconstruction of Mosul, and reiterated the importance of collaboration between the government offices, the United Nations agencies and the people of Mosul. He also expressed his hope that Ninewa will be built back better, asking for continuous support from the international community.

Ms. Marta Ruedas, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, explained that the Framework provides a holistic and integrated approach for the reconstruction of Mosul, noting that the top priority is to protect heritage sites in the Old City from further damage as analysed and recommended in the Framework.

Both H.E. Mr. Nawfal Al Sultan and Ms. Marta Ruedas called for setting up a specialised committee to follow up on and ensure that the actions recommended in the Framework are endorsed by the relevant authorities and implemented in a timely manner.

After gathering comments and feedback, the Framework will be finalized and distributed to key stakeholders, including national and local government counterparts, representatives of civil society, the private sector and the community, United Nations agencies and donors.

(Source: UN)

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 United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Finger pressing a new career start button, from Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock)

Reconstruction and recovery in Iraq: Reviving the Spirit of Mosul

The ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’ Initiative was presented on 30 June 2018 during the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee.

Launched by UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay in February 2018, the Mosul Initiative is conceived in partnership with the Iraqi Government to integrate the human dimension in the reconstruction and recovery of the city, particularly through culture and education, after years of painful destruction. Between 2014 and 2017, historic monuments and sites were systematically destroyed in Iraq.

Ernesto Ottone-Ramirez, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, pointed out that the international community has the responsibility to support the Iraqi people in the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq, and that the first signs are already positive.

“Last April in Baghdad, UNESCO and the United Arab Emirates signed a historic partnership for the reconstruction of Mosul, which includes rebuilding the iconic Great Mosque of Al Nuri and its leaning Al-Hadba minaret. This pioneering partnership is a message of hope that Iraq’s future will be shaped with its young women and men as agents of reconstruction and change in a prosperous, inclusive, reconciled and open society.” The United Arab Emirates have committed USD 50.4 million to rebuild and restore the Al Nuri Mosque over a five-year period.

H.E Fryad Rawandouzi, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq, expressed his gratitude to the countries standing alongside Iraq to protect its culture. “Iraq, which has stood up in the face of terrorism and triumphed, is fully aware of the power of culture to bring back hope and peace, and restore the archaeological sites, museums, buildings and intangible heritage that terrorism has destroyed. Culture contributes to peaceful coexistence.”

He also took the occasion to hand to Mr Ottone-Ramirez the submission of Mosul to be included on the Tentative List of sites of Iraq, for potential future inscription on the World Heritage List.

H.E Ruba Al Hassan, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, United Arab Emirates, said, “We have a collective responsibility, not only in the Arab region, but in the wider international community towards Iraq and other nations that have endured conflict to work towards protecting our shared heritage, not only as Muslims or as Arabs but as human beings who value the wealth and weight that heritage and culture brings to enriching our common humanity.”

Mosul is a living symbol of the multifaceted identity of Iraq, and one of the oldest cities in the world; it is at the crossroads of the Middle East and bears witness to the wealth of civilizations that crossed the region over centuries. The archaeological site of Nimrud, the Museum of Mosul, the Nabi Younes Shrine and many other sites there have been targeted for intentional destruction.

The ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’ initiative is a UNESCO priority and one of its most ambitious reconstruction and recovery campaigns.

A conference organized in conjunction with the Iraqi Government will take place at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 10 September 2018, to mobilize the support of the international community.

(Source: UNESCO)

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.

When the Al-Nouri Mosque and the adjacent al-Hadba minaret in Mosul were bombed by the Islamic State (IS) on June 21, 2017, many thought that the landmark mosque and its “hunchback” minaret most famous for its leaning structure were gone for good.

But today, there is some hope of restoring both structures. The reconstruction of the mosque and the minaret will start in June, said Nofal Sultan al-Akoub, the governor of Iraq’s northern province of Ninevah, on May 6.

The announcement follows a protocol signed April 23 between Iraq and the United Arab Emirates, where the latter would commit $50.4 million over five years for the reconstruction of the mosque that dates from the 12th century. UNESCO is also a signatory to the reconstruction agreement.

The mosque is an important symbol for Mosul, and it was used in 2014 as the venue where Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and militants proclaimed a caliphate. Three years later, IS fighters blew it to pieces weeks before their defeat.

The minaret, which was one of the few remaining parts of the original construction, is less known to the international world. It had a design often attributed to Iranian architectural influence, with a white plastered top. It had a significant lean since the 14th century, and its likeness can be found on 10,000-dinar bills.

The main questions on the renovation are whether the amount allocated, which is one of the largest sums committed for a restoration project in Iraq, will be enough and whether the reconstruction will be successful.

Mohammed Nouri al-Abed Rabbo, a parliament member from Ninevah, told Al-Monitor that the next phase would be to take bids for the reconstruction after the government agencies finalized the contract and the blueprints for the work required.

Abed Rabbo added that the reconstruction process “needs more funding than what has been allocated by the UAE.” Pointing out that the monument was essentially razed to the ground, he said that great architectural skills would be required for the reconstruction, and UNESCO — the cultural arm of the UN — would need to be involved.

“There have been efforts since the liberation of Mosul to clean the mosque of explosive devices, remove rubble, document the destruction and collect the damaged authentic relics. The area was cordoned off to prevent the loss of the remaining relics from the minaret and the mosque,” Abed Rabbo added.

Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhssein al-Araji told Al-Monitor via phone that the reconstruction plan was developed following discussions and meetings with UNESCO. These meetings have taken up costs and conducted feasibility studies. He said he expected the construction to take at least four years.

“The implementation process is likely to take a long time, as it is a large area. Given its great historical importance, the work needs to be meticulous. We need to study the available historical data so it can be restored to its original architecture,” Araji added.

According to professor of modern history at Mosul University Ibrahim al-Allaf, Nur al-Din al-Zanki — who ruled Mosul — “ordered the building of the mosque [and its minaret] in A.D. 1172.”

Allaf said the mosque had been damaged many times in its history. “The Iraqi Department of Antiquities dismantled and rebuilt the mosque in 1942 as part of a renovation campaign,” Allaf told Al-Monitor. “Al-Hadba minaret is the only remaining feature of the original building of the mosque. Due to its historical value, the minaret has been printed on Iraqi banknotes.”

Leafing through the documents he held on the minaret, Allaf said of its structure: “The minaret was 55 meters high [although there are different accounts of its height], while the mosque area is about 6,000 square meters. The minaret’s base is large, and it features Islamic decorations on its four facades. The building of the entire mosque cost at the time 60,000 dinars of gold.”

Louise Haxthausen, the UNESCO director for Iraq, said at the press conference April 23 that the “reconstruction of the minaret is an ambitious project that carries major symbolism for the liberation of Mosul.”

The head of Iraq’s Parliamentary Committee on Media and Culture, Maysoon al-Damluji, who is from Mosul, told Al-Monitor that the National Authority for Antiquities and Heritage will be involved in the restoration, and that she hoped archaeologists and architects from Mosul would be involved.

“The reconstruction project will not only address the physical and structural aspects of the building, but also highlight the cultural and artistic heritage such as the decorations, ornaments, inscriptions and writings,” Damluji said. She urged the authorities to be careful “not to damage the remaining relics during the removal of rubble and the works on the site.”

Meanwhile, Ahmed Kassem al-Juma, a retired professor from the University of Mosul and a UNESCO Islamic monuments and archaeology expert based in Mosul, told Al-Monitor, “No matter how meticulous and careful the work to restore the relics is, the restored building will not bear the same value of the original that was blown up by IS.”

“The minaret and the mosque were characterized by fine technical details such as the marble pillars of the praying room, the cubic crowns, the strip engraved with words from the Quranic verses, as well as the mosque’s mihrab ornamented with arabesque decorations carved on marble,” Juma added.

He said, “The summer prayer mihrab (the outdoor niche in the wall where the imam stands to conduct prayers) is made of marble. It is currently at the National Museum in Baghdad.”

Juma accompanied the UNESCO delegation that toured the site before the launch of the project. “I keep all the documents, blueprints and drawings of the mosque with all its parts, the architectural details, measurements and maps of the original locations,” he said.

“I worked for a full year in a field survey of the minaret and the mosque before IS entered Mosul in 2014. I documented the details of the mosque and the ceramic construction units with more than 500 sketches and technical drawings,” Juma said, adding, “The mosque has great moral, social and religious significance, as it has been in the past … the place to hold meetings and gatherings for religious and official public events.”

(Picture Credit: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)