UNESCO Urges End To Destruction Of Iraq's Cultural Heritage

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has called for an immediate halt to intentional destruction of religious and cultural heritage monuments in Iraq, a statement issued by the UN agency said.

Referring to the intentional destruction on 24 July of the shrine of Prophet Jonas and the mosque built in his honor in Mosul, Bokova said: "I am shocked by this violence against the millennial heritage of Iraq -- destroying places of religious and cultural significance is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."

The destruction of the shrine, a significant place of worship and pilgrimage with a centuries' old history, is one among several recent attempts to destroy religious and cultural heritage in Iraq.

"I am appalled by these brutal attacks on places of cultural and religious heritage," Bokova said. She stressed that the intentional destruction of cultural heritage represents a war crime.

"The destruction of the shrine of Prophet Jonas is a new blow against the rich diversity of Iraq's heritage, cultural and social fabric. Such acts must be stopped immediately. Every layer of Iraq's unique culture, including its religious heritage, must be protected," she said.

"The diversity of Iraq's cultural heritage bears witness to centuries of peaceful coexistence among all communities making up the society of the country", added the UNESCO Director-General, reiterating her appeal on June 17 for all Iraqis to stand united for the protection of their cultural heritage.

Last week, UNESCO in consultation with Iraqi and international experts agreed on an Emergency Response Action Plan to safeguard Iraq's cultural heritage.

The Emergency Response Action Plan defines priority interventions to mitigate heightened risks of destruction and damage, looting and illicit trafficking affecting Iraq's cultural heritage sites and monuments, museums and their collections, as well as archives in the current situation of renewed violence.

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