Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

‘Cultural Cleansing’

ISIS destroys Jonah’s tomb in Mosul July 2014.  Source: Al Arabiya News

Anny Shaw, Unesco chief warns against Islam State’s ‘cultural cleansing’, The Art Newspaper, 11 Nov 2014

Speaking in Erbil last week, Irina Bokova compared the forced displacement of Iraqi minorities to “Nazi methods”

The United Nation’s chief cultural official has warned that whole cultures are facing extinction after the Islamic State (IS) forced more than one million Iraqis to flee their towns and villages in the north of the country. In a visit to the northern Iraqi capital of Erbil last week, Irina Bokova, the director-general of Unesco, compared what she previously described as the “cultural cleansing” of minority groups to “Nazi methods”.

“Either [the minority groups] conform to [the Islamic State’s] views of religion or belief or they have to disappear. I don’t remember anything like that in contemporary history,” she said. “This is a way to destroy identity. You deprive them of their culture, you deprive them of their history, their heritage, and that is why it goes hand in hand with genocide. Along with the physical persecution they want to eliminate—to delete—the memory of these different cultures.”

As well as the recorded damage to religious and cultural sites, including two churches in Mosul, several Shi’ite shrines and a Yazidi temple, the Islamic State’s actions threaten the “intangible heritage” of the Christian groups and other minorities linked to the area, which rely more on oral tradition. “You cannot rebuild the traditions and heritage of a culture—when it is destroyed it is destroyed forever,” Bokova said.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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