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Iraq national museum

Inside the Iraqui Museum in Baghdad. Source: Reuters.

Loveday Morris, Light again at Iraq’s national museum as doors swing open to reveal treasures, The Canberra Times, 1 March 2015

Iraq’s national museum in Baghdad has reopened to the public, 12 years after it was shuttered because of the looting of thousands of ancient artefacts in the days following the US-led invasion.

As Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi cut the red ribbon at the Iraq Museum, officials said the decision to reopen ahead of schedule was intended to send a message of defiance to Islamic State militants who released a video last week showing black-clad men destroying museum statues in the northern city of Mosul.

Iraqi authorities have worked for years to recover some of the estimated 15,000 items stolen from the national museum in 2003, when looting went largely unchecked by US forces.

About 4300 have been returned, from countries including Lebanon, Jordan and the US, Iraqi officials say.

The contrast between images of the destruction in Mosul’s museum and the gleaming new display cases in Baghdad serves as a reminder that Iraq remains a country divided.

While the extremists retain their grip in Iraq’s north and west, a growing sense of confidence is apparent in Baghdad, where a long-standing midnight curfew was lifted last month.

“Our hearts were broken when those artefacts were broken in Mosul,” said Qassim Sudani, a spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. “Now the national museum has reopened, it will be a lung that allows the Iraqi people to breathe again.”

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