Hatra destruction ‘war crime,’ says UN chief in wake of ISIL destruction of heritage site

9 March 2015 | Press Releases

Iraq, 7 March 2015 – and bulldozing of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and the Director General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation also stated her outrage at the latest attack.

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hatra in Iraq. Photo: UNESCO/Véronique Dauge

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Hatra in Iraq. Photo: UNESCO/Véronique Dauge

“The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing underway in Iraq,” said Irina Bokova in a statement released jointly with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) Director General, Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri.

“With this latest act of barbarism against Hatra, Daesh [ISIL] shows the contempt in which it holds the history and heritage of Arab people, which had been rightly recognized as a World Heritage site,” the statement said.

Hatra, a large fortified city under the influence of the Parthian Empire, withstood invasions by the Romans in 116CE and 198CE thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The remains of the city, especially the temples where Hellenistic and Roman architecture blend with Eastern decorative features, attest to the greatness of its civilization.

The statement said this latest direct attack on the history of Islamic Arab cities confirms the role of destruction of heritage in the propaganda of extremists groups.

It also drew attention to the cultural toll paid during the conflict, noting that, in addition to the tragic loss of human life and the humanitarian crisis, persecution of cultural and religious minorities, as well as the targeting of cultural heritage for intentional destruction have been practised, with the aim of erasing the history of the country and thus undermining the peaceful coexistence of diverse communities.

“UNESCO and ISESCO are fully mobilized to respond to this emergency and stand ready to assist the Iraqi authorities in any possible way,” said Mrs Bokova and Mr. Altwaijri.