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How War has Destroyed History in the Arab World

posted on: Jun 19, 2019

How War has Destroyed History in the Arab World

By Cara Zanta/Arab America Contributing Writer

It is devastating to see all the destruction war can do, especially in major historical sites in the Arab World, most recently,  Iraq.

The fundamental importance of cultural heritage as an expression of one’s identity is on the brink of being abolished in areas of the world. The value of one’s cultural heritage only makes it a greater target for opposition groups or outside countries to deteriorate.

According to the United Nations, half of the city of Mosul, Iraq is in the rubble.  The regions around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are some of the most historic places in the world. Seeing the demolition of monumental pieces of architecture is extremely disheartening to people of conscience in the world, especially the Arab World.

The city of Baghdad, which is the Capital of Iraq, suffered remarkable destruction during the Iraq war. Iraq is home to roughly nine million people and is the second largest city in the Arab world. They are enriched with natural resources, but due to the war, roughly 1/3 of its remaining population is in poverty.

The Al-Askari Mosque, built in 944 AD, is one of the most important Shia shrines in the world. Since the mosque was built, it has been bombed twice since the two years of being created. The first bomb created destruction by destroying the golden dome and severely desolated the remains of the mosque.

The National Museum of Iraq is another saddening example of how war can consume some of the most ancient treasures. The museum, which was home to early Mesopotamians and Islamic artifacts, was either stolen or broken during the U.S. (and its coalition) war of 2003. Furthermore, the Iraq National Library and National Archives were burned down in April of 2003. Thousands of manuscripts which dated back almost 7,000 years ago were stolen too.

How War has Destroyed History in the Arab World

The looting at Baghdad’s Iraq museum is perhaps the most devastating destruction of them all. As people are using times of war conflict to steal valuable items from the Arab heritage. The looting began in the aftermaths of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. The chaos following the invasion inclined individuals to raid anything in the museum that had not been pinned down. Some 15,000 cultural artifacts disappeared during this time.

The regions of the Arab World have impacted the world.  Most recently, another Arab country, Syria, has been impacted by the civil war; its breathtaking historical and architectural pieces have also been, sadly, blasted away.

Located in the city of Aleppo is the Great Mosque of Aleppo–Umayyad Mosque which is one of the oldest and most important mosques in the world. Regime and opposition forces have been battling over control of the building, resulting in a destruction of the entire building.

The Umayyad Mosque was once proclaimed as one of the highest treasures that gave its citizens superiority. This mosque was created as a means of establishing Umayyad rule. This was a significant gesture to a city that had been under Persian rule in earlier years.

The mosque was unlike any other mosque that had been constructed. It provides a vibrant sense of nature as a source of life and activity; it has been a central meeting place for its citizens.  The Umayyad Mosque is also unique for its historical piece of architecture which gave its meaning.   The Mosque hasn’t been only a meeting for Aleppo’s citizens but also used as a meeting point for political rallies, prayers, the appointment of public officials, and a home for the poor. It is truly sad to see such a significant structure of the historic mosque demolished.

There is currently a global effort to come together and find ways to best protect cultural heritage in times of war. The International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Zones of Conflict (ALIPH) was established. They raised an initial 75.5 million dollars to preserve cultural heritage sites during the time of conflict.