We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cultural destruction in Iraq

The latest column in East London News:
At the beginning of November, an article appeared in an Egyptian newspaper, wondering what had happened to Iraq’s massive state archive which had been seized by American forces when the occupation of the country began. Would it ever be returned? And what would happen to the country's Jewish archive of books and manuscripts, which was also moved to the United States. Some Iraqis fear some of them might have already ended up in Israel.

The scale of the cultural destruction in Iraq since the western invasion has been immense. Some 15,000 artefacts disappeared from the National Museum and many more from 12,000 sites across the country - a breach of the UN Convention. “Iraq may soon end up with no history,” said one archaeologist.

One of the greatest losses is at the National Library, where 60% of the state archives’ documents, some going back to the 15th century, were destroyed. Much of the destruction was deliberate. Cultural sites were turned into military bases. Babylon was one of them. Occupation forces bulldozed part of the site for a helicopter landing strip and used the site’s soil – together with fragments and shards - to make thousands of sandbags. Massive and extensive damage was done.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 84 per cent of its higher educational institutions have been looted, burned or destroyed. Academics have been assassinated and driven out of the country. Half of all students have dropped out.

“By destroying their culture, you destroy a people’s sense of identity,” says Professor Zainab Bahrani, a specialist in the art and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia. “So the destruction of cultural heritage is not secondary – it’s directly connected to human rights.”

Some say this was deliberate. The authors Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why museums were looted, libraries burned and academics murdered (Pluto Press, 2009) suggest that one of the goals of the occupation was to replace the idea of a unified Iraqi nation in people’s minds with a story of ethnic and religious sectarianism. This was certainly how Iraq was portrayed in western media, as if the invaders bore no responsibility for the damage they unleashed. Now the occupation appears to be ending, it’s time this myth was debunked.

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