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Fragile Heritage

Nine of the ten World Heritage Sites in Syria and Iraq are in danger or have been damaged by the Islamic State group. This has provoked strong reactions throughout the world. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, has branded IS activities in this respect ‘a form of cultural cleansing’ and has called the destructions in Mosul a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 and the destruction of Nimrud a war crime.

On 28 May 2015, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution, initiated by Germany and Iraq and sponsored by 91 UN member states, stating that IS's destruction of cultural heritage may amount to a war crime. It urged international measures to halt such acts, which it described as a ‘tactic of war’.

The destruction of intangible cultural heritage (such as language, musical tradition) is less easy to identify than the physical destruction of heritage, but is similarly subject to deterioration, disappearance and destruction for a variety of reasons.

Join us as our Festival Focus Day seeks to explore the responses and reactions to the destruction of cultural heritage taking place in the Middle East and the relevance of cultural heritage to society today.

The Hub café will be open all day serving hot and cold snacks and drinks. 

Sunday 19 June

11.00am - 12.00 noon

Cultural Heritage and the Islamic State

Alia Brahimi, a specialist in terrorism and political trends in the Middle East and North Africa, will provide the background to the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq.

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3.00pm - 4.30pm

Who are the Custodians of Cultural Heritage?

An eminent panel of speakers will explore who owns and preserves cultural heritage.

Discussions will include museums’ provision of conservation expertise to post-conflict states and the preservation of Middle Eastern artefacts in Western museums as a result of Western excavations in previous centuries. Speakers include:

  • Robert Carter, UCL Qatar
  • Cornelius Holtorf, Linnaeus University
  • Emma Loosley, College of Humanities, University of Exeter
  • Ben Isakhan, Deakin University, Australia
  • Terry O’Connor, Department of Archaeology, University of York (Chair)

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1.00pm - 2.30pm

Cultural Heritage: Why Does It Matter?

Experts will explore why the destruction of cultural heritage is important psychologically, historically and architecturally. Speakers include:

  • Peter Lamarque, Department of Philosophy, University of York
  • Harry Munt, Department of History, University of York
  • Rory Olcayto, Director, Open House London
  • Helen Walasek, author of Bosnia and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage
  • Jane Grenville, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology, University of York (Chair)

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5.00pm - 6.30pm

Preserving Cultural Heritage: What Can We Do?

A panel of experts will discuss how the world is responding to the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq. Speakers include:

  • Donna Yates, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow
  • Peter Stone, UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace, Newcastle University
  • Emma Cunliffe, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford
  • Jonathan Tubb, Keeper of the Dept of the Middle East at the British Museum
  • Rolf Achilles, Art Historian (Chair)

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