UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova expressed her great concern following the desecration of the graves of Sidi Mahmoud in Mali by the Ansar Dine group on 4 May 2012. According to information UNESCO received, the front door of the mausoleum and its protective curtain have been burned and the people of Timbuktu who gather there every Friday for prayer were prevented from accessing it.
"This desecration is a sign of a change for the worse that is deeply concerning in the attacks on Malian heritage, already highly threatened in recent weeks. I call on all parties involved to ensure immediate protection of this World Heritage property, essential to preserving Mali’s rich culture, which is part of the indivisible heritage of humanity. This cultural heritage is our common property, and nothing can justify damaging it,” said the Director-General.
The mosques of Timbuktu and their 16 mausolea bear witness to the golden age of Timbuktu in the 16th century, and to the teaching of Islam at university level that took place there. Since the outbreak of conflict in northern Mali, the Director-General has called repeatedly for the protection of cultural heritage and for heightened vigilance against the illicit traffic of cultural property.