1.         Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Iraq) (C 1130)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2003

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2003-present

Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Corrective measures identified

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet established

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1130/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 2003-2003)
Total amount approved: USD 50,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1130/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount granted (for World Heritage properties of Iraq):

Previous monitoring missions

November 2002: UNESCO mission for the Makhool Dam project; June 2011: joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1130/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 3 February 2020, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, an updated version of which was submitted on 28 January 2021. These reports, which are available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1130/documents/, provide the following information:

In January 2021, UNESCO was notified of the intention of the State Party to proceed with the construction of Makhool Dam that had previously been cancelled. UNESCO requested the provision of all relevant information for technical review by the Advisory Bodies in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. On 28 March 2021, information on the construction of the dam was received indicating that the dam is the same as proposed in 2003. While information was provided regarding the archaeological sites that will be affected, including the property, no technical information has been provided about the construction of the dam itself.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

Although there is still a lack of detailed and comprehensive information about the state of conservation of the property, the State Party has referred to the fact that a damage assessment report will be provided. It is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to submit, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, all reports prepared related to the damage assessment and interventions it has undertaken at the property. It is recommended that future interventions be addressed within the framework of an overall assessment of damage and risks and a comprehensive conservation plan prepared in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies.

The State Party has carried out urgent intervention measures, aiming to mitigate the impact of threats at the property, including potential flood and water damage. As previously recommended, any protection and emergency stabilization work should be undertaken only in cases where collapse or further damage is imminent, according to the principle of minimal intervention. In addition, any elements found at the property and resulting from conflict-related damage such as intentional destructions, should be retrieved and gathered in a safe location, and the boundaries of the property protected from illegal excavations and looting. The State Party’s efforts to address immediate risks at the property are appreciated.

It is regrettable that the plans to construct the Makhool dam have been re-activated. When the property was first inscribed on the World Heritage List, the large dam project was considered as a major threat justifying concurrent inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Therefore, the State Party was encouraged to relocate or cancel the project. A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property in 2011 reiterated concerns regarding the construction of the dam, and recommended that the State Party propose and implement preventive measures. In 2013, on the basis of the state of conservation report that had been submitted, the Committee welcomed the announcement by the State Party of the then cancellation of the project (Decision 37 COM 7A.24).

Considering the foreseen impact that the dam would have on the property and numerous other archaeological sites, it is recommended that Committee again request the cancellation or relocation of the project. It is further recommended that the Committee specifically reaffirms the potential danger to the OUV of the property arising from the proposed dam as it did in 2003, at the time of inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in accordance with Paragraph 179(b) of the Operational Guidelines.

It is once again recommended that a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission take place once security and sanitary conditions permit, in order to assist in assessing the condition of the property, as a preparatory step for the development of a comprehensive conservation plan and formal identification of the Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSCOR).



9. General Decision on the World Heritage properties of Iraq
Current conservation issues

The conflict in Iraq between 2014 and 2017 led to a massive humanitarian crisis and resulted in significant damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage through deliberate destruction, illegal excavation and looting, as well as collateral damage. Three of Iraq's World Heritage properties have suffered as a result of this conflict, namely Samarra Archaeological City, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) and Hatra. In addition, the archaeological sites of Nimrud and the Ancient City of Nineveh, which are on Iraq’s Tentative List, have also been greatly damaged through acts of deliberate destruction. In the Old City of Mosul, included in the Tentative List since August 2018, significant sites, monuments and buildings were systematically targeted, including historical and religious heritage sites such as al-Nouri Mosque and its iconic al-Hadba Minaret.

On 3 February 2020 and 28 January 2021, the State Party submitted state of conservation reports, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/44com/documents/#state_of_conservation_reports. The reports provide an overview of the state of conservation of Samarra Archaeological City, Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) and Hatra, and the damage inflicted as a result of the conflict, but no detailed assessment. The reports express the need for financial support to improve the state of conservation of World Heritage properties, and the wish of the State Party to work closely with the international community in this regard. The 2021 report mentions that the spread of COVID-19 has contributed to limiting conservation and management activities. The proposed construction of the Makhool Dam in Ashur (Qal’at Sherqat) has been re-activated and the State Party has requested support in preserving the property and the archaeological sites located in the dam’s basin.

The State Party reiterates its request for missions to be undertaken in order to conduct damage assessments and conservation works, and requests the support of the World Heritage Centre in the development of corrective measures for the eventual removal of the three properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Activities undertaken by UNESCO

Activities undertaken by the Advisory Bodies


Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The conflict situation in Iraq has directly affected its three properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and some of its Tentative List sites to varying degrees. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage during the conflict period between 2014 and 2017 is of particular concern. Owing to the security situation in several parts of the country and the very limited resources, Iraq’s other World Heritage properties and Tentative List sites have been indirectly affected. In addition, the illegal excavation and looting of archeological sites have caused extensive loss and irreversible damage – although there have been several incidents of restitution of cultural property in recent years.

Since the liberation of substantial parts of the country in 2017, Iraq has been facing the challenges of recovery while addressing the unprecedented humanitarian crisis. This is particularly evident at the Old City of Mosul, where UNESCO is currently engaged within the framework of its flagship initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul”.

The lack of detailed damage assessments for the three World Heritage properties that are on the List of World Heritage in Danger remains a concern, despite the more recent reported documentation work for Hatra carried out by a team of experts in February 2020, through the support of the International Alliance for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), as well as the submission of an additional ‘Damage Assessment Report Status Study’, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/277/documents/. This report includes general information on the intended process for recovery and brief descriptions and photographs of damage to individual components, as well as high-level recommendations, including reiteration of the request for a mission. Detailed damage assessments are necessary to evaluate the situation and to plan for stabilization and conservation works, including repair, rehabilitation and reconstruction of important monuments, before interventions can take place. It is recommended that the Committee remind the State Party of its previous request in Decision 43 COM 7A.21, that remedial and repair works should be guided by a comprehensive conservation plan prepared in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. It is also necessary to evaluate potential risks other than those specifically related to conflict, such as those concerning natural deterioration and potential flooding, and, to plan for the properties’ longer-term recovery and management. In this regard the re-activation of the proposed construction of the Makhool Dam is a major concern, giving rise to an additional potential danger to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Ashur (Qal’at Sherqat).

It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to submit detailed documentation on all damage incurred at World Heritage properties, and to undertake protection and urgent stabilization work only in cases where collapse or further damage is imminent, according to the principle of minimal intervention. The required information includes systematic photographic surveys, drawings, graphics and quantitative data and identification of potential risks. Elements found at the property, and resulting from conflict-related damage, should be retrieved and gathered in a safe location. Boundaries of properties should be protected from illegal excavations and looting.

Moreover, it is recommended that the Committee remind the State Party to advise, through the World Heritage Centre, about any future plans for major restoration or new construction projects that may affect the OUV of World Heritage properties, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse.

The Committee should also reiterate its appeal to States Parties to cooperate in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property coming from Iraq and to contribute towards the safeguarding of its cultural heritage.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7A.6

Decision: 44 COM 7A.6

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add,
  2. Recalling Decisions 43 COM 7A.18 and 43 COM 7A.21, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Taking into account Decision 44 COM 7A.9, on the World Heritage properties of Iraq,
  4. Notes the State Party’s efforts to address risks at the property and to keep the World Heritage Centre informed about the situation at the property, but expresses again its concern about its condition and the lack of comprehensive information on its state of conservation;
  5. Acknowledges the information provided by the State Party concerning the planned construction of Makhool Dam, and deeply regrets that the construction of the dam is again proposed and requests the State Party to relocate or cancel the project in view of its potential impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property and other archaeological sites, and in the meantime, to submit the full technical information including a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment to the World Heritage Centre for technical review;
  6. Reaffirms the potential danger to the OUV of the property arising from the proposed dam, which already justified in 2003 the inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger in accordance with Paragraph 179 (b) of the Operational Guidelines;
  7. Calls upon the State Party to suspend any work towards the dam construction, pending consideration of cancellation or relocation of the project and review of the technical information for the project;
  8. Reiterates its request to the State Party to submit all preliminary assessments of the property it has undertaken, and to carry out a detailed review of the damage incurred outlining the potential risks to the property, prior to taking any action on the ground, and to submit this assessment for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Also requests the State Party to submit a detailed report on all interventions carried out as a matter of priority and also reiterates its previous request that interventions be addressed within the framework of the overall assessment of damage and risks and a comprehensive conservation plan prepared in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  10. Reminds the State Party of its obligation to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information of any future works that may affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
  11. Reiterates the need for a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, once conditions permit, to assist in assessing damage at the property, preparatory to the development of a comprehensive conservation plan, the identification of corrective measures, and the development of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  12. Reiterates its appeal to all States Parties to cooperate in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Iraq as per the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2199 of February 2015, 2253 of December 2015 and 2347 of March 2017;
  13. Calls again on all States Parties to support emergency safeguarding measures, including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
  14. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session;
  15. Decides to retain Ashur (Qal'at Sherqat) (Iraq) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7A.9

Decision: 44 COM 7A.9

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decision 43 COM 7A.21, adopted at its 43rd session (Baku, 2019),
  3. Takes note of the reports provided by the State Party regarding the state of conservation of the properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and continues to express its concern about the lack of comprehensive and detailed assessment of the properties affected by the conflict and about the limited resources available for the safeguarding of affected cultural heritage;
  4. Expresses its appreciation to the Director-General of UNESCO for the progress made towards safeguarding cultural heritage in the Old City of Mosul, and for the expertise and resources mobilized so far within UNESCO’s “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” flagship initiative, and also expresses its appreciation to the donors for their generous contributions towards this end;
  5. Requests the State Party to submit updated documentation of damage incurred at World Heritage properties, including systematic photographic surveys, drawings, graphics, quantitative data and identification of potential risks, to safeguard damaged properties according to the principle of minimal intervention, and to refrain from undertaking conservation and restoration work until comprehensive conservation plans have been developed, in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  6. Reminds the State Party about the need to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for examination by the Advisory Bodies, information on any future plans for major restoration or new construction projects that may affect the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of World Heritage properties, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse;
  7. Reiterates its appeal to all States Parties to cooperate in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Iraq as per the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2199 of February 2015, 2253 of December 2015 and 2347 of March 2017, and encourages the State Party to ratify the Second Protocol (1999) to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict;
  8. Calls again on all States Parties to provide technical and financial support to safeguarding efforts for Iraq’s World Heritage and other cultural heritage sites, including through the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative, in order to implement short-, medium- and long-term measures;
  9. Also requests the World Heritage Centre to present at its 45th session in 2022 a report on the activities related to cultural heritage undertaken within the framework of the “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” initiative;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the properties and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC/21/44.COM/7A, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2, WHC/21/44.COM/7A.Add.2.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: