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Erbil Citadel

Iraq
Factors affecting the property in 2021*
  • Legal framework
  • Other Threats:

    Slopes of the archaeological mound non stabilized

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Interpretation facilities for visitors (issue resolved)
  • Management system / management plan (issue resolved)
  • Lack of survey, documentation and mapping of surviving surface buried archaeological remains of all types (issue resolved)
  • Slopes of the archaeological mound non stabilized
  • Location and/or architectural design of the Kurdistan National Museum not appropriate 
  • Existing legal framework needs to be improved
  • Insufficient involvement of former inhabitants and of Erbil’s civil society in the revitalization of the Citadel
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2021

Total amount granted in the framework of the Kurdistan Regional Government Funds-In-Trust:

  • The Revitalization of the Citadel of Erbil Phase I project: USD 1,510,444
  • The Revitalization of the Citadel of Erbil Phase II project: USD 12,837,347
  • Management of the Buffer Area of Erbil Citadel project: USD 338,208

European Union funded project: Support to Livelihoods through Cultural Heritage Development (Erbil Citadel is one of the sites chosen by the project): USD 12,269,391 in total.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2021
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2021**
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 3 December 2019, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, a summary of which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1437/documents/. This report provides information on the progress achieved with the implementation of the recommendations adopted by the Committee at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018), as follows:

  • The High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR) has continued to implement conservation measures, including management, site monitoring, conservation, documentation and emergency preservation actions;
  • Archaeological investigations continue as part of a study campaign organized by the Department of Classics and Italian Archaeological Mission in Iraqi Kurdistan of Sapienza University of Rome (MAIKI) in collaboration with the HCECR, which includes training of HCECR staff;
  • The HCECR reaffirmed the need for the proper implementation of the Urban Design Guidelines for the buffer zone by the Erbil Governorate and the Municipality to avoid negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  • The HCECR received verbal confirmation from the Erbil Governorate that the proposed Kurdistan Museum Project remains halted, with no final decision on implementation plans yet made;
  • Activities have been carried out to enhance visitors’ experience and develop property interpretation, including implementation of part of the study on the development and urban enhancement of the Citadel central pathway and subsidiary trails, with financial support by the KAR Group;
  • The HCECR continued to carry out emergency interventions on buildings in a critical condition, as well as monitoring and providing regular temporary protection for the roofs and walls of approximately 170 buildings;
  • A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the HCECR and the World Monuments Fund for the rehabilitation of a heritage complex and the conservation and rehabilitation of the bath house (hammam). Both projects, funded by the United States of America Embassy in Iraq, were due for completion in 2020. A building infill project was completed to serve as the HCECR offices and was constructed through funds provided by KAR Group;
  • The HCECR remains active in coordinating and facilitating cultural activities at the Citadel, increasing the involvement of the local community;
  • The State Party reports that no conservation issues that may impact the OUV of the property are currently identified;

The State Party requests that the currently adopted Statement of OUV (SOUV) be accepted as final and commits to the continued submission of updates on archaeological research to the World Heritage Centre.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2021

It is recommended that the State Party be commended for its continued efforts to address previous Committee decisions under difficult conditions in the region.

The continued efforts to engage the local community, as well as international parties, in the support of the property are welcomed, as are the monitoring, temporary protection and emergency measures for critically endangered structures. Partner funding has contributed towards the maintenance and improvement of the state of conservation of the property. The EU funded project “Support to Livelihoods through Cultural Heritage Development”, implemented by the UNESCO Office in Iraq, will also contribute towards this end.

It is advised that the Committee acknowledge the continued work on the enhancement of visitor experience and the development of property interpretation, including active coordination with media agencies and the facilitation of activities at the Citadel. The State Party submitted to the World Heritage Centre documentation on the planned development and urban enhancement of the Citadel central pathway and subsidiary trails, which was reviewed by ICOMOS, upon which exchanges and clarifications were made. ICOMOS advises that the State Party should ensure that the installation of the urban enhancement does not hamper future archaeological investigations. In conformity with previous requests from the World Heritage Committee, information on archaeological investigations should continue to be transmitted to the World Heritage Centre.

It remains important that any future draft proposals for the Kurdistan National Museum project be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodes, prior to any approvals or implementation taking place. Similar action is required for any other large-scaled projects in the buffer zone and setting of the property, that may have a negative impact on the setting of the property or its OUV. In this regard, the ongoing interaction of the HCECR with the Erbil Governorate and the municipality to guarantee the implementation of the Urban Design Guidelines for the buffer zone remains crucial.

The State Party has been successful in engaging external funders and other agencies to support its conservation activities at the property and these contributions are acknowledged.




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

  • Since the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee (Baku, 2019), UNESCO has pursued its actions towards the recovery of Iraq’s cultural heritage, notably in Mosul;
  • Within the framework of the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust project (USD 35,782), the World Heritage Centre has initiated the implementation of activities for strengthening capacities in state of conservation reporting on properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, and in the elaboration of the Desired state of conservation for removal of properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR);
  • Following the launch of the Initiative “Revive the Spirit of Mosul” in February 2018, UNESCO has pursued its actions towards the rehabilitation and recovery of the Old City of Mosul:
      • Safeguarding cultural heritage in the Old City of Mosul has been carried out through two major projects, “Reviving the Spirit of Mosul by rebuilding its historic landmarks namely the Al-Nouri Mosque and its Al-Hadba Minaret, as well as the Al-Tahera Church and Al-Saa’a Church” funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (USD 50.4 million for the 2018-2023 period), as well as a major project funded by the European Union (EU) (USD 38 million in two phases from 2019-2022) for “Reviving Mosul and Basra Old Cities” which aims to rehabilitate the historic urban centres of these two major cities while creating jobs and developing skills of the young people in the rehabilitation and urban infrastructure,
      • At the Al-Nouri Mosque Complex and the Al-Hadba Minaret, the first phase of the restoration project consisted of documentation, assessment, securing the site, removing the surrounding debris, collecting historical fragments and stabilizing the remaining structures, was completed in the spring of 2020,
      • In April 2020, the third Joint Steering Committee of the UAE funded project decided that Al-Hadba Minaret shall be rebuilt in the same location and with the same features. The decision concerning the inclination of the Minaret, whether to be built leaning or straight, will be made after the local community is consulted. The Steering Committee of the project also approved that geotechnical investigations on the foundation of the Minaret should be undertaken before any reconstruction proposals are put forward,
      • With regards to Al-Nouri Mosque Complex, it was decided that the reconstruction shall be done through an international architectural design competition, and in November 2020, UNESCO launched an international architectural competition, endorsed by the International Union of Architects (UIA). The jury met from 6 to 10 April and the winning design was announced on 15 April 2021,
      • With regards to the rehabilitation of the two churches, the rubble removal as well as securing the site is completed for Al-Tahera Church as well as Al-Saa’a Church; damage assessment and technical documentation for restoration and rehabilitation of these two churches are ongoing and planned to be finalised by the end of the summer 2021,
      • As for the EU-funded project “Reviving Mosul and Basra Old Cities”, following engagement with all levels of concerned national and local government entities and relevant stakeholders, 43 historical houses were de-mined and selected for rehabilitation. The rehabilitation of these houses and the surrounding infrastructure started in December 2020 and is expected to be completed by October 2021,
      • Heritage-sensitive removal of rubble and clearance of explosive hazards at the sites has also been completed for another 75 houses. The rehabilitation of these additional 75 houses will start in early June 2021. As part of a Heritage Trail between the Al-Nouri Mosque site and the Tigris Riverbank, an additional 118 houses are assessed and earmarked for rubble removal and de-mining. These houses will be rehabilitated if new funding becomes available,
      • Technical documentation for the two palatial houses (Ziada and Suleyman and Qara Saray) has been prepared,
      • As for Al-Aghawat Mosque in Mosul, the temporary stabilisation is finalised and the preparation of technical documentation is ongoing,
      • These projects related to the reconstruction of Mosul’s built heritage have been, and will be creating immediate employment in Mosul as a relief measure in response to the unemployment caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. By the end of these two major rehabilitation projects in Mosul over 2,800 jobs will have been created, with 800 jobs created to date. By the end of these projects 1,630 professionals will be trained in craftsmanship and areas related to the rehabilitation of cultural heritage, both through Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and on-the-job training;
      • Under the same project, damage assessment of seven heritage houses in Basra is ongoing, in addition to the preparation of technical documentation for the rehabilitation of public infrastructure and beautification of Al-Ashar Canal;
      • Also, with support from the Government of Flanders, in 2019, a publication was prepared on damage assessment of cultural and religious heritage affected by violent extremism during 2014 (Governorates of Ninawa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Diyala and Anbar);
      • With regard to the support for the restoration and documentation of the thousands of manuscripts dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries, in 2018, UNESCO provided technical and financial assistance for the preservation of some of the most historically significant manuscripts and materials. The digitization and conservation equipment was subsequently delivered and installed at the Digital Centre of Eastern Manuscripts in Erbil;

Activities undertaken by the Advisory Bodies

  • UNESCO has recently signed an agreement with ICCROM to build capacity of local Iraqi professionals and craftspeople through the UAE and EU funded projects.
  • ICOMOS continues to support World Heritage in Iraq through the collection and dissemination of material and assisting the exchange of information


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.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2021
44 COM 7B.15
Erbil Citadel (Iraq) (C 1437)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 8B.20, 40 COM 7B.23 and 42 COM 7B.53, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 42nd sessions (Manama, 2018) respectively,
  3. Acknowledges the continued efforts by the State Party to engage local and international partners to ensure the conservation of the property and maintain its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and welcomes the important steps taken by the State Party in the revitalisation of the property including the rehabilitation of important buildings;
  4. Also acknowledges the contributions of partner-funders towards the maintenance and improvement of the state of conservation of the property;
  5. Notes that the development and urban enhancement of the Citadel central pathway and subsidiary trails project is an important next step in the further rehabilitation of the property, but care should be taken to ensure that urban infrastructure installations should not hamper future archaeological investigations;
  6. Requests the State Party to:
    1. Ensure the coordinated implementation of the Urban Design Guidelines for the buffer zone by its governmental and municipal bodies,
    2. Submit the results of current and future archaeological investigations undertaken at the property to the World Heritage Centre;
  7. Reminds the State Party of its obligations to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, details of all on-going or planned projects, including major restoration and rehabilitation of the property, as well as any new envisaged construction within the property and its buffer zone, in particular designs for the proposed Kurdistan National Museum, before any commitment is given with regard to their approval or construction;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above.
Draft Decision: 44 COM 7B.15

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decisions 38 COM 8B.20, 40 COM 7B.23 and 42 COM 7B.53, adopted at its 38th (Doha, 2014), 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) and 42nd sessions (Manama, 2018) respectively,
  3. Acknowledges the continued efforts by the State Party to engage local and international partners to ensure the conservation of the property and maintain its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), and welcomes the important steps taken by the State Party in the revitalisation of the property including the rehabilitation of important buildings;
  4. Also acknowledges the contributions of partner-funders towards the maintenance and improvement of the state of conservation of the property;
  5. Notes that the development and urban enhancement of the Citadel central pathway and subsidiary trails project is an important next step in the further rehabilitation of the property, but care should be taken to ensure that urban infrastructure installations should not hamper future archaeological investigations;
  6. Requests the State Party to:
    1. Ensure the coordinated implementation of the Urban Design Guidelines for the buffer zone by its governmental and municipal bodies,
    2. Submit the results of current and future archaeological investigations undertaken at the property to the World Heritage Centre;
  7. Reminds the State Party of its obligations to submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, details of all on-going or planned projects, including major restoration and rehabilitation of the property, as well as any new envisaged construction within the property and its buffer zone, in particular designs for the proposed Kurdistan National Museum, before any commitment is given with regard to their approval or construction;
  8. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above.
Report year: 2021
Iraq
Date of Inscription: 2014
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2019) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2020
arrow_circle_right 44COM (2021)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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