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Samarra Archaeological City

Iraq
Factors affecting the property in 2023*
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • War
  • Other Threats:

    Weathering and lack of maintenance affecting the fragile structures

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • War
  • Weathering and lack of maintenance affecting the fragile structures
  • State of conflict in the country that does not allow the responsible authorities to assure the protection and management of the property
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

State of conflict in the country that does not allow the responsible authorities to assure the protection and management of the property.

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Not yet drafted

Corrective Measures for the property

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2023

Total amount granted: USD 100,000 from the Nordic World Heritage Fund for training and documentation aiming at the preparation of the Nomination File

Total amount granted for all World Heritage Sites of Iraq:

  • USD 6,000 from the Italian Funds-in-Trust (for cultural heritage, including World Heritage)
  • USD 1.5 million by the Government of Japan (for cultural heritage, including World Heritage)
  • USD 154,000 by the Government of Norway (for cultural heritage, including World Heritage)
  • EUR 300,000 by the Government of Italy (for cultural heritage, including World Heritage)
  • USD 35,000 by the Government of the Netherlands (for cultural heritage, including World Heritage)
  • USD 100,000 from the Heritage Emergency Fund - support for Iraqi World Heritage properties
  • USD 35,782 from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (for Strengthening capacities in state of conservation reporting on properties inscribed on the list of World Heritage in Danger)
  • USD 50,000 from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (Strengthening capacities for the documentation and conservation of Properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger in Iraq)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2023
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2023**

June 2011: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; June 2023: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2023

On 31 January 2022, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/276/documents/. Additional information was submitted on 6 March 2023. Progress in a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented as follows:

  • In 2015, an explosion caused significant damage to Ashnas Wall, land bulldozing has impacted several archaeological components of the property, and encroachments have increased during the past years due to the unstable security conditions, conflict, and the global pandemic. The Iraqi government and security forces have recently exerted efforts to prevent further encroachment to the property;
  • The last excavation carried out at the property was in 2009. Urgent salvage excavations are necessary in Al-Jubairiya section and Al-Isba’ain archaeological site, while a continuation of archaeological excavations is needed in several other important archaeological sites within the property. Conservation and restoration works have not been undertaken at the property for several years due to the challenging security situation;
  • Two monuments have been identified as being in need of urgent conservation work: The Palace of Al-Baraka that is part of the Caliphal Palace, and Abu Dulaf Mosque, both of which have deteriorated due to environmental and climatic factors. The threat of collapse may be imminent, and assistance in urgent stabilization work is needed;
  • The Great Mosque and the Caliphal Palace have been chosen as priority monuments for restoration and rehabilitation. The works envisaged include fencing off the two sites to ensure protection, building a tourist lounge and completing the restoration works at the Great Mosque, which were halted in 2013. Additionally, the Samarra Governorate funded a project for a drainage system at the Great Mosque (Al-Malwiya);
  • The property has witnessed an influx of local and international tourism at the site over the past two years. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on tourism activities overall;
  • A comprehensive Conservation Plan is needed to address threats to the property, including urbanization, encroachments, pollution, tourism, vandalism, and looting. An indicative outline and list of recommended actions for a proposed ‘simple conservation and management plan’ has been provided including enhancing protective measures (fences), cooperating with institutions to promote archaeological expeditions, establishing a museum on site, and undertaking conservation and restoration of archaeological sites and monuments throughout the property.

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property in June 2023. A copy of the mission report will be available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/276/documents/.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2023

The State Party has provided some information regarding the condition of the property, including the threats it has been facing during recent years, such as land bulldozing, encroachments, urban sprawl and environmental conditions. The information provided regarding the recent bulldozing and encroachment activities affecting several archaeological components of the property is alarming and could impact on attributes, which support the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. The efforts of the State Party to halt these activities is acknowledged; however, further detailed information about their impact should be provided.

It is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to submit a comprehensive report on the damage incurred at the property, along with a photographic documentation of all affected monuments, including detailed information about areas that have been impacted by bulldozing activities and encroachments, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies. Such information is necessary in order to arrive at a full assessment of the state of conservation of the property, including any impact on its OUV, as a crucial step for the preparation of the proposed Conservation Plan, with priority given to identifying any necessary emergency stabilization work and establishing a road map for longer-term conservation and management actions.

The State Party has highlighted the need to carry out urgent conservation work at the Palace of Al-Baraka and the Abu Dulaf Mosque. As previously requested, 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. Since an overall comprehensive plan has not been established yet, emergency stabilization and conservation work should adhere to the principle of minimal intervention and only occur in critical cases where there is threat of further accelerated damage and / or collapse.

Additionally, the State Party has reported that the Great Samarra Mosque and the Caliphal Palace have been chosen as priority monuments for restoration and rehabilitation. The envisaged activities include the building of a tourist lounge and completing restoration works. The State Party has also advised about the possible construction of two primary schools within the buffer zone of the property. The State Party provided information on these and other projects, which were subject to multiple technical reviews by ICOMOS, including additional reviews of the State Party responses to initial technical reviews.

The ICOMOS technical review of the works being carried out in the Great Mosque, the Caliphal Palace, Al Hir, and the Bab al-‘Amma, concluded that the works extended beyond maintenance, have potentially damaged significant attributes of the property, including archaeological features, and should be halted in order to plan for future conservation measures. Mitigation of any impacts caused by previous works should be initiated and a road map for future interventions should be devised. As for the proposed reconstruction project for the Great Mosque, and in order to define the degree to which the authenticity and integrity have been affected, ICOMOS has advised that a close on-site analysis is needed and further detailed data on previous interventions need to be provided, informed by new detailed analysis of the previous works. This foundational understanding is essential to guide future mitigation and conservation activities, as is the development of a conservation plan for the monuments at the property. With respect to the proposed school buildings, ICOMOS has advised that full documentation and information should be submitted for review. The State Party should be requested to follow the findings of the technical reviews of the abovementioned projects.

The efforts of the State Party to keep the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies advised of planned and ongoing projects are acknowledged, but it is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, comprehensive and detailed information on all such projects before making any decisions that would be difficult to reverse, in conformity with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. For major projects, this information should include Heritage Impact Assessments prepared in accordance with the new Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context.

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property in June 2023, which allowed for an overall assessment of the state of conservation of the property. The State Party should be encouraged to pursue 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 (DSCOR).

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2023
45 COM 7A.29
Samarra Archaeological City (Iraq) (C 276 rev)
  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 44 COM 7A.8 and 44 COM 7A.9 adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/online 2021),
  3. Taking into account Decision 45 COM 7A.30 on the World Heritage properties of Iraq,
  4. Notes the information provided by the State Party and its efforts in alleviating threats to the property, but reiterates its concern about the lack of comprehensive and detailed information on the property’s state of conservation;
  5. Expresses its deep concern regarding the condition of the property, recent damage and its deteriorated state, arising from the impact of encroachment, urban sprawl and bulldozing activities, in addition to natural deterioration and weathering;
  6. Urges the State Party to submit a comprehensive report on the damage incurred at the property, along with photographic documentation of all affected monuments, including a detailed report on the bulldozed areas and encroachments, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Reiterates its request to the State Party that interventions be addressed within the framework of the overall assessment of damage and risks, and a comprehensive Conservation Plan be prepared in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and in the meantime, emergency stabilization and conservation work should adhere to the principle of minimal intervention and only be undertaken in critical cases where there is threat of further accelerated damage and collapse, and requests the State Party to proceed in accordance with the technical reviews undertaken for works being carried out in the Great Mosque, the Caliphal Palace, Al Hir, and the Bab al-Amma, the proposed reconstruction project for the Great Mosque, and the possible construction of two primary schools within the buffer zone of the property;
  8. Also requests the State Party to continue to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information on all future works that may have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including Heritage Impact Assessments prepared in accordance with the Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context for any major projects, and to do so before making any decisions that will be difficult to reverse, and to refrain from undertaking the restoration or reconstruction of monuments prior to conducting detailed analyses and studies and to receiving outcomes from ensuing evaluation by the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Takes note of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission that visited the property in June 2023, and urges the State Party to implement its recommendations and to pursue the development of a comprehensive conservation plan, the identification of corrective measures and the elaboration of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSCOR);
  10. Reiterates its appeal to all State 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;
  11. Calls again on States Parties to support emergency safeguarding measures including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
  12. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, 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 46th session;
  13. Decides to retain Samarra Archaeological City (Iraq) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Draft Decision: 45 COM 7A.29

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/23/45.COM/7A.Add.2,
  2. Recalling Decisions 44 COM 7A.8 and 44 COM 7A.9, adopted at its extended 44th session (Fuzhou/Online 2021),
  3. Taking into account Decision 45 COM 7A.30 on the World Heritage properties of Iraq,
  4. Notes the information provided by the State Party and its efforts in alleviating threats to the property, but reiterates its concern about the lack of comprehensive and detailed information on the property’s state of conservation;
  5. Expresses its deep concern regarding the condition of the property, recent damage and its deteriorated state, arising from the impact of encroachment, urban sprawl and bulldozing activities, in addition to natural deterioration and weathering;
  6. Urges the State Party to submit a comprehensive report on the damage incurred at the property, along with photographic documentation of all affected monuments, including a detailed report on the bulldozed areas and encroachments, for review by the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Reiterates its request to the State Party that interventions be addressed within the framework of the overall assessment of damage and risks, and a comprehensive Conservation Plan be prepared in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, and in the meantime, emergency stabilization and conservation work should adhere to the principle of minimal intervention and only be undertaken in critical cases where there is threat of further accelerated damage and collapse, and requests the State Party to proceed in accordance with the technical reviews undertaken for works being carried out in the Great Mosque, the Caliphal Palace, Al Hir, and the Bab al-‘Amma, the proposed reconstruction project for the Great Mosque, and the possible construction of two primary schools within the buffer zone of the property;
  8. Also requests the State Party to continue to submit to the World Heritage Centre, for evaluation by the Advisory Bodies, detailed information on all future works that may have an impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, including Heritage Impact Assessments prepared in accordance with the new Guidance and Toolkit for Impact Assessments in a World Heritage Context for any major projects, and to do so before making any decisions that will be difficult to reverse, and to refrain from undertaking the restoration or reconstruction of monuments prior to conducting detailed analyses and studies and to receiving outcomes from ensuing evaluation by the Advisory Bodies;
  9. Takes note of the joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission that visited the property in June 2023, and urges the State Party to implement its recommendations and to pursue the development of a comprehensive conservation plan, the identification of corrective measures and the elaboration of a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSCOR);
  10. Reiterates its appeal to all State 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;
  11. Calls again on States Parties to support emergency safeguarding measures including through the UNESCO Heritage Emergency Fund;
  12. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2024, 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 46th session;
  13. Decides to retain Samarra Archaeological City (Iraq) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2023
Iraq
Date of Inscription: 2007
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Danger List (dates): 2007-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2022) .pdf
Initialy proposed for examination in 2022
arrow_circle_right 45COM (2023)
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.