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The Nahrein Network


Fostering the sustainable development of heritage in post-conflict iraq and its neighbours


Archive for March, 2023

Delegation from the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities visits the United Kingdom

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 30 March 2023

Between 12 and 18 February 2023, the Nahrein Network organised a set of events and activities for a delegation representing the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities. The delegation was led by Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani, a historian of Iraq’s modern politics, who assumed the position of Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities and Dr Laith Majeed Hussein, Deputy Minister and Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), Iraq’s national heritage institution.

First on the list of cultural and educational meetings was Newcastle University. The delegation was warmly received by the university’s management, including its president and vice-chancellor Professor Chris Day.

Dr Fakak al Badrani and Dr Laith Hussein spoke about their work and challenges in Iraq and opportunities for collaboration. Dr Qusay al Ahmedy, chancellor of the University of Mosul and Dr Rawa Qasha, director of scholarships and external relations at the university were also in attendance. On behalf of the University of Mosul, Dr Rawa Qasha (a PhD graduate of Newcastle University) gave a superb presentation on the progress being made at the University of Mosul, where she also spoke about opportunities for building research partnerships.

The group visited the Great North Museum: Hancock and its temporary exhibition on Gertrude Bell, curated by Dr Mark Jackson. Soon after, the delegation visited and spoke to the researchers and archivists who completed the digitisation of her collections.

The delegation got the opportunity to see some of Gertrude Bell’s belongings, such as her diaries, photographs and translations of Arabic text.

Later that day, Dr Laith Hussein delivered a lecture at the Hershel Building at Newcastle University titled ‘State Board of Antiquities and Heritage Iraq: achievements and challenges’, where he spoke about current work being implemented to rehabilitate cultural sites and Iraq’s cultural emergencies and challenges in safeguarding its rich body of cultural heritage.

The next day, after our morning train ride to London we visited the Iraqi Embassy in London and met with Ambassador to the United Kingdom His Excellency Dr Mohammed al Sadr. Along with the delegation, Professor Eleanor Robson, Director of the Nahrein Network and Head of the Department of History at University College London, discussed ways of strengthening cultural and educational partnerships.

Next on our itinerary was a visit to the University of Oxford, where we visited three cultural institutions, the Ashmolean Museum, the School of Archaeology and the Pitt Rivers Museum. Hosted by Dr Bill Finlayson, director of EAMENA and the School of Archaeology, we discussed ways of strengthening institutional relationships with the SBAH. The delegation also visited several of the specialised labs at the university.

A short walk away, we visited the Pitt Rivers Museum, one of the world’s most distinguished anthropology-oriented museums. Dr Bill Finlayson kindly facilitated access to one of their Iraq collections, the archive of British explorer and writer, Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger. As a historian of modern Iraq, and formerly at the University of Mosul, Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani was particularly fond of the photographs of the country that captured a specific period and way of life in Iraq.

We then set off to meet with Professor Paul Collins, former curator at the Ashmolean Museum. Professor Collins had spearheaded the revitalisation of one of the galleries at the museum that concern Ancient Iraq, introducing new visual technologies and visitor-friendly interaction. The collections including from Sumer, Assyria and Babylon were on display, including one of an Assyrian relief where its original colours were displayed through the use of a projector.

We also had opportunity to visit renowned Iraqi artist Diaa Al Azzawi’s temporary exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, featuring work looking in part at the destruction of Mosul. That exhibition instigated an interest from Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani to visit the artist. The next day, a meeting with Diaa Al Azzawi was arranged in London, where discussions ensued about life in Iraq, a conversation that reflected the hardships, trauma and troubles Iraqis and Iraqi artists have experienced over the past twenty years.

The next day, Professor Eleanor Robson, Dr Ahmed Fakak al Badrani and Dr Laith Hussein participated at a roundtable meeting to discuss the current state of cultural heritage in Iraq, and several rounds of questions were taken from participants.

Lastly, the delegation visited the Iraqi Embassy where a British Museum media-oriented event was organised with Dr Timothy Potts, Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and British Museum director Dr Hartwig Fischer. The event revolved around the British Museum’s current archaeological excavations at the Sumerian city of Tello/Girsu. 






Meet Niyan Ibrahim: Recipient of UCL – Nahrein Network Graduate Studentship

By Zainab, on 20 March 2023

Meet Niyan Hussein Ibrahim, the first recipient of the UCL-Nahrein Network Graduate Studentship. Niyan has just started her MSc in Sustainable Heritage at The Bartlett Institute of Sustainable Heritage. Niyan is an urban planner at Sulaymaniyah Antiquities Directorate and a co-founder of The Cultural Heritage Organization.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Niyan Ibrahim, I am from Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan Region, Iraq. I was born and raised in Sulaymaniyah. I did both my undergrad studies and my master’s degree at Sulaimani Polytechnic University in the field of Urban Planning.

Why did you choose to apply to Bartlett?

When I started to apply for the The Nahrein Network studentship, I collected data and researched about departments I can apply for, on the basis of my previous degrees, knowledge and my desired future career. I also found that The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment is ranked #3 in the world in 2022 and remains #1 in the UK for the eighth year running.

How did you become interested in your focus area?

Ever since I started my undergrad in Urban Planning, as students we were introduced to the heritage of cities and their importance. Then I started working in Sulaymaniyah Municipality in 2014, I was working as an urban planner in Sulaymaniyah city center, and heritage neighbourhoods. I discovered the available potentials in heritage and the importance of managing it in the correct way. After I obtained my MSc in urban planning in 2020, I transferred my work to Sulaymaniyah Antiquities Directorate, which is the official institute related to heritage in KRG. I had the chance to work with the Digital Cultural Heritage Center (DCH). I am also the co-founder of Cultural Heritage Organization for developing cultural heritage, which is a registered NGO in KRG and Iraq Federal government.

What are your academic goals?

Definitely my goal is toward obtaining a PhD degree in my field of Sustainable Heritage. In this way I would have more knowledge and I would be able to do more research in this field. Yes, I would love to be funded for my PhD as well. And I will try to do what is required to be able to do my PhD at Bartlett.

What are your career goals?

As an urban planner who was born and raised in Iraq, I see a lot of potential and value in Iraqi natural and cultural heritage. Those resources and material require high level of management and planning. Unfortunately, Iraq lacks the ability and interest among it is researchers and academics to do so. So, my career goal is to equip myself with the required education to help in a better management, protection, and development for the Iraq heritage sector. And use this sector as sustainable source for implementing the Sustainable Heritage Goals of the United Nations.

How will this graduate studentship help your career goal?

Finding financial support while focusing on research is very important to any young researcher. Without this graduate studentship it would’ve been very difficult, even impossible, for me to continue my study in the Bartlett. So, I see this studentship as an essential step for me to keep going and do more research in the heritage field.

How are you enjoying UCL and studying in London? How’s it different from Iraq?

I enjoy being a UCL student very much. At first, I was expecting to have some culture shock, being in a new country, new culture, new study environment. But thankfully I didn’t go through that. I think a part of it goes back to the UCL, Bartlett and the Nahrein Network’s supportive and active team who are very friendly and supportive.

Furthermore, the academic staff and the materials they teach in Bartlett represent my interest and my wonders. Everyday I go to class I see and find answers to my questions about sustainable heritage, which makes this journey more interesting for me. I see a lot of difference in the teaching methods between Iraq and the UK.

I can easily compare because I have already studied an MSc degree in Iraq. Comparing to UCL the updated materials and the modern ways of teaching and the professionalism.

Iraqi Heritage under the British Mandate

By Zainab, on 7 March 2023

We talk to Dr Sadiq Khalil Abid PhD in Architecture (University of Sheffield) and former Consultant in the Prime Minister’s office. Dr Sadiq is a returning scholar who came to finish the second phase of his scholarship in February 2023. He held a Nahrein – BISI Visiting Scholarship at The National Archive titled Iraqi Heritage under the British Mandate under the supervision of Dr Juliette Desplat.

What were the main benefits of your scholarship?

My goal is to build effective advocacy through case studies of endangered Iraqi Heritage. During my stay in the UK, I was able to discuss with various professionals from different backgrounds how to better raise awareness about Iraqi Heritage. The Nahrein Network has been a great support not only to me, but to many Iraqi scholars that are collectively working towards the sustainable development of Iraqi history and heritage.

Sadiq Khalil

Dr Sadiq Khalil with Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and reformer whose educational ideas influenced the founding and development of UCL

What was the main highlight of your scholarship?

My main research is focusing on the relationship between politics and cultural heritage with particular reference to Baghdad and Najaf. I’m keen on dealing with some specific case studies such as Al-Tahrir Square, the Royal Cemetery, and al-Rashid street in Baghdad, in addition to the Najaf old town. It can be stated that Iraq has a number of sites, many are in danger of permanent deterioration due to muddled conservation practices. This research will examine the current state of Iraqi conservation practices, with a particular focus on the extent to which they have affected the existing historical fabric. My scholarship with The National Archives has allowed me to collect a vast amount of useful primary sources and maps from the archives and I expect to achieve some outcomes soon.

What will you do to continue your research in Iraq?

After returning to Iraq, I’m planing to continue searching and delivering articles with collaboration with Nahrein Network. Moreover, I’m planning to set out some online lectures and workshops under Nahrein Network umbrella focusing on the importance of the Network scholarships and projects tailored to Iraqi researchers, and key players dealing with cultural challenges. These webinars can help researchers to understand the impact of the Network and share our knowledge and experiences with others. Raising researchers and stakeholders awareness and understanding how to effectively deal with cultural heritage is important to protect Iraqi heritage on the ground.

Listen to Dr Sadiq talk about his experience in this short video

Sadiq Khalil

Sadiq Khalil at The National Archives in London