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


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The Nahrein Network’s recent trip to Iraq

By Zainab, on 20 March 2024

On our first port of call in Iraq was Kirkuk, where the Nahrein Network’s Professor Eleanor Robson and Dr Mehiyar Kathem had the opportunity to visit its provincial capital. The Nahrein Network met with Dr Mustafa Muhsin (Kirkuk University) and Dr Khalil al Jabouri (Tikrit University) to discuss their project on cultural heritage and minorities in the province. Dr Mustafa Muhsin and Dr Dlshad Oumar (also a historian at the University of Kirkuk and a previous Nahrein Network – British Institute for the Study of Iraq Visiting Scholar) arranged a superb seminar on the work of the Nahrein Network.  

Professor Eleanor Robson at University of Kirkuk speaking with colleagues in the History Department

We were warmly welcomed by the Dean of the College of Arts, Dr Omar al Deen, who also participated in the workshop at the university.  

The team also had the pleasure of meeting the president of the University of Kirkuk, Dr Omran Hussein, where Professor Eleanor Robson spoke about the rich history of Kirkuk and its significance to Iraq.  

In addition, the team led by Dr Mustafa Muhsin organised a meeting with Dr. Yousif Thomas Mirkis, Archbishop of the Chaldean Archeparchy of Kirkuk and Sulimaniyah, who welcomed the Nahrein Network supported project on Kirkuk’s minorities and proposed to host several of its workshops and other activities.  

London team visits the historic Kirkuk Citadel

A visit to Kirkuk citadel and the Shrine of Prophet Daniel was also a highlight of the trip to Kirkuk.  

Another major highlight of our trip, this time in Baghdad, was a joint workshop organised with five teams who are working on different cultural heritage related projects in Iraq. Discussions ensued, good lessons were exchanged and the project teams were able to network with each other. 

On this trip to Baghdad, Professor Eleanor Robson and Dr Mehiyar Kathem had the pleasure of meeting Dr Naeem Abed Yasir, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The Nahrein Network’s current activities and plans for future collaboration were discussed as well as how to strengthen UK – Iraq higher education knowledge-based partnerships and exchange. 

Prof Eleanor and Dr Mehiyar with the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research

The Nahrein Network team also met with Dr Bahaa Ansaf, President of the University of Baghdad, where ideas for research collaborations were discussed, including initiatives led by the university for the rehabilitation of their natural history museum as well as strengthening museum skills development.  

Professor Eleanor Robson and Dr Mehiyar Kathem with Professor Bahaa Ansaf, President of the University of Baghdad

The team then visited the archaeological site of Babylon, accompanied by Ammar al Taee (archaeologist at the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage) and Dr Haider al Mamori (archaeologist and academic at the University of Babylon). Dr Ali Naji from the University of Kufa also accompanied the Nahrein Network team on a tour of the ancient city.  

UNESCO listed World Heritage Site of Babylon

From Babil, the Nahrein Network team then visited historic Kufa, in the province of Najaf, where Dr Ali Naji is implementing a project exploring the historic buildings of the city.

After Najaf, the Nahrein Network visited the marshes in al Chibayish, in the province of DhiQar, accompanied by our colleague Dr Hamid Samir (Head of Architecture at the University of Basrah).  

Dr Hamid Samir of Basra University with Eleanor Robson in Chibayish

The Nahrein Network also had the pleasure of meeting with the President of the University of Basrah where Dr Hamid Samir’s project on climate change and its impact on heritage buildings in Basrah (in collaboration with Loughborough University in the United Kingdom) was discussed. Later, in the presence of Dr Hamid Samir,  a discussion took place with his undergraduate students at the university. 

This trip ended with a visit to Al Ashar canal and its rich cultural heritage, an area that was recently worked on for rehabilitation by UNECO and the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage.

Mustafa al Hussainy, Head of Basrah’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage also accompanied the Nahrein Network team on a short walk to visit some of the 11 heritage buildings that had recently been worked on for rehabilitation.  


Intangible Heritage of Najaf

By Zainab, on 24 January 2024

We talk to Dr Ali Naji Attiyah, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Kufa. Dr Ali Naji Attiyah held a Nahrein – BISI Visiting Scholarship at Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Dr Ali Naji Attiyah’s project is titled Intangible Heritage of Najaf and is under the supervision of Professor Edward Denison.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Dr Ali Naji with Prof Eleanor Robson at UCL

My name is Dr. Ali Naji Attiyah, I am an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Engineering in University of Kufa. I got a Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from University of Baghdad. My interest in cultural heritage started in 2003 when I worked as a consultant on the conservation of the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf City. I wrote a book titled the “Spiritual Values of the Holy Shrines Architecture”. I tried to explore the intangible values affected the traditional design of the shrines. I was appointed to be a member of the National Committee to inscribe Wadi Al-Salam Cemetery to the World Heritage List. For this I got training courses at the UNESCO Iraq Office on the protection and enhancement of tangible and intangible heritage. In 2019, I earned a grant of 30,000 GBP from Nahrein Network to document the heritage buildings in Kufa City.

Tell us more about your project.

The project aims to explore the interrelation between tangible and intangible cultural heritage to increase the awareness of people to cultural heritage. The proposed project briefly discusses the idea of the correlation between spirit and matter from the fact of that the strength of urban output is the product of its moral dimension. The historic centre of Najaf with its society and culture represents the treasure of knowledge and culture, a centre for science and human development. Hence, there is a need to keep all these values through revival of the historic part of the city. An approach will be presented and discussed with experts in UK to revive Najaf tangible cultural heritage in the historic centre of the city. The approach will depend on defining the intangible cultural heritage elements related to the buildings and old city fabric, which will arise the values imbedded inside the tangible heritage. Such values will increase the awareness of communities belong to Najaf to the importance of its cultural heritage.

What was the highlight of your trip?

A seminar was organized by Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa EAMENA, which was based at the University of Oxford. I described the role of intangible cultural heritage in the revival of tangible heritage and he considered the historic City of Najaf as a case study, where the presentation title was: “Najaf, Iraq: Developing a Sustainable Approach to Threatened Heritage”.

The Nahrein Network – UCL and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq organized a symposium on the “Future of Najaf Cultural Heritage, A View on Sustainable Approach”. The seminar was a good opportunity to make use of the experience of visiting many British heritage cities such as Oxford and York. The comparison focused on the challenges faced by their heritage and are continued, because of the needs and development projects. However, the regulations written for the York City Council in the 1990s were briefly reviewed as they may be a good resource for the recently established Najaf Historic Center municipality.

The visit to the Cities of Oxford and York was very useful, as those cities keep their urban and architectural identity. The university buildings at Oxford were deep-rooted and survived for a hundred years and are attractive for visits of tourists. So, they are good examples of living heritage buildings, their academic function still works in the same traditions. Najaf’s old schools have the same cultural identity and can be attractive for tourism, where thousands of scientists lived and studied. The City of York’s heritage faced a lot of challenges since the late 1960s, when the need for development projects increased rapidly. Many similarities and differences as well can be seen between York and Najaf. For example, both cities receive millions of visitors annually and this issue adds pressure on their cultural heritage. The main difference can be seen in the living heritage, where this type of heritage has been practiced in Najaf for a hundred years and is threatened by the potential changes in the city buildings and alleys. But in the case of York, the main challenge is the archeological sites under the city, where the ruins of Romans and Vikings are the base of the buildings built later.

What was the highlight of your trip?

A seminar was organized by Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa EAMENA, which was based at the University of Oxford. I described the role of intangible cultural heritage in the revival of tangible heritage and he considered the historic City of Najaf as a case study, where the presentation title was: “Najaf, Iraq: Developing a Sustainable Approach to Threatened Heritage”.

The Nahrein Network – UCL and the British Institute for the Study of Iraq organized a symposium on the “Future of Najaf Cultural Heritage, A View on Sustainable Approach”. The seminar was a good opportunity to make use of the experience of visiting many British heritage cities such as Oxford and York. The comparison focused on the challenges faced by their heritage and are continued, because of the needs and development projects. However, the regulations written for the York City Council in the 1990s were briefly reviewed as they may be a good resource for the recently established Najaf Historic Center municipality.

The visit to the Cities of Oxford and York was very useful, as those cities keep their urban and architectural identity. The university buildings at Oxford were deep-rooted and survived for a hundred years and are attractive for visits of tourists. So, they are good examples of living heritage buildings, their academic function still works in the same traditions. Najaf’s old schools have the same cultural identity and can be attractive for tourism, where thousands of scientists lived and studied. The City of York’s heritage faced a lot of challenges since the late 1960s, when the need for development projects increased rapidly. Many similarities and differences as well can be seen between York and Najaf. For example, both cities receive millions of visitors annually and this issue adds pressure on their cultural heritage. The main difference can be seen in the living heritage, where this type of heritage has been practiced in Najaf for a hundred years and is threatened by the potential changes in the city buildings and alleys. But in the case of York, the main challenge is the archeological sites under the city, where the ruins of Romans and Vikings are the base of the buildings built later.

Did you have any promising conversations or collaborations with colleagues at UCL or other institutions?

The first activity was the meeting with Dr. Eleanor Robson, the principal investigator of the Nahrein Network project at UCL. She encouraged visiting heritage cities in UK to have good experience in dealing with Iraq heritage.

Mrs. Macrae is administrating the archeology department in the City Council of York. Meeting with an expert holding such a position in a historical city was very useful as well. She mentioned that regulations were developed for the City Council in the 1990s and helped the city to keep its heritage. Recently, a new municipality was established in the historic part of Najaf, which is the first initiative step in Iraq. York City Council and its experience in managing historic cities can be a good example for the new Najaf municipality.

ArCHIAM, Centre for the Study of Architecture and Cultural Heritage of India, Arabia, and the Maghreb, is an interdisciplinary forum based at the University of Liverpool. Crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries, the Centre provides an exciting opportunity for the study of both historical and contemporary phenomena with the aim to develop theoretical positions but also practice-based research. A meeting in person was held with the ArCHIAM team to discuss the potential cooperation in cultural heritage projects. Last year, the ArCHIAM team worked with the University of Kufa on our Nahrein Network funded project: Heritage Buildings of Kufa. The team’s role was training the students on documenting heritage buildings. The training was online and an in-person meeting was necessary to introduce more cooperation potential. Three main issues were discussed, such as cooperation in research works, building capacity, and partnership in submitting for grants.

What are your future plans now that you are back in Iraq?

The project proposal was to design an action plan to be implemented by students at University of Kufa. The plan will contain training program for the students to learn them how to do inventorying for the intangible cultural heritage elements. Four communities are related to Najaf old city: pilgrims, scientific religious students, workers, and residents. Documenting of the chosen elements will increase the heritage awareness.

Dr Ali in front of the Wilkins Building


Interview with Niyan Ibrahim Recipient of the 2022 Graduate Studentship

By Zainab, on 7 December 2023

Meet Niyan Hussein Ibrahim, the first recipient of the UCL-Nahrein Network Graduate Studentship. Niyan recently completed an MSc in Sustainable Heritage at The Bartlett Institute for Sustainable Heritage and has secured a PhD place in the same department, fully funded by the Nahrein Network.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My Name is Niyan Ibrahim. I am from Sulaimani City in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. I have both my BSc and MSc degrees in City Planning from Sulaimani Polytechnic University. I worked as an Urban Planner at Sulaimani City Municipality and at the Sulaimani Directorate of Antiquities. I am also a co-founder and deputy head of the Cultural Heritage Organization for Developing Cultural Heritage (CHO), funded by the Nahrein Network. I have worked with the heritage neighborhoods within Sulaimani City and on other aspects of urban planning within the different departments I worked in. That’s why I am trying to have a disciplinary research approach because of my different carrier experiences.

Niyan at UCL’s Japanese Garden Pavilion

How was your experience studying at The Bartlett?

Studying at The Bartlett is a wonderful opportunity, as it is UK’s largest and most multidisciplinary school for studying and researching the built environment. While conducting my MSc at the Institute of Sustainable Heritage within The Bartlett, I had a great opportunity to cover various aspects of heritage studies and conduct practical work and research on different projects.

How is learning in the UK different from Iraq?

Learning in the UK is different from Iraq, in the sense that it is more practical and more based on empirical studies, and the courses are more appropriate for the working environment. You don’t just attend lectures which are taught by your professors, but they collaborate with people who are conducting the work on the projects, and they are also the ones who will deliver it to you. So it is a mix of academic and research education and empirical studies.

What was the focus of your Master’s research?

The focus of my Master’s dissertation was ‘Assessing the Level of Sustainability of Public Policies Regarding Cultural Heritage in the Kurdistan Region Iraq’, in which I aimed to assess the state of public policies regarding cultural heritage in the Kurdistan Region. This field of research is quite novel in general and for the context of Iraq especially.

Niyan at UCL’s Student Centre

Has completing this Master’s degree shifted your research interests and how?

Completing the Master’s provided me with a clearer perspective and narrowed down my research objectives. Before finishing the master’s program, I had a general proposal for my PhD studies. I knew what I wanted to achieve but not exactly how. But after undertaking the modules I had a better vision, and I knew exactly what I wanted to study and how to conduct my research.

Tell us more about your PhD research proposal and how you see your career benefitting from a PhD.

It is about exploring the relationship between sustainable heritage management and public transportation. There is a gap in this research area, and it has not been explored extensively. So as a researcher, it naturally gives me the opportunity to contribute to a novel research field that has yet to be explored. And in the context of a developing country with a rich heritage like Iraq, this kind of research is needed to inform policymakers and direct the country towards the sustainable development agenda through managing its heritage. So as an urban planner and a heritage professional, I will develop my career in many different aspects and levels.

Follow Niyan on X: ⁦@NHusseinu

Remembering the ‘Camp Speicher‘ atrocities

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 6 December 2023

Not all atrocities are remembered equally. Some are forgotten, or deliberately erased from public memory, buried like the victims. Sites of memory, including monuments, art and other public depictions and displays, can help society remember and negotiate traumatic pasts.  

On 13th June 2023, the provincial government of Wasit in Iraq unveiled a memorial to the events that unfolded in and around Tikrit’s Camp Speicher in 2014. The military site was renamed by the US Occupation after Michael Scott Speicher, a US pilot shot down by the Iraqi Army in the 1991 Gulf War. Camp Speicher was used from 2003 up to the withdraw of the US Army from the country in 2011 where it was then renamed the Tikrit Air Force Academy. In the Iraqi public sphere, the name Speicher however has lingered and become indelibly associated with the military camp and the unfolding atrocities.  

In June 2014, DAESH rounded up some 2000 student air cadets who had tried to escape the disorder and collapse in Iraq’s security command chain. After Mosul fell to DAESH, Tikrit and its environs, including Camp Speicher became under the control of local tribes who proclaimed allegiance to the armed group. Student air cadets, most of whom were between the ages of 18 and 24 years fled hurriedly on foot in civilian clothes. They were told by local tribes that they would be offered a route to safety. Sunni air cadet trainees were freed and the Shia among them were quickly rounded up by Tikrit’s tribes and marched to trucks that would then take them to Saddam Hussein’s former palace compound, overlooking the Tigris river.  

They were divided into groups and distributed between Tikrit’s main tribes, with each participating tribe now free to enact the most grotesque forms of torture on those in their possession. After those ordeals, some of which lasted for two or three days, most were shot and then dumped in shallow trenches in and around the palace compound. On another key location, prisoners were executed at the edges of the river Tigris in the palace compound. The presidential compound was effectively transformed into a factory of torture and death.  

Former Presidential Palace Compound. At the one of the sites of the massacres. 2023.  


The Speicher Memorial in Kut, the provincial capital, is one of Iraq’s first attempts to remember those atrocities in the form of a physical, public-oriented structure. The new memorial in Kut is inspired by Freedom Monument – an iconic emblem in central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square. Designed by renowned artist Jawad Salim, Freedom Monument represents notions of justice and dignity through a collective storytelling of Iraq’s modern and ancient history. Whereas Freedom Monument represents Iraq’s self-determination, calling to the stories of its peoples and rich histories for inspiration, this new memorial depicts the suffering of victims of the Camp Speicher massacres.  

Wasit, Kut. 2023.  

The memorial weaves this event’s traumatic memories, derived from those graphic images captured in videos and photographs posted on social media by DAESH. The spiralling cone structure, not unlike that of Samarra’s famous minerat, is dotted with artistic pieces made of brass depicting scenes of the ordeals endured by the victims. The memorial depicts handcuffed and blindfolded prisoners, some kneeling on a staircase adjacent to a palace building where their bodies would then be dumped into the river.  

A site of execution, at the former Presidential Palace Compound. 2023. 

Painting by Iraqi Artist Ammar Al-Rassam of the former presidential palace adjacent to the Tigris river, Tikrit.  

This is the not the first attempt to memorialise the Speicher massacres. Since 2014, families from different parts of Iraq would visit on every 12 June the former presidential palace compound. A monument that had been erected at the palace complex displays three mothers, one standing defiant and two wailing over a mass grave containing replicas of human skulls and bones strewn on the ground. In addition to recognition and remembrance, those now annual visitations serve group mourning. In the absence of any form Iraqi or foreign psychosocial support – particularly for victim’s children, wives and mothers– the gatherings have assumed a site for catharsis, even in a situation of an absence of justice for victims and where over 700 air cadet students are still missing.  

 A ‘Speicher Camp’ memorial at the former Tikrit Presidential Compound. Tikrit, Iraq.  

Other than families’ own ad hoc efforts to print and display photos of their children, up to the present moment, this was the only memorial to the camp Speicher atrocities in the country. Printing and raising a photo of their missing or deceased loved ones has been a common way families have sought recognition for those atrocities. Significantly, and as simple as this act is, it is perhaps one of the few ways those mostly impoverished and marginalised families can ask for a semblance of justice expressed through society-oriented remembering.  

Former Presidential Palace Compound, Tikrit. June 12th 2023. 

A woman whose son was killed by Daesh collapses at the Speicher Memorial site in Kut, Wasit. June 2023. 

On a recent visit to the former presidential palace, Victims of Camp Speicher, a registered Iraqi non-governmental organisation made up of family members whose sons were killed, discovered an unidentified human skull lying in a heap of earth next to a staircase. Human remains continue to pop out of the ground on the site as a result of rain and wind. The Victims of Camp Speicher Organisation is Iraq’s only non-governmental organisation working to document what happened. It is made up of members of families of those killed by DAESH. Abu Ahmed, the director of the Baghdad office, retrieved his son’s body from one of the mass graves in the Tikrit Presidential compound.  

Photo from Sadiq Mahdi at the former presidential palace, Tikrit. 2023.  

Many identified mass graves have not been excavated and those that have been opened lie without any labelling or proper, professional or even basic demarcation, a sign of the dysfunctional nature of the management of this case. Indeed, anyone visiting the site could easily be walking over a mass grave without knowing it. The presence of unidentified human remains and absence of informational panels or professional management of mass graves is symptomatic of the wider neglect victims and their families continue to endure.  

A mass grave at the former Presidential Palace Compound. Tikrit, Iraq. 2023.  Photo: Sadiq Mahdi. 


The absence of professional and organised documentation is indicative of forgetting of the ‘Camp Speicher’ atrocities. Similarly, US-European governments and their funding agencies and organisations in Iraq have up to recently shown little interest in the case. Their interest has focused instead on one section of Iraqi society, namely the plight of Iraq’s Yezidis. US-European funding has imposed and reinforced on Iraq a ‘hierarchy of suffering’ where some groups or sections of Iraqi society are seemingly more worthy of support than others. 

Through a UN Security Council resolution in 2017, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) was established. A year later, a director  was installed. UNITAD’s mandate is seemingly meant to serve the people of Iraq, namely through ‘collecting, preserving and storing evidence’ on the crimes of DAESH. In a recent discussion at the UN, the Iraqi Government has underlined its unwillingness to extend UNITAD’s mandate, with a closure date of September 2024.

A central reason cited by Iraq’s representative at the United Nations for this decision has been that UNITAD has shared information and data with European governments but not with the Government of Iraq, instigating questions about violations of Iraq’s sovereignty, ethics pertaining to how victim-related and also Government-obtained information is used and who it is shared with and more broadly issues of accountability.  

The year 2024 will mark ten years since those atrocities were enacted on the people of Iraq. It will be a time of reflection and hopefully an opportunity to better explore how memorialisation can assist its people in recovering or at least coming to terms with a traumatic recent past.

Ceramic Craft in the Babylon Province

By Zainab, on 30 November 2023

Written by Ammar Al-Taee

Ceramic is one of the oldest crafts in Mesopotamia, having its roots in the depths of prehistory, and it represents the extent of human profound harmony with earth, a versatile material that was formed by man for many uses. Ceramic was known in the Sumerian language as bakhar, synonymous of the Akkadian pakḫāru, which became fakhar in modern Iraqi accent. 

Four methods to produce ceramic have been listed so far in Iraq.

In the beginning, ceramists shaped clay using fingers to form the sides of the pots. In a second period, they used a different method, manufacturing separately the base, the sides, and neck of the pot, and then connecting them together.

The inhabitants of Mesopotamia used a third method for making pottery, proceeding by placing clay rolls in spirals one on top of another, until reaching the required height. These spirals were then further hydrated and pressed to obtain the desired shape. This method is still widely used in Iraq, especially in the local bread oven industry.

The fourth method implies the use of a wheel. Clay dough is placed on a disc turned by a wheel put in action by the artisan with his foot. The artisan uses then his hands to form the shape of the pottery. This method is the best one to produce pottery, in terms of speed and quality. The first traces of the pottery wheel were found in the city of Uruk, in the south of Mesopotamia:  a seal dating back to the fourth millennium BC contains scenes representing the fabrication of pottery. According to the cuneiform written texts, the owners of this profession used to operate in workshops in the cities.

At present, ceramists became very rare. The craft of pottery production, like other crafts traditional and techniques of the ancient cities of Mesopotamia, is in rapid decline.

The ceramist Aqeel Al-Kawaz in Borsippa, photo by Ahmed Hashim

Aqeel Al-Kawaz, a professional ceramist from Borsippa in the Babil province makes pottery for various uses in different shapes and colors. The clay he uses comes from different provinces in Iraq such as Kirkuk, Diyala, Najaf, Samawah and, of course, Babil. The reason for the variety of clay he uses is for artistic purposes, as some pottery pieces are preferably made from the soil of certain provinces. 

Some of the pottery that Aqeel is currently producing, is used to preserve food and water, but he focuses on the most requested pottery in the Iraqi market: ceramic drums. He also produces a kind of small coloured jug that symbolizes female and male kids. These are symbolically used in commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Zakariya, to keep evil away from children. 

The clay is prepared in advance, collected in tubs during the summer. He sometimes adds cow bones in the basins to increase the quality of the clay. Based on his experience, Aqeel believes that bones help to spread a type of bacteria, which makes the clay smoother and better workable. 

Although the craft of making pottery seems very easy to those who see Aqeel making an object in a few minutes and with a few swift movements, reaching this skill is difficult and requires long training and endless patience.

Ceramic drums, photo by Ammar Al-Taee

Nowadays Aqeel works alone in his modest workshop and fights to preserve the craft, as he is the only member of a family of artisans who kept the craft alive. Before I left his workshop together with Zainab, Nahrein Network’s media officer, he told us “I’m the last pottery maker in the Babil province, and my children refuse to work and even to learn this craft”. He is not optimistic about the future of the pottery profession, not only in the Babil province, but in all of Iraq.

Finally, one of the worst challenges the pottery craft is called to face, is that it is considered a symbol of poverty and primitiveness.

For all these reasons, there’s an urgent need to create training and education both to increase the numbers of professional artisans, to revive the countless crafts and skills necessary to maintain precious elements of the local heritage, and to sustain the still operating artisans with governmental support.

These actions together will also help to contain the threat represented by the introduction on the market of foreign pottery, which is sold at a much cheaper price. 

Pottery is an environmentally friendly material, it is easily renewable, opposite to plastic or metal cans that cause great pollution at global level. Drinking water from- or cooking with pottery is healthy and recommended. Moreover, pottery is a natural water-cooling tool used in the countryside in Iraq to reduce the impact of the summer heat, helping to overcome power outages occurring for many hours every day. 

Ceramist Aqeel Al-Kawaz in his Borsippa workshop, photo by Ahmed Hashim

Preserving traditional crafts in Iraq is a challenging effort that requires continuous support to create an environment that guarantees financial and social stability for artisans. Therefore, to ensure the survival of these memories and crafts, it is necessary to disseminate community awareness on the importance of preserving this heritage and increasing the numbers of pottery craftsmen. 

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.

A visit to Iraq: Planning for the future

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 6 December 2022

On our trip to Iraq last month, we had noticed that most of the passengers arriving at Baghdad International Airport were pilgrims intending to visit the shrine of Sufi founder Abdul Qadir al-Gailani. Knowing that the next few days would be made up of formal meetings, we decided to take the opportunity to visit on that evening the shrine in central Baghdad.

Pilgrims from Iraq, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, UK and South Africa and other countries had come to worship and contribute to the spirit of a shared and global Sufi community. As a central meeting point for Sufi Muslims, the Shrine of Abdul Qadir al-Gailani fused devotion and religious practice – commonly with poetry, song and chanting – with a fervour of celebration and on the main courtyard, one could experience the uniqueness of that cultural and social mergence.

The shrine of Abdul Qadir al-Gailani

Professor Eleanor and I also met with the new Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Dr Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani. Dr al-Badrani had previously been a lecturer at the University of Mosul, specialised in the political history of Iraq. The meeting was attended by Dr Laith Hussein, Deputy Minister and Director of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) and Dr Saad Iskander, an advisor at the Ministry. We discussed the Nahrein Network’s plans in the country and ways to support one of its key institutions, namely SBAH.

Professor Eleanor Robson and Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Dr Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani. Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Baghdad.

Professor Eleanor Robson and Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Dr Ahmed Fakak al-Badrani and Dr Laith Hussein (Director of SBAH in Iraq) and Dr Saad Iskander (Advisor at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities). Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Baghdad.

A meeting was also organised with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, led by Director General of Scholarships Dr Hazeem Taher and his colleagues. We spoke about the Nahrein Network’s current activities and efforts to support Iraqi universities and academics and ways to strengthen our work together. We also had the opportunity to meet with Dr Fatimah who is leading the ministry’s language centre and who would later be participating in the Nahrein Network’s AcademIQ workshops in Baghdad, which are part of our work to support Iraqi capacity for improved research in the country.

Meeting at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Baghdad.

As part of this trip to Baghdad, I went on to meet with Deputy Minister of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Dr Naufel Abu Ragheef, where we discussed the work of the Nahrein Network. I also took the opportunity to visit some departments within the Ministry’s building, focusing on its modern art collections.

Dr Mehiyar Kathem of the Nahrein Network with Dr Naufel Abu Ragheef, at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities in Baghdad.

A day later, I also met with the current and future director of Diyala’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Mr Ahmed Abduljabbar and Dr Ali Tameemi. Both had been recipients of a previous Nahrein Network grant to document and safeguard Diyala’s rich cultural heritage.

Dr Mehiyar Kathem with SBAH representatives, Ahmed Abduljabbar and Dr Ali Tameemi.

On a return visit to SBAH, I bumped into the Director of Al-Anbar SBAH’s provincial office, Mr Ammar. We spoke about his plans for revitalising the cultural heritage of Iraq’s largest province. Mr Ammar, whose office is based in Ramadi in Al-Anbar, spoke about the need to strengthen the capacity of their cadre to conserve and protect the province’s heritage, which has long been neglected.

Professor Eleanor Robson’s trip to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) was equally successful. It was organised by Dr Rozhen Kamal Mohammed-Amin, a Co-Director of the Nahrein Network working in Sulaimani and who is now affiliated with the Kurdistan Institution for Strategic Studies and Scientific Research (KISSR).

Eleanor, Rozhen and members of her team were welcomed by the provincial governor of Sulaimani, Dr Haval Abubaker, who stated his support for initiatives in the field of cultural heritage and the uses of new technologies.

Professor Eleanor Robson and Dr Rozhen Mohammed-Amin meet the Governor of Sulaimani, Dr Haval Abubaker.

In Erbil, an agreement between the Nahrein Network and Kak Kaify Mustafa Ali, director of the KRI’s General Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage was signed, paving the way for increased partnership.

Professor Eleanor Robson and Kak Kaify Mustafa Ali show the newly signed agreement between the Nahrein Network and the KRI’s Directorate of Antiquities and Heritage.

A visit to Erbil Citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also organised. Eleanor, Rozhen, and her deputy Tabin met with Lanah Haddad, Regional Director for the American NGO, the Academic Research Institute in Iraq (TARII). She introduced them to Salar Al-Agha, manager of the citadel’s interpretation centre, and spoke about creative ways to build visitor-learning at the site. The next day they were also introduced to Dr Georges Mouammar, the new director of the Institute Francaise du Proche-Orient (IFPO) in Erbil.

Traditional handicrafts for sale at the foot of Erbil citadel.

In Erbil, Eleanor and Rozhen also met with Dr Yasmin Abdulkareem Mohammed Ali, Dean of the College of Archaeology at the University of Mosul to discuss shared interests in digital cultural heritage.

Dr Yasmin and Dr Rozhen discuss the uses of digital cultural heritage.

Ethics In International Cultural Heritage Interventions. What We Can Learn from Humanitarian Principles.

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 1 December 2021

Written by René Teijgeler and Mehiyar Kathem. 

Since the devastation wrought on cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq and many other countries, international donors have ploughed hundreds of millions on cultural heritage related projects in crisis affected contexts throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa. As an outcome, cultural heritage is fast becoming appreciated by governments and funding agencies as an integral component of international assistance programmes.

Yet, in light of its growing importance, international responses to cultural heritage in situations of violent conflict and instability have not seen a commensurate discussion about ethics and principles of interventions. Considering the emerging field of heritage related international assistance and the projects that it offers support to, established humanitarian and development principles need to be considered and integrated into the work of donors, state agencies, cultural operators, contractors and a growing array of cultural heritage actors.

Whether in the form of disaster, long-term conservation or emergency activities, support to cultural heritage can assist societies to recover. In the UK for example, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport allocated over £30m to the British Council’s Cultural Protection Fund to support cultural heritage in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, amongst other countries. The British Museum alone received £3.2 million for what it said to be post-ISIS emergency support in Iraq, focusing on excavations and training. Since 2017, UNESCO in Iraq has secured over $100m for the ‘Revive the Spirit of Mosul’ initiative, with the European Union and the US similarly offering large amounts for cultural heritage. In Iraq alone, over $500m in recent years has been or is in the process of being spent based on cultural heritage, with the US, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and its Member States leading in funding projects.

Cultural heritage programmes are also being funded through the private sector. The newly established private donor organisation for cultural emergencies and conservation, ALIPH, which is supported by France, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, and other countries, has similarly spent tens of millions on Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other countries affected by conflict and instability. Cultural operators that are involved in direct implementation such as the World Monuments Fund and the US-government institution, the Smithsonian, have also secured similar amounts for cultural projects from private funders.

While there have been no detailed studies of these interventions and their size and impact, particularly on beneficiaries and communities, a common factor amongst donors and operators however is that none of this work has been guided by a code of conduct and charter of principles. Some institutions do of course have a code of ethics but these are not as relevant or applicable when projects are implemented outside their home countries.

Rather than viewing cultural heritage as a separate field of activity to peacebuilding and humanitarianism, donors and international operators need to urgently focus on learning about the full impact of their interventions on societies that they work in and hold their work to the highest degree of accountability, not least by the minimum standards of their home countries. This is particularly relevant in a situation of degraded civil societies and weak state institutions whose capacity and power for engaging in the design and implementation of foreign funded projects are highly circumscribed.

Considering the significance of cultural heritage as an indispensable element in people’s lives, identities and histories, donors and cultural operators need to review how their interventions affect the countries and societies in which they work. For example, generalised trauma is a key characteristic of conflict affected societies, meaning that interventions in the field of cultural heritage need to be particularly cognizant about the way projects are designed, who they work with and how activities unfold once they are funded. These issues are far from being translated into actionable practices, frameworks and approaches let alone seriously discussed.

As such, interventions in the cultural heritage of other countries need to be openly discussed and issues pertaining to it elevated to the highest echelons of policy thinking, planning and practice.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. A good start would be to integrate and where possible adopt existing humanitarian principles to heritage related work. By learning from the Sphere Handbook’s Humanitarian Charter, for example as well as ethical principles more generally, we could apply much of what we have learnt over the past few decades to the field of cultural heritage assistance.

At the heart of what could be a new cultural heritage relevant ethics is the established humanitarian principle of ‘Do No Harm’. Assistance and other forms of interventions in the field of cultural heritage should not exacerbate conflict or social tensions and put partners and communities in harm’s way, either when projects are implemented or after they have been completed. In this context, interventions should be sensitive to conflict dynamics and their legacies, which continue well after countries have been labelled ‘post-conflict’ by foreign funding agencies.

Four core principles taken from the world of humanitarianism could make a good starting point in these discussions.



One of the key humanitarian principles of interventions is humanity. To address human suffering, to help those in need, is a moral obligation. The principle of humanity is frequently taken for granted, however. The Responsibility to Protect (R2P), a political commitment to end the worst forms of violence and persecution, goes a step further and was accepted by the UN in 2005 and has been used as a pretext for armed international interventions. It was expanded to the protection of World Heritage later and today the UN and UNESCO are meant to apply this moral code to cultural heritage.

‘To do good’ or ‘to do something’ is in many cases thought of as enough, especially with charity and volunteer organisations. To organize and support heritage colleagues and address cultural collapse in a crisis, however, needs a professional approach. How aid and projects are designed and for whom are key questions in this regard. Participatory approaches are required to be integrated and made a point of discussion. After all: ‘Whatever you do for me without me, you do against me’(Gandhi).



Neutrality is about offering assistance without taking sides. Violent conflict ruptures society and creates divisions. Many people withdraw from society or escape, leading to cycles of long-term damage. Dynamics of conflict should be considered by heritage related assistance and cultural operators. They are often not even spoken about or integrated into programmes.

Whilst there might be a need to support groups, especially the weak and vulnerable and those that have been deliberately targeted or affected by conflict, it is also important to note that fractures in society are an outcome of war itself and at times discriminatory state policies. Social analyses or assessments of interventions are missing and there is a fear that large amounts of foreign funding could exacerbate and reproduce existing problems.

A common responsibility to all affected by conflict, rather than those donor agencies deemed to be closer to their interests, should be of paramount importance. Pertinently, it is a duty on all donors and cultural operators to ask why they are selecting one section of society over another. Projects are an opportunity for self-reflection on such things as intentionality, which shapes the design and delivery of programmes.



Impartiality – to provide aid and deliver projects without discrimination – is a difficult obligation. It is, however, central to the development of cultural heritage ethical principles. In the light of other guiding principles that identify drivers and connectors in a violent conflict, impartiality has its limitations. It requires interventions to be cognizant of not only the context in question, but importantly donors and implementing parties’ own positionality and power.

Arguably, no one is impartial, and we all have views about how society should be governed. The main question here, however, is mostly one about power and the type of relationships forged in projects. These factors have generally been ignored, or altogether dismissed in cultural heritage work, with the focus of discussions about other people’s contexts rather than those of the donor country’s interests and politics.

As a corollary, all forms of heritage – tangible or otherwise – need to be respected and treated equally in emergency and recovery programmes as they are all significant to society. Cultural heritage is a resource for everyone.  Interventions in the field of cultural heritage have shown however that projects are generally focused on what is primarily of direct relevance to donor interests. This has remained unchanged, even in situations of emergency and collapse. In Iraq and Syria, for example, cultural heritage interventions both now and in the past have preferred to focus on pre-Islamic tangible heritage and have as such mostly ignored Islamic heritage and other fields such as modern architecture and other important parts of the identities of people. Interventions that focus on one part of history over others – not least in a country as diverse as Iraq – are more likely to be viewed in those countries as oriented to foreign interests than local priorities.

Archaeology in Iraq, for example, is still underpinned by colonial-era practices. Indeed US-European archaeologists and related agencies have not changed  their approaches which are oriented primarily to knowledge extraction. Everything else that is championed today, such as issues of sustainability, conservation, community, and education, are peripheral or merely used to look relevant. Indeed, the scale of the challenges are huge for archaeology, especially when many archaeologists think that their interventions exist in fields that are separate to issues concerning conflict, development, politics and society.

Interventions have increasingly become politicized over the last decades. Some large international projects have little if any sense of impartiality as they are designed to support particular sections of society, creating in their wake deep fissures and inequalities. For example, USAID has spent over $373 million for Christian groups in Iraq alone, favouring groups that suited its own political agenda. In what is an ethnically and religiously mixed society, the repercussions of these huge programmes targeting conflict affected communities over others have yet to be fully understood. Favouring one group over another is, in fact, the very opposite of neutrality and does little for social cohesion and for building long-term peace.



Although cultural heritage assistance is mostly derived from government or private donors, there should be always an adherence to principles of independence. Whilst this is problematic given that donors themselves have their own agendas in relation to cultural heritage, principles pertaining to independence should influence, as much as possible, how projects are designed and implemented.

A code of conduct that champions independence would ensure that both donors and grantees also factor their role in other people’s cultures and countries. Significantly, the principle of independence, long cherished in humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross, could offer an important entry point into building good, trust-based relations in cultural recovery and support to communities.

Notwithstanding the fact that international development departments reflect foreign policy of the donor country, independence could constitute not only ideal constructs but working practices that shape programmes and the relationship they have to other countries. It could be central to the success of programmes as they rapidly move from conventional state-to-state cultural diplomacy to more assertive and interventionary heritage programmes that are implemented in-country, especially in contexts where state institutions are themselves weak and society is undergoing multiple, concurrent crises.

Donors and other cultural heritage actors need to appreciate that cultural heritage is also a sovereignty issue. New cultural heritage assistance programmes should not normalise unfettered interventions that violate the sovereignty of other countries. Cultural heritage should not be a new tool in reshaping other people’s countries such as fostering neo-liberal capitalism and liberal democracy. It is all too often the case however that cultural heritage has been exploited as a trojan horse – often under the banner of emergency assistance – to shape society in ways conducive to political interests.


Towards a Code of Conduct for Cultural Heritage 

There are other principles, taken from international development, that should similarly be integral to the preparation of a code of conduct in cultural heritage projects. These are also listed in the Sphere Handbook (2018) and include respect of local cultures and customs, building local capacity, the need to involve beneficiaries in project management, work to reduce future vulnerabilities, meeting basic needs, ensure accountability to both donors and recipients of aid, and finally recognise disaster victims as dignified human beings, not hopeless objects. Other key principles that should be appreciated are about the use of data and knowledge from other countries’ cultural heritage and our collective responsibility regarding looting of cultural artefacts. These are just a handful and there are many others that need to be considered.

To most funding and implementation agencies in the field of heritage these principles are not new. Nevertheless, acceptance does not mean they are part of implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Unfortunately, these additional principles are frequently rendered marginal to international assistance programmes in this field.

As cultural heritage is an integral part of the lives of people, interventions should be scrutinised and held to the highest levels of accountability. Worryingly, neither accountability nor ethical principles characterize what has become a boom period of huge windfalls for cultural organisations, which are mostly contracted to undertake work in other countries. Similarly, huge overhead expenses have been secured for home country implementing institutions, providing little if any incentive for changing practices and the status quo.

Taken together, a code of conduct would also assist in ensuring transparency and openness. Huge government and private funding have translated into competition for funding rather than co-operation. Combined with a situation of weak outputs and the need to support long-term cultural sustainability, participation, partnerships and the priorities of crisis affected countries, the sector is characterised by dysfunctionalism and a rush to extract resources in the name of helping others. This became especially clear during the Corona pandemic.

New funding in the past few years has been designed for emergencies but in fact most cultural organisations that donors are working with have carried on as normal and their programmes have little changed practices regarding addressing cultural crises. By centering ethics at the heart of cultural heritage, projects are more likely to be sensitive to the crises that they claim to be addressing.

This is just the start of what will be a long journey. Leading by example should be a priority and necessitate a review of cultural heritage interventions, the role of donors and implementing organisations. It is now time to open the discussion about ethics and humanitarian-based principles regarding the work being done in countries affected by conflict and other disasters.


René Teijgeler

René is an independent conservation and heritage expert, based in Holland. As a conservator he worked at the National Library of the Netherlands and designed risk management plans for different heritage institutions home and abroad, and has worked in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, amongst other countries. His website is http://www.cultureindevelopment.nl/About_Culture_in_Development/Rene_Teijgeler


Mehiyar Kathem

Mehiyar is Deputy Director of the University College London’s Nahrein Network


Nahrein Network meets with Iraq’s Minister of Culture in Baghdad

By Mehiyar Kathem, on 24 May 2021

On 16 May, the Nahrein Network, represented by Dr Mehiyar Kathem, met with Iraq’s Minister of Culture, Dr Hassan Nadhem. The Nahrein Network’s activities in Iraq were presented and its 10-year plan, available on the Nahrein Network website, was discussed.

Dr Kathem spoke about the need for greater co-ordination and strengthening Iraq’s heritage education and intellectual infrastructure.

Funded activities supported by the Nahrein Network were discussed, including plans for future collaboration. Other key points of discussion included the need for improving the role of UK and Iraqi universities in the field of archaeology and heritage.

Dr Nadhem welcomed the Nahrein Network’s work to date, which formally commenced in 2017 and requested support for strengthening the capacity of Iraqi archaeologists in the protection, promotion and celebration of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage.

For regular updates on the Nahrein Network, see @nahreinnetwork on twitter and facebook