Qatar has joined an international campaign this week to counter what the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is calling “the propaganda of cultural cleansing.”
The Unite4Heritage movement was launched a year ago in response to the destruction of cultural sites in conflict zones, particularly in Iraq.
As part of efforts to preserve such sites, Unite4Heritage has asked individuals, especially young people from the Arab region, to send photos and write short stories about heritage sites that are important to them, organizers said in a statement last March.
At a press conference yesterday, Qatar’s former culture minister Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari– who is vying to become UNESCO’s next director-general – listed several historical sites that have been destroyed or desecrated in recent years, such as rare statues and sculptures in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
In February 2015, ISIL released a video purporting to show militants in Mosul using sledgehammers and drills to smash statues that it described as “false idols.”
However, Al Kuwari said such groups have adopted a “holy ignorance.”
“These crimes are a sign of cultural terrorism that is taking place throughout the Arab region,” he was quoted as saying.
Education at home
Locally, the Qatar government has said it’s planning more school trips and public lectures to raise awareness of its own cultural sites.
Al Kuwari said educating residents about their heritage is the key to preserving a country’s historical artifacts, according to the Peninsula.
It quoted Al Kuwari, who is now a cultural advisor to the Emiri Diwan, as saying:
“When our young citizens fully discover and appreciate the depth of our history and the importance of our indigenous archaeological sites, they have the realization of bearing the responsibility of preserving them, as they become more conscious, responsible and enthusiastic about the future without breaking away from the richness and traditions of the past.”
Currently, Qatar’s only UNESCO site is Al Zubarah, which joined the World Heritage List in 2013.