As reported by many news outlets last week, the militants have blown up a revered Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah in Mosul. The residents said that the militants first ordered everyone out of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, then blew it up.
The mosque which was renovated in the 1990s under Iraq‘s late dictator Saddam Hussein was built on an archaeological site dating back to the eighth century BC and is said to be the burial place of the prophet, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an is swallowed by a whale.
The mosque had remained a popular destination for religious pilgrims from around the world just until before the militants took over the city. It has also been reported that several nearby houses were also damaged by the blast.
The militants have been destroying many sites in Iraq in any area that they have taken over, and have also seized a large area expanding across the Iraq-Syria border.
It’s summer and UNESCO has got vacation plans for you. Every year, more and more tourists are traveling around the globe visiting historical sites and many UNESCO World Heritage sites. In fact, with many countries like China adding more tourists to the total global tourism, it is not a big surprise that UNESCO decided to create a new program with a partner.
The small-ship cruise line Seabourn is in a new partnership with UNESCO and they have created a new program that offers increased access to the organization’s diverse World Heritage sites such as Avignon, France, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg.The new partnership, announced last month (June 2014) and beginning with itineraries departing on or after Aug. 1, is expected to raise $1 million over six years by charging passengers $5 to $10 extra for World Heritage tours. The donations will be earmarked for preservation work by UNESCO.
In exchange, the Seabourn Cruise line gains access to World Heritage experts for its on-board speaker roster. Speakers will include experts who have undertaken UNESCO World Heritage Center work, including those who established guidelines for inscription, and evaluated them as archaeologists, art and architecture historians and geologists.
On shore, Seabourn plans to offer special World Heritage Discovery Tours developed with UNESCO site managers. Although many of the tours are still under development, tours may include traditional musical performances, meetings with preservationists and more tours that include the experts. Seabourn already offers visits to roughly 150 UNESCO World Heritage sites annually on its sailings.
After 15 years, the Philippines has successfully received inscription for another site to the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Joining the five other UNESCO cultural and natural sites of the Philippines is the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, which is noted for its rich biodiversity. It is the first UNESCO heritage site for Mindanao.
However, fear of a new threat seems to be disturbing the preservation of this newly inscribed site. One of the issues the mountain is facing today is biological piracy which is now happening all over the world according to conservation experts. An incident that happened in 2005 reminds scientists that biological samples including plants could be transferred to another part of the world and propagated. In 2005, scientists entered another site in the Philippines and collected species samples. They then propagated and cultured the samples in Europe and that is why the Nepenthes hamiguitanensis is already thriving in Europe today. They’re still naming it as such but it is no longer endemic to the Philippines according to the reports by the officials. That is why today another province has restricted access by foreign scientists to Mt. Matalingahan, another Philippine natural site being considered for UNESCO heritage listing.
Mindanao was cited under Criterion 10 of the heritage list which is supposed to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of universal outstanding value from the point of view of science or conservation. This criterion refers to the rarity of the site. According to the officials in the Philippines, the mountain has many site-endemic flora and fauna species. Nepenthes (pitcher plant) and certain butterfly species can only be found there. It is also home to the Philippine Eagle and Philippine Cockatoo.
The mountain was supposed to be inscribed last year during the World Heritage Convention in Cambodia but it lacked the required Visitors Management Plan. The document was completed and submitted in this year’s convention in Qatar. Owing to its rich biodiversity, access to Mount Hamiguitan is restricted to scientists and researchers. However, another adjacent location will be developed as the buffer zone for tourists to view the mountain from afar as reported by the news outlets.
Late last month (June 2014), after a long wait, Myanmar received the approval to have one of its sites entered onto the World Heritage List by the UNESCO. The inscription of its first site, Pyu Ancient Cities, includes the remains of three brick, walled and moated cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra located in vast irrigated landscapes in the dry zone of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River basin. They reflect the Pyu Kingdoms that flourished for over 1,000 years between 200 B.C and 900 A.D. The three cities are currently partly excavated archaeological sites. Remains include excavated palace citadels, burial grounds and early industrial production sites, as well as monumental brick Buddhist stupas, partly standing walls and water management features which are still in use today, and that underpinned the organized intensive agriculture.
World heritage experts, Curators, and Iraqi officials have been calling for assistance from the US government and the world community to help and save Iraq’s national heritage and sites being destroyed by the militants while they are helplessly watching the destructions from a far.
Many archeologists and experts from around the world labored mightily to unearth the sites and discover details of the history over decades, however these sites are being destroyed as militants move through cities and different areas of Iraq. Nineveh and the nearby city of Mosul have witnessed much of the destruction. Images from social media appear to show the destruction of about a dozen places of worship across northern Iraq, in areas recently taken over by extremist militants. For example, the al-Qubba Husseiniya, a Shia shrine, was shown in one picture being blown up in the city of Mosul. However, the militants have attacked Shia and Sunni shrines alike, and have vowed to continue destroying places of worship which they do not approve of. The attack on heritage sites are not just on the Moslem sites. As reported by the Daily Beasts, the militants are also destroying a number of Christian churches.
One of the major concerns as reported by several news outlets, is that once again militants operations could become funded by the looting antiquities. In neighboring Syria a major source of revenue for one groups’ insurgency has been the sale of looted antiquities on the black market. As reported in The Guardian, a windfall of intelligence just before Mosul fell revealed that al-Baghdadi had accumulated a $2 billion war chest, in part by selling off ancient artifacts from captured Syrian sites.
As the UNESCO World Heritage Committee met in Qatar last month (June 2014) and added more sites to the World Heritage List, several natural sites were also inscribed on the World Heritage List. These sites even though located in different parts of the world, (they) are humanity’ Universal Natural Heritage. Here at WCHV’s website, we have tried to bring you the news about any destruction, contaminations, and/or changes brought about climate change, or by negligence to these beautiful and grand sites.
Last month, we also created our first brief video which we hope will be first of many videos about preservation and conservation of world heritage. This first video – http://worldculturalheritagevoices.org/new-video-behind-beaty/ – focuses on how our beautiful universal natural heritage has been affected and changed.
This year’s additions to natural sites on the World Heritage List include the Great Himalayan National Park located in India, Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the Philippines, and Okavango Delta, in Botswana among many others. According to UNESCO’s site, the delta in northwest Botswana comprises permanent marshlands which are seasonally flooded. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact. One of the unique characteristics of the site is that the annual flooding from the river Okavango occurs during the dry season, with the result that the native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles with these seasonal rains and floods.
For a complete list of all the sites added to the World Heritage List, visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/