On January 17 2022, The European Union Advisory Mission in Iraq (EUAM Iraq) hosted a Civil Society Platform event “Upholding Cultural Rights through the Protection of Cultural Heritage”. The event was held at the Babylon Hotel in Baghdad as part of the European Union’s comprehensive approach to civilian security sector reform.
Building up of strong partnerships within the engagement of security sector reform is a strategic priority for EUAM Iraq. At the very heart of the security sector governance agenda is the need to promote people-centered approaches to security. This includes upholding cultural rights through the protection of cultural heritage, as well as human rights at large.
Cultural heritage does not only include antiquities and artifacts, but it is an expression of the ways of living developed by a community, and passed on from generation to generation, including customs, practices, places, artistic expressions, and values.
Therefore, it is a topic that links to the work of many civil society organisations. The event welcomed the participation of associations dedicated to cultural heritage, human rights, minorities, women’s rights, youth as well as the clergy, the High Commission for Human Rights, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, the Department of Justice, NATO Mission Iraq, the EU Delegation, and various embassies.
Here are the comments of some event participants:
Dr. Mahdi Saadoun, Co-founder and a spokesman for Turkmen Rescue Foundation, said:
• Participants had the possibility to engage in lively and fruitful discussions during the event’s breakout sessions. They were divided into three groups to discuss the following: cultural rights in the context of human rights; in the context of minorities; and referring to the fulfillments of other rights, such as education, expression, religion, and economic possibilities.
Rajab Kakaei, Chair of Methra Organisation for Yarsani Culture and Development, a small minority in Kirkuk:
• The topic of the seminar is important. The idea itself that you invite us here, have us join in discussions and hear our opinion is of big value in itself.
Dr. Saad Eskander, Cultural Advisor of the General Directorate of Fine Arts/Director at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs:
• Events like this are extremely important. They allow for exchange expertise and experiences with others, comparing good practices, having a constructive dialogue, coming up with practical recommendations that can be applied. For example, today we agreed we need to review our legislations relating cultural heritage and human rights, with special reference to cultural rights of minorities. Also, the access to information, because all these issues are interconnected.
William Warda, Co-founder and Public Relations director of Hammurabi Human Rights Organisation also underlined the quality of the lively discussions and went on to add:
• Further steps are also needed. All the issues discussed in the groups today could be included into a roadmap or national strategy to protect the heritage of Iraq.
A thorough reform of Iraq’s security sector will be critical for long-term stability in Iraq. EUAM Iraq will continue in its efforts to engage civil society, government representatives, and international partners in future events.