UAE hosts global push to save antiquities from conflict


Still from IS video, showing destruction at the ancient site of NimrudImage copyright
AFP

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An IS video showed militants smashing artefacts at Nimrud, Iraq

Five Nobel Laureates have called for urgent action to save ancient sites from conflict, as a cultural heritage summit opens in Abu Dhabi.

France and the UAE are leading a push to create a $100m fund to protect and restore antiquities under threat from extremists and fighting.

Historic sites in Syria, Mali and Iraq have been smashed and blown up by Islamist militants in recent years.

Others in Syria and Yemen have been damaged by shelling and missiles.

“Part of our history has been lost forever, with the goal of fanaticism being to undermine our hope for the future,” the five said in a statement.

They were Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and authors Orhan Pamuk and Mario Vargas Llosa.

“Urgent action must be taken – the time for powerless expressions of indignation is over,” they said.

Media captionArchive pictures show the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan and how they looked before the Taliban destroyed them

Fifty-five out of a total of 1,052 heritage sites listed by the UN cultural organisation Unesco are classed as “in danger”.

The fund will help to cover the cost of transporting, safeguarding and restoring affected monuments and artefacts, former French culture minister Jack Lang said.

He has said France would contribute $30m to the fund.

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Getty Images

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Unesco has condemned damage from air strikes in Yemen’s Old City

Representatives from around 40 countries, including more than a dozen heads of state or government – French President Francois Hollande among them – are expected to attend.

Earthquakes, pollution and poaching are among the threats to antiquities listed by Unesco.

But it is deliberate destruction by IS extremists who believe shrines and mausoleums to be idolatrous – though still trade looted artefacts – that have grabbed the headlines.

The ancient city of Palmyra in Syria, dating back to the 1st and 2nd Centuries, the Islamic mausoleums and mosques of Timbuktu in Mali, and the 3,000-year-old remains of the Assyrian city of Nimrud, are among the sites destroyed and damaged by IS militants.

But buildings in the Old City in Yemen’s capital Sanaa have also been damaged by fighting between the Saudi-led coalition – which includes the UAE – and Houthi rebels.

And back in 2001, Taliban militants destroyed the huge Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.



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