Press release on the presentation meeting of the activities of the the joint development project “Safeguard and Enhancement of the Cultural Heritage of the Region of Kurdistan in Iraq”

Rome, 30th June 2014

Press release by Iante Roach

On June 23rd the joint development project “Safeguard and Enhancement of the Cultural Heritage of the Region of Kurdistan in Iraq” of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and La Sapienza University (Rome) was officially presented in Rome. The event took place at the same time as the final ceremony of the training courses for the Kurdish staff of the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization and of the University Departments of Antiquities of Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimanyah. Deputy Vice-Chancellor of La Sapienza University Professor Antonello Biagini, Iraqi Ambassador in Rome Saywan Barzani, and High Representative of the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq Rezan Kader all gave speeches.

The project was commissioned by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and run by the Department of Antiquities of La Sapienza University. It began in 2012, building upon the frequent collaborations that took place between Italian and Kurdish authorities since 2006. Italy was among the first countries to initiate a dialogue with the regional Iraqi institutions after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, focussing primarily on Cultural Heritage. The Italian team is led by Professor G. Cereti. The three main themes of the project are the important Paikuli Sasanid monument and its bilingual inscription, the numismatic collections of the provincial museums of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk, and the Erbil Citadel, that was registered as UNESCO World Heritage site a few days ago, where different Italian initiatives were undertaken.

Professor Cereti explains that “the training courses for the Kurdish staff, both in Kurdistan and in Italy, constitute a crucial aspect of the project, aiming to reinforce the autonomy of the local institutions in charge of managing the conspicuous archeological and cultural resources of Iraqi Kurdistan.”

The event took place during a profound political crisis in Iraq. The country has plunged once again on the verge of civil war ensuing the take over of Mosul by the sunni jihadi group ISIS. Professor Cereti declares: “the autonomous region of Kurdistan plays a pivotal role in the country’s fate, and has already managed to defend the strategic city of Kirkuk. We truly hope that the rich cultural heritage of this land may represent a shared symbol of social civility and harmony.”