Published on : Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed alarm at reports of the systematic persecution of, and attacks on the vulnerable Christian, Turkmen, and Yazidi communities in the north of Iraq, and its cultural and religious heritage, notably churches, shrines and monuments.
“What appears to be an emerging cultural cleansing must stop immediately. Attacks against civilians and minority groups are in direct violation of humanitarian law, as stated by the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council.
“They are also a direct blow on the cultural diversity, which is a defining characteristic of humanity. It is unacceptable that people are denied their most fundamental rights, that they are systematically persecuted and killed because of their beliefs, ethnic origin or cultural expressions. The protection of people is inseparable from the protection of their cultures, living expressions and heritage.
“I call for an immediate stop to these violent attacks and for the protection of the diversity that has forged the wealth and vitality of Iraqi culture over the millennia, as a unique testimony of the development of civilization and peaceful coexistence. I also reiterate my call on all Iraqis to stand united in protecting their unique cultural heritage,” the Director-General said.
Iraq is a State Party to the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which stipulates that “the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions presuppose the recognition of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures, including the cultures of persons belonging to minorities”.
All UNESCO Member States adopted the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), affirming that the defense of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity.