07/23/2016, 10.08
IRAQ
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Mesopotamian Marshes Unesco heritage site. Mar Sako: archeology worth more than oil

by Joseph Mahmoud

The Chaldean Patriarch welcomes the inclusion of three archaeological sites and four natural areas among World Heritage Sites. Part of the new sites are located in the site of the biblical Garden of Eden. Sako appeals to institutions: to protect this patrimony we need "peace and stability."

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako has expressed "the most sincere congratulations" and the "best wishes" to the Iraqi people for the inclusion of some Iraqi archaeological and natural sites on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

In the note, sent to AsiaNews, His Beatitude cites "the swamp of Ur of the Chaldeans, Eridu and Uruk" among the new UNESCO sites. "This - he added - is a great achievement, because [for Iraq] archeology is an asset" and in terms of generating revenue Tourism can surpass oil and could be the real, great asset to help revive the country, if peace is established.

On 17 July in Istanbul (Turkey), in conjunction with the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee, the Organization United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has chosen 21 new sites to be included among the World Heritage Sites.

Most of these are in Asia and the Middle East; in particular, China continues to rise through the ranks and is now second in the world for number of sites, but still distant from Italy which leads with 51.

The new UNESCO sites in Iraq are located in the area where, according to the Bible, the Garden of Eden was located. After four years of meetings, campaigns, promotions and open letters, the UN body's leaders have decided to include marshes of what was once Mesopotamia among the world heritages. The inclusion regards seven elements: the three archaeological sites in the cities of Uruk, Ur and Eridu Tell (the ruins of the Sumerian cities and settlements that developed in southern Mesopotamia between the fourth and third centuries BC) and four natural areas. It is a unique complex from the cultural and environmental point of view, the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which over the millennia has created a vital ecosystem for the country.

The site is home to a remarkable biodiversity which in the 1950s measured almost 9 thousand square kilometers. Saddam Hussein almost destroyed the area persecuting the local inhabitants - the Marsh Arabs - and draining a large portion. Now the swamp area has recovered 40% of its original extension, and the government aims to reach up to 6 thousand km2 extension.

Welcoming the UNESCO experts decision, the Chaldean Patriarch has called on Iraqi politicians, the government and all the institutions "to preserve" the touristic, historical, natural and archaeological heritage of the country. Mar Sako warns that protecting "the relics and sites that are located all over the country, to maintain intact their value and national history". And  "peace and stability" are fundamental to accomplish this, he concludes.

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