The Nahrein Network


Transcript: A Conversation with Ali Naji Attiyah

Intangible cultural heritage in Iraq - a conversation with Dr Ali Naji Attiyah

Mehiyar Kathem 0:00 Welcome to the Nahrein Network. We're here today with Dr. Ali Naji. from the University of Kufa. Hello, Dr. Ali, how are you?

Dr Ali Naji 0:07 Hello Dr Mehiyar, I'm here also nice to meet you.

Mehiyar Kathem 0:09 Again, you're on the high network and British Institute for the Study of Iraq scholar. This is leg two of your visit to the UK. Can you tell us a bit about the scholarship you've undertaken and the type of research you've conducted?

Dr Ali Naji 0:23 Yes. In the beginning, let me thank you, especially as a person and also Nahrein network and UCL and the British Institute for the study of Iraq, for giving me the opportunity to me to attend to UK and increase my experience related to heritage. In fact, this is my complimentary visit, because I submitted a proposal three years ago to have a holistic view for the heritage to increase the awareness of people to a cultural heritage, especially of the Najaf city, by merging the tangible and intangible heritage. In one research. When I came to UK, and to the first visit, it was February 2020. And unfortunately, I cannot complete my activities here because of the pandemic COVID at that time. So this is my second term, or second visit to UK for this, the main objective of this visit to move around this country and see the experience and many successful stories happened regarded to the heritage and cultural heritage. To achieve this objective. From the beginning, I plan to visit some cities like York and Liverpool and other cities, to see what are the way they are solving this problem of keeping the cultural heritage and identity of such cities. I can do that this time. And I met many people, they are responsible of the Heritage how to deal with heritage, such as experts from universities, and also those who are working in the city council for example. The main objective of this scholarship is to network with others who are the same who has the same interest like me, with heritage, different types of heritage, tangible and intangible heritage. And this visit really, I met many persons from universities and also from other departments like City Council of York, and others. And those persons helped me with a lot of information, which are, which should be necessary for us to proceed in keeping our heritage. One of the important heritage cities in the United Kingdom is York, York is a good example. I can I can say that York is similar to Najaf, but it is similar from some points of view and also it is different from other. For example, York, it has a huge history, a deep rooted history, maybe there is, like I say there is an old city, below the present city, the old city belongs to the Roman period, and hundreds of years and then changed many, many times and so we can say maybe there's different layers of city of York, the problem of development of your started from the mid middle of the last century, when the transportation projects started to be constructed. And also many developments required by the city pressed on the people at that time to build the new buildings and open new streets and car parks and so on. This really was a challenge for the City Council of your time, because when you want to construct a new building, you need to make a foundation and the foundation, you should dig maybe several meters below the ground level, then you will maybe you have violated the archaeological site or may you may destroy many runes under the ground. For this, the people of York started from that time to have a great interest in this issue, and to solve it by different ways. Mehiyar Kathem 4:43 You've visited several archaeological sites, heritage sites, but also more interestingly, you met with an archaeologist one of the leading archaeologists in York, who works for the York Archaeological Trust. Could you tell us a bit about that? So during that experience, Dr Ali Naji 5:01 Yes, in fact, I met Claire, Claire McCray, She is an archaeologist, she got an master's degree from University of York. And she works in the city council. And her work exactly in the city council is underground, how to deal with archaeological sites underground for new projects. She told me that there are rules how to deal with this issue. And those rules based on an a planning strategy, which was from the 90s, written by many companies help York in this context. And she, in fact, told me that the main thing to do in the beginning is to have a database. Database is very important when we when we deal with the heritage, because for example, the value of any ancient, the value of any archaeological sites should be evaluated before making any decision. Because this is maybe I can say, frankly, speaking, that changing the mindset, should be the first step, because we have in Iraq, for example, two trends of thinking, the first is to keep everything as it is because it's his heritage, should not be touched. The second on the other of the opposite side, those who believe that there should be a development and improvement of the human life. And those things means that we still live in the past, and we should leave the past. And sadly, I said that, I say that both of those strains of thinking are extremist, because always we should think in the middle. Yes, we are not living in the past. But we have roots from the past. And also we have lessons from the past, those lessons are important to guarantee to plan for good future, and also to improve our life in the present. Why what happened for the Iraqi people, unfortunately, because they are maybe now living in this conflict period between the past and the future? And what what, what is the real way of thinking. My visit to York, I think it gives me a lot about that. That the the past and the history and the heritage is important for future life, and can also participate to improve our future life. This can be done by the sustainable development plans. Sustainable development plans, means that this heritage we have is like a treasure. This treasure can be used to improve our life and also attract tourists, for example, and many projects can be done with this heritage and as the founder of the York Archaeological Trust, it's very important organization charter. In fact, I hope that in Iraq, we will have such type of organizations because he mentioned in one of the articles when he founded this, I think it's founded at 1972. He stated that we should do the heritage industry a named or titled this project as heritage industry, because heritage is not freezing the things like to be like a mummies, those things and without any feeling of life because people should improve their lives. I think this concept or this philosophy behind what happened in York is very important to me from this side. The other side also, we have in Iraq now a very good step is to establish a new municipality in the Old City of Najaf and I can say it is the first time in Iraq to have a specialized municipality for a historic part in a city In Iraq because many historic cities unfortunately, they belong to the same municipality of the government. And maybe it is a small department in the municipality of the government that is related to the historic part or to the old part or the heritage part. And maybe those employees working in such small department are changeable changing every period for this, there are no keys okay accumulated experience for such people to deal with heritage buildings. So establishing this municipality, in the historic part historic center of Najaf, I think it is very important step. For this step to be good or success story for other cities of Iraq, I think two things are important. The first is the regulations, there should be special regulations for this municipality different from the traditional regulations used by municipality. The second thing is building capacity and have a I can say, we should have retained the staff in this municipality, and build the capacity of those staff to be qualified to deal with heritage building, like doing the repair, and maintenance and so on, after, of course, to collect the database, and maybe classification and so on. And this happened in York, those I'm talking about exactly the steps started in York from the early 70s, when the needs of the society in this city, but pressed on the government, and always they requested a lot of changes and development. For this, they started from this point, to collect data and make a database, the name it historic environment record. Now, anyone can now type in the website on the Internet, Historic Environment Record, 'HER of York' and can find a lot of information and interactive map based on GIS system. And he can find any, maybe monument that he may request. Also, he can find the conservation areas, under the listed buildings, and so on. And also a classification of the type of buildings that grade one, grade two, grade three, it depends on the situation of building, from structural point of view, also depends on the value from the spiritual point of view. So the database for Najaf, I think it's it should be the first step. Yes, I know, there are many projects that are done in Najaf for renewal, or urban planning of the Old City. But I'm afraid that the database maybe not organized in a way that can be used by a new municipality. And the second step is towards laws, I think that York is very good example, it can be also consulted, or I can't say that copy, paste is not a good way to deal with anything. But those people in the majority of Najaf can also read those regulations, and now used by York City, and then maybe use similar laws to control the activities inside the city, anyone who wants to build a new building? Or what to do with this building, and also how to deal. Let me say, the answer of this important question, can he change this building? To what extent for example, or can he also demolish this building, and build a new one, and so on?

Mehiyar Kathem 13:26 What's also interesting about the York Archaeological Trust, which is now called York, archaeology is that it's also involved heavily in public education. And they play a role in not just advising the local government and also local governments across the UK, but they also play a role in informing society about the significance of the past of archaeology, I mean, how important is education when it comes to protecting safeguarding celebrating Iraqi cultural heritage?

Dr Ali Naji 14:02 Yes, I think you now want to focus on the role of such organizations in our situation in Iraq. Yes, I agree with you, because maybe sometimes the people said that it is the government role, we are as a public we have no power to control those things. But I think that the public also is very important for such issue, because the interest of governments sometimes is related to maybe the economical state and so on, or there may be the environment related or that we say, politician, or political situation and so on. But for public heritage is another thing for public heritage means the identity also heritage means the continuity of those communities and the people. I think the people always refused to lose such important thing in their history, for example, now Iraqi people respect their tribes, for example, or the traditions related to the food or the dressing, or the occasions, for example, or religious ceremonies, or celebrations and so on. Those things are important for them, they did not need the government to put our rules or laws to, for example, to conserve those things, or to keep those things because the government will follow the public people to see what are respected for them, so they put rules, for example, sometimes they decide the holiday in certain days, for example, to for some traditions, or some other occasions, and so on. So I think public is important. But the, the negative point in the Iraq situation is the organization of those things. Because when we say that public means all people, but there should be certain figures or certain people who are volunteers, who are maybe have have more awareness about those things, they come together, and then they found something like York Archaeological Trust, as an NGO organization. And then they start to move, for example, towards the public from one side and towards the government, also to have a pressure on the government regarding the heritage. In Najaf, there is a good success story, but still needs more advanced development, which is the public committee, 'Alajna Alshabia' public committee to defend about the heritage or to conserve the heritage of Najaf and others.

Mehiyar Kathem 17:07 This is an NGO?

Dr Ali Naji 17:08 This is an NGO, but it's still not a formal NGO, I can't say like that, because also it is, we have a long routine to establish NGO, as you know, but as an activities, many examples, for example, like expansion of airport, they stand against expansion of airport, because there is archaeological site, beside the airport, and so on many things, they are always have some activities for the public, to show them that heritage is important for the people.

Mehiyar Kathem 17:43 You've been looking at the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritage, are they so different,

Dr Ali Naji 17:50 Different maybe in the characteristic or how to deal with them, but in the context of heritage, they are one. Why they are one? Because the place that any place or any monument or any building, as it is, without the meaning, without the Spirit, it will be just an assembly of stones maybe or bricks and so on. But the meaning always comes from the values and I can see that the value is also related to the human being. So any human has a relation with any place, I think after the World War Two, when Churchill because we are now in London, the city of Churchill, he stood inside the parliament and the parliament building was bombed by the airplane of Hitler. And it was that the time to rebuild the parliament, he has a very important well known statement in the engineering architecture, he said "does the building shape us or we shape the building?" The right answer is the building shapes us. So then, this is, he mentioned something important, that there is a relationship between the buildings and those monuments, and the human being. If you will read the history, back to the beginning of the mankind, you will see that always the sacred buildings are the most important type of building. For example, now the pyramids, pyramids are recycled and building because they are graves and maybe the pharaohs also represent them other life or this second life or after death of the pharaohs. So all beliefs are controlled and shaped by those buildings and so on. And also many buildings, of course are affected by those beliefs and those traditions and so on.

Mehiyar Kathem 20:00 What happens if the buildings or the physical or the tangible cultural heritage is transformed? Whether through development through war conflict, how does it affect people and society?

Dr Ali Naji 20:14 Yes, of course, it affects the life because the the way of life depends on those spaces. Sometimes you need for example, larger space, sometimes you need smaller space, sometimes you need a certain type of materials or finishing and on colors and bad things and so on. All those things are it is like let me say, expressions, expressions of your culture, expression of your feelings, many examples happened. Let me say one of the examples from projects in Iraq, there was a dam, very large dam to be built at Anah city. I think, you know, also the audience know, Anah city, which is an Anah and Rawa, our two cities besides each other, the dam of Anah city, there should be a lake beside the dam. So the old city of Anah, it should be now completely covered by water of this lake, there was a project at that time, I think, the 80s of the last century, to build new houses for those people. I was an engineer in the ministry of construction at that time, the early 90s. And I saw the drawings and so on, so they found some of the people it is from the countryside of Anah exactly, not Anah itself, they found for example, that any family had animals, and the animals are living very close to the family. So what are the design of such houses, which will be let me say adaptable, and be can have a good space for people and animal that those are their animals side by side in the same space. And so on a lot of examples, you will see that the design always of buildings, old buildings, or new buildings or future buildings are affected by the human beliefs or the human feelings and so on. This is my argument, what can I say, of this visit? Maybe the main argument is to make view to the heritage as a holistic if you do have one eye on the tangible and the other eye to the intangible. If you're now get a relationship for each heritage building in Iraq, between this building and its values, I think we can attract maybe a lot of people, I can't say all people, but a lot of people can come and defend about displays because they will feel that the values will be lost if the building close.

Mehiyar Kathem 23:07 Let's discuss this in more detail. More critically, but the systems that we have, whether it be the 2003 Convention and intangible cultural heritage, or all the other conventions and systems that are born out of the UNESCO system, make very clear separation between tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Are these systems in need of reform? Particularly if you look at it in relation to Najaf or other parts of the country? Do we need to start critically thinking about how we can develop more integrated systems holistic systems, rather than looking at intangible and tangible culture heritage, as completely separate spheres? And, of course, that's echoed and reflected in rules and laws and systems and grants and programs and so on. Yes, I understand why UNESCO now have let me say two conventions not one. If we're, if my speech is correct, there should be one convention not two. The intangible heritage is not all of the elements of such heritage related to the space. Because some types of intangible heritage for example, is beliefs or cooking of certain type of food, or for example, maybe manufacturing of some handicraft things and so on, not all of the elements of intangible heritage related to the place or to buildings. This is one the other thing that the six criteria which are the the main or the core of convention of 1972, which is organize the World Heritage List and how to inscribe properties to this list. The sixth one of those six criteria related to the values. But, the convention stated that the sixth one is alone not enough, because the outstanding universal value which any property of scribed in the list should have outstanding universal value, this outstanding value, there should be attributes and the attributes in majority are measurable or can be seen or physical, but can be added as another type of attributes which is non physical, but alone is not enough. For example, in the cemetery of Wadi al-Salam because also it's part of Najaf, a very important part of Najaf, an essential part. When we chose the criterion number three, which is that Wadi Al-Salam has an outstanding testimony of a traditional culture of millions of people, this is not the only one, or the only criterion of inscribing Wadi Al-Salam to the list, we chose also the sixth one, which is there are feelings and beliefs and traditions when the people are coming to bury their dead people in Wadi Al-Salam. So, there is a relation in the UNESCO convention, but is but this installation is not clear very well for, I think maybe later there will be development for the convention, because I mentioned yesterday in the presentation in UCL that there is a declaration of ICOMOS, because when we are talking about convention of UNESCO of 1972, we should mention ICOMOS, because the main consultant of this convention is ICOMOS. I think also the audience know that ICOMOS is the organization which decide which property is in ascribe, and which probably shouldn't be deleted and refused and so on. ICOMOS, they recognized 2008, and this recognition that every monument or every building should have a spirit and the spirit which are all values should be respected, and the keeping the heritage was a part of keeping its values. And the spirit of place is unique, obviously, to each side. And it's going to be very hard to measure this I mean is it something to measure or is it something just to recognize? Yeah, this is the main difference between convention 1972 and convention 2003, because in 1972, you have a criteria and the measure done by ICOMOS, ICOMOS said is the measure okay are you satisfied or not? But in living heritage, the thing is different 100%. Because the local people they who said that this is heritage or not, because they should also for example, if you want now, any country or the right ratifying or signing this convention of 2003 for example, if they want to ascribe one element to the list for the World list, World Heritage List, they should submit a signature of the local people, not all the local people of course, but they name it like the the leader of this practice, the leader of this or intangible cultural heritage, who is the leader, the leader should should sign should sign because maybe there is a privacy maybe those people those believes, maybe the community will refuse to declare or for public those beliefs and so on. So, there should be a signature. Yes, this declaration I think, maybe two or three pages, but it is very important in fact, because many points at the finishing of the spirit of place and so on. So I think a lot of writing will be published in this issue and of interest will start to give in to the intangible heritage and the living heritage and also those values or those things related to the cultural heritage. And this is the Quebec declaration on the Preservation of Spirit of Slace 2008. I advise all those people who are interested in heritage to read this carefully because I found it really step advanced a step. Yes. And also outlines here threats to the spirit of place, including climate change, mass tourism, conflict, urban development, disruption to societies, which obviously is something that is of topic today. Yes, climate change affecting everything, like the pandemic three years ago, affecting the life and everything here. For the first time, this world heritage. Some of them said, oh, Mecca very good example. So why are we not demolish everything in this historical part of Najf, and then make it an open space, and only the shrine because the shrine is very important. And maybe the pilgrims are the main objective of receiving the pilgrims and serving them. But later, can say, day by day, year by year the people after maybe traveling or seeing others, other cities, for example, like in many cities, in any country, besides Iraq, and far from Iraq, they recognized finally, no, they should, they should be compromised between development and improvement. And for this now, for example, you heard about when they see some of the bricks from Souq AlHuwaish or or the old city wants to be removed to build a new space for the shrine of Imam Ali. A lot of people wrote in the media and so on, and the campaigns, and so really, I feel that people still have great interest in the heritage, but at the same time, also, they want to develop their lives, they want to improve the way of life and also those old buildings, they want to see those buildings in a good situation in a good structure. So can they use those buildings and in a new life, maybe they have now cars, or they are maybe need and new spaces, and new furniture and so on. So all those needs of the people, especially the transportation also, it's very important. So I think, from the Heritage point of view, they did not agree what happened to Najaf. Especially the height of buildings, because as you know, the the laws of multi storey buildings inside the city, and the majority are hotels, and hotels not belongs to people, all of them from Najaf, they are investment projects, maybe some of the PLO's investors from Najaf, some of them outside Najaf. But it is a negative point. I can say maybe I hope that I am not biased to my opinion. But I can say that the majority of people now writing on social media are against this, they not agree this, But how do you accommodate millions of people, particularly religious programs, and there are millions that visit Najad, I mean Karbala, Najad also. But how do you accommodate that without building high rise hotels?

Dr Ali Naji 33:18 Yes, the solution is good planning. Good planning means, for example, I saw in New York several days ago, that they used a space, I think it's maybe the same area of the old city of York, to have a new development projects for many, many types. If such projects are succeeded to do their functions, maybe there is no need to remove or to have an open spaces. In Najaf also we have a zone named Aljudaidat. Aljudaidat, it is, I can say the first zone to be residents and the planned in the Ottoman period, it is in the 19th century. For this you can see now, for example in Google map, you can see that the grid streets as a grid, because as you know, the old cities, there was some that organic fabric or organic texture, that the roads the lanes are a zigzag, not spread, but the new or the Western way of planning cities, which is a grid like rectangles and so on. So you can see in Aljudaidat, that it is a grid, Aljudaidat is very close to the old, it is a neighborhood of the city. And I think the area of Aljudaidat it's about I can say three or four times the area of the old city. Many things many projects for accommodation, for maybe restaurants or even green spaces can be made for this zone. Unfortunately the zone was left for, let me say public planning, it is not a planning or scientific planning for because now there's a mixed use from residents and works and workshops and so on.

Mehiyar Kathem 35:12 These are state issues to do with the way in which power is generated in terms of state, state institutions. Are the institutions cohesive? Are they able to enforce laws? Do we have the right laws or the correct laws for the time that we are in? These are issues of state of state institutions, the issues that you are speaking about? It's about planning and management, but ultimately, also, it's about the state. And, you know, we have to also ask questions about how is the state organized, and by the state, I mean, state institutions that are responsible for the management of everyday affairs, governance laws, local councils, is that the real issue in Iraq? Particularly when it comes to the management of culture, heritage, and culture and the rich cultural heritage resources that the country has? This is one of the problems or concerns one of the major reasons to have the situation for our heritage, which I can mention in one statement, which is multiple decision makers. And this is a real problem, because when I mentioned now, planning, planning needs a certain structure of the decision makers, there should be centralization and also localization and some issues. But in our case, for example, when we are talking about, let me say, a monument, or a cultural heritage building, sometimes it belongs to the government, sometimes it belongs to private ownership. Sometimes it is a part of endowment, for example, and also are some cleric, religious persons, and so on, the situation of multiple decision makers, this makes the situation more complex. Because when you have a plan, for example, you want to implement the plan, who will implement the plan, or first, who will approve the plan? Who is the owner? Who is the client, for example, of the master plan? Yes, we can say that client is the Iraqi government, or the ministry of, now its Ministry of construction and housing, and municipalities and public works, because they gather all those things in one ministry. So if this is the client, the client now, has the power to control any area and the master plan? The answer sometimes no. Because for example, if the the plan, this land use should be industrial, and the other should be residential, and so on, sometimes it can be changed, changed, because there there is another decision maker. And this is all I can say that one of the problems or the major problems in Iraq in the last 20 years. I mean, is it too much to ask from people to address this, ordinary people citizens? I mean, how can this be addressed? Because obviously, if cultural resources are poorly managed, then we lose the value also of those sites, this is a very difficult issue, because if the if we have these dysfunctional state systems or state institutions, at the same time, we have this potentially huge or currently huge resource for Iraq. And the issues that we have to address is not only in society as such, but also in systems of state. And is it too much to ask people to address these issues? Are we asking too much of older people, communities and citizens to address these structural problems associated with the nature of state institutions? In Najaf, for example, I think, maybe 20 years ago or less, we have a committee, which was named the Environmental Protection Committee. It is an assembly of governmental persons and also volunteers and professors from university and so on. Many times in my symposium or lectures or presentations, I asked people of Najaf to establish another committee for heritage, because I think that we cannot now, for example, in situation of Iraq, maybe still a little bit unsettled, we cannot now imagine to salve the problem of multiple decision makers. But I can think we can mitigate the effects of this problem by establishing such committee. When you bring for example, those from private sector, sitting beside the governmental representatives, and maybe also the shrine authority, and also "" and so on, they are sitting together and dealing with those issues, and also exchange ideas, for example, and maybe putting plans and so on. This is very important step, in fact, to solve such a problem, I think so. But unfortunately, my, this recommendation always, no one listened to it, maybe several leaves, I'm asking to do that. And establishing such committee. You're a part of the committee now regarding intangible cultural heritage? I think recently, they had a small department in the in the ministry, which is, I think, devoted to the intangible cultural heritage of Iraq. So for them to collect the elements, maybe maybe unknown elements, many governments of Iraq, for the local people, they have the idea to establish committees, local committees, inside each government, and then the start to do an inventorying of the culture in this type of intangible heritage, I think that they will start in Najaf. For this, they chose me as a member of committee of Najaf. I think that the first step will be, is to have, to have surveyors, because surveyors is very important to choose a proper surveyors and then train them with good training about this type of heritage, and how to do interview with people and so on and document, this heritage by maybe, video capturing or by taking photos, and so on. So it is important to consult the local people, and the surveyors should be a part of this local people, this name, the community base, and eventually I think that any expert come to any governor governorate in Iraq, and try to explore the intangible heritage, he will fail, he will fail because he should consult the local people, because the local people know, their belongings, and also their identities, and maybe they are part of this culture, or that culture, and the traditional way of life and so on, this project will start soon. And yes, I agree with you, we should help them and then I hope that also that the Nahrein network will participate in building capacity of those people working in this project. And maybe we discuss the details later. Doe the inventory contribute towards the efforts of the Iraqi government to inscribe intangible cultural heritage on the UNESCO list? Also you, now, you mentioned very sensitive point, because, in fact, here what I mentioned in the beginning of the mindset, because maybe when I'm talking about that, maybe some one of the authorities of the Ministry of Culture, thinks the objective is to collect as much as possible of those elements, and make the list of UNESCO of intangible heritage is full of in Iraq, for example, link, I think no, should not be the objective. Because no other people are practicing their cultures without if you inscribe this in the list or not, there's not important for the people, the most important that for the people of Iraq now, is how to building peace for the future, how to make them coexist with each other, and how to make respect, mutual respect between the cultures. This is the important thing. I think, when you go beyond the lines of the convention, and think more in deep, the only score need this don't score, you need to keep the diversity of the global, but at the same time they need because the cultural wars, I think there are a lot of hidden cultural wars. Maybe the last war between Russia and Ukraine. I think if you now follow the news, you will see many hidden lines just related to the cultural identity. Now Russia didn't recognize that there is a cultural identity or a Ukrainian identity, but Ukrainiain people believe the opposite thing. So cultural wars, I can say, I can say maybe 100%, it is in many examples it is the, concept below or the main the first spark of any real war later. So, in terms of intangible cultural heritage, it's potentially more valuable or just as valuable as any other type of culture heritage when it comes to building peace. Yeah. Yes, this is important. This is something that we probably haven't really focused on enough in the institutions of culture heritage international institutions is that, intangible cultural heritage should be prioritized in rebuilding post conflict societies? Yes. Because I can say that the this type of heritage, anything heritage, or the intangible heritage, and maybe I don't, I can't, I don't know what is the term in English, but in Arabic was a "silah dhu shifratayn", it was like a weapon with two blades

Dr Ali Naji 46:07 with two blades. Yes. So it may be, for example, if now, you promote, may be the small, or the identity of the minorities, you may promote for racism later. Or maybe you are spreading the hatred between those identities maybe. So it is a really sensitive thing dealing with this, I think this is one of the main reasons that now we have 12, to my knowledge, the 12 important countries didn't ratify didn't sign this convention til the moment,

Mehiyar Kathem 46:49 This is the 2003 convention?

Dr Ali Naji 46:51 Yes, one of them is United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada. So when you think about that, I think they are now looking from the other point of view, how this type of cultural heritage is dangerous sometimes to deal with, or when we are when you as a for example, as a government, come to a minority, and try to encourage them to bring or to erase their identity. Also, maybe there'll be problems later.

Mehiyar Kathem 47:28 It is the case in large parts of the Middle East, where minorities are actually abused and used and instrumentalized. And it's not just of course, the Middle East, but internationally, tangible culture, heritage, if used correctly, for want of a better term, can actually be a key domain for bringing people together building peace, I mean, if we can call it that, or at least some kind of structures of, of stability in society, but how do we go about doing that? I mean, for instance, in Iraq, I mean, Najaf is an interesting case, because Najaf also holds significant amount of culture heritage, there is not only Shi'i, but it has Christian heritage, there also and many other forms of, from other periods of time, of course, Basara and Mosul, Erbil, Baghdad, each part of the country has multiple culture, heritage. Basra, Kirkuk, Mosul, maybe those are the top who needs really, in my point of view, that Iraq is really need the intangible cultural heritage for building peace. I really believ in that. Do you think that? Because it hasn't been developed in Iraq very well, in terms of documentation, in terms of the inventory regarding intangible cultural heritage regarding Iraqi institutions to protect and celebrate, that's very weak, he knows that

Dr Ali Naji 48:54 Yes.

Mehiyar Kathem 48:55 So we are in a good position now, in many ways post conflict, relative peace in Iraq at the moment, it's a good time to develop systems where we can appreciate and champion intangible cultural heritage 20 years now, since major changes in the country. Exactly, I named it like a cultural policy. And also I mentioned this many times for my friends in the Ministry of Culture and also in my presentations related to the cultural heritage, that we need a cultural policy, cultural policy mean that how, as a ministry of culture as a part of government now how to deal with post conflicts, because building peace doesn't mean that you may be pulled over points from those who are fighting themselves, building peace mean, you go to those humans who was in the case of war, and then rehabilitate them again. And this is very important issue to learn them. How to respect each other this is one and also how to get rid of the fair from each other. Because let me also return back in the past, because always I believe, if we want to study this, we should study first, the past period of Iraq, because of the bad policy of the last three regimes, I can't say only the last regime of Saddam also before Saddam regime, there was a lot of problems for Iraqi, Kurdish for example, or Iraqi Shi'ia or other minorities and so on. The problem is that the fear which type of fear, fear of our from losing the identity, my identity is at risk, my language may be lost, I can't practice my lecture freely, those things this is the way of life. Fear is something that is intimately connected to stability, state institutions security, can we address it with intangible cultural heritage? Of course, for example, during the Saddam period, for example, if you turn back from the memories or the bad memories of this period, when for example, the Kurdish language, that is not for example, interest, and yes, in the beginning, when this regime comes, they start to learning Arabic people in the south, the Kurdish language like an optional or elective course and so on, but, later what happened later, they felt that their culture is threatened. And as you know, the Shi'ia part of Iraq, which maybe the majority of Arab in Iraq are Shi'ia, also there is a problem in their culture, they count the practice, many of things they cannot try, they cannot read and, and also the books are prohibited and so on. So, this means that their culture is at risk, and the government did not want, and also I also should mention that also for the Sunni part of Iraq, for the whole parts of Iraq, there is always a tough policy with those, the only culture because I think that the last regime, this is the main mistake, they thought that the national identity means, you should delete all the local cultural identities and then build a national, but now, the intangible heritage stated that, yes, any person has a national or cultural identity but at the same time, he has also a local cultural identity, and he belongs to both of them and there is no problem of to be belong or have many identities, but at the end, you have one national cultural identity. So, this is I think, the main mistake, which makes the past regime failed, because many wars happen, many things also and problems happen in this context and context of culture. At the end, no one defend about this regime, because everyone hated this regime, Shi'ia, Sunni, Kurdi, Arabi, because all of them, their cultures, their local cultures not respected at that time. For this, I should, why I mentioned that, because I would now, the government now of the present of this regime, should make use of this lesson, to have cultural policy, how to deal with those Iraqi people and then bring them to have at the same time, two identities, one is that national identity as an Iraqi person, and the second is the local identity. So, this is very important thing for the future of Iraq. Otherwise, maybe a lot of examples like Yugoslavia or the past Yugoslavia or the past Soviet Union and so on, and many countries divided because of this. We discussed the Quebec declaration on the preservation of the spirit of place 2008 declaration, do we need a about that declaration on intangible cultural heritage in post conflict, conflict affected contexts? Would it not be a major contribution to the field of peace study. but also cultural heritage for us in Iraq to host this attempt to develop a, a declaration or a chart a charter of, of peace based on the Iraq's recent experience.

Dr Ali Naji 55:15 Yes, I hope so. We should learn from that. For example, I from my readings that Irina Bokova, which is the past former General Director of UNESCO, I think she was from Bulgaria, I think, but she did a lot when she was a minister in her country, for this type of heritage. I think she participated in collecting maybe 1000s of elements of intangible cultural heritage, and then try to building peace and also to building a national identity for her country before she was also elected as General Director of UNESCO. Yes, I agree with you, we need such declaration, this type of heritage, as I mentioned, now, it's yes, it needs experts. But at the same time, the essential part is the local people themselves. And maybe the local people mean the public or the university and so on. And when, for example, when you see other countries, what they did many success stories, let me say one of them, for example, there was a civil war in Colombia, I think maybe for many years, the finish or the end of this war, millions of dollars given as a grant for Colombia, to rehabilitate those who were fighting each other, to bring them again to their family, to the villages and so on, until made some practices of intangible heritage for the people like civil works, and so on, to rehabilitate them. For example, what we did after Daesh? Unfortunately, maybe only just keeping the peace and also just trying to get rid of all that DaeshAsh inside some position. But what we did for those who were fighting that Daesh, because they they suffered a lot, in that period, and they're turned back now to civil society. So they can now live as an ordinary life, or they need something for rehabilitation, and so on. Those things are hidden, and, unfortunately, no one care about those things, which is very important, very important for building peace too. Many times now, we saw in the news, a lot of tough things like crimes and so on, I cannot relate those with with the exactly war with Daesh, but this tough period, maybe this is one of the results to see this type of crimes or this type of very tough dealing inside the family or inside this streets and so on.

Mehiyar Kathem 58:14 Youare going back to Najaf, you go back to the University of Kufa, in their Najaf's main government University, and what are your plans once you go back to Iraq? In fact, maybe my first objective to complete my project, which is documenting of some building heritage building in Kufa. And then also, I'm planning to submit again for the grant from the Nahrein network. Because this my proposal yesterday, one of the attendants named Richard Lim, he always follow me on Twitter, he asked me, Is this only theoretical proposal and so on? I answered him, exactly, no. In fact, I just promote my implementing this proposal because it needs to be implemented. Because when I say that intangible heritage is important to increase awareness about tangible heritage, I should approve that in the ground by a real evidence. So I'm planning to implement this project in the historic part of Najaf, depending on the students of University of Kufa because the best surveyors from my evenings of this type of heritage, are the students because the students they are part of families and the part of identities. So when you choose good students from the local people inside those communities, you can't really invent any the living heritage and good way. So this is my plan and Inshallah, maybe it needs also a lot of efforts to establish also good team. Here also the essential experts we need that socialist expert Sociologists.

Dr Ali Naji 1:00:00 sociologists yes. And as you know, this specialty in Iraq is limited in the same situation in United Kingdom or the other developed countries. But maybe we can also consult other socialist from outside from here, United Kingdom or other countries. The other also plan when I returned back to increase knowledge of my colleagues interested in heritage, to give them presentations about the main results, main topics, especially what is the method in York, and my experience about heritage of York. And the other also objective is to contact with this new municipality. I don't know. But maybe the leader will be one of my former students, I hope so. Because now the majority of engineers in the municipality of Najaf are my former students, so maybe if one of them or any other person, I contact him and try to help him to build this new municipality and to be succeed in this important historic process for center of Najaf.

Mehiyar Kathem 1:00:00 The idea is to transfer some of the knowledge you've gained here?

Dr Ali Naji 1:00:01 Yeah, especially what is related to the rules, for example, and the laws that govern the work of city council of York this is very important.

Mehiyar Kathem 1:01:28 Perhaps you can twin to twin sister twin. This is maybe future, future step twinning between the two cities, it is really maybe now look like a dream for me, because it is important to make use of that experience in keeping the heritage and how to deal with this. And as you mentioned, establish maybe organization as similar to your archeological trust, charity organization yet is also maybe important, and I don't know maybe I can achieve all of that, or part of that. But the main thing or or the main objective, and all of these should continue, and you also should continue and the Nahrein Network should continue, will continue to in this way, yes, it is difficult. Maybe the supporters are limited, but we should be patient. And I think at the end, we will you will success. Thank you very much. Dr. Ali Nagi Attiyah, University of Kufa Nahrein Network, British Institute for the Study of Iraq, scholar, thank you very much for this lovely discussion we've had. Thank you very much also for you for all of those working guests starting from Professor Robson and others. And I hope for you all success. Thank you very much.

Dr Ali Naji 1:02:46 Thank you