Meeting with the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar

As the President of EU – Qatar Parliamentary Friendship Group, I had the pleasure to have a meeting with Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage of Qatar, at his invitation.

The discussions that we had focused on topics of common interests for both the European Union and Qatar, in the field of culture, especially the way the two can cooperate in protecting world cultural heritage.

In the last year and a half, since Daesh emerged as a major threat for peace and stability in Middle East, we all witnessed an unprecedented aggression towards the cultural and historic heritage of a whole region. The territory under Daesh control has an unmatched historical and cultural global significance. Tigris and Euphrates rivers’ basin is the cradle where the first civilizations emerged and evolved. This space shelters a continuous history that dates back for more than 10.000 years, offering a unique richness of cultural and historic heritage.

Daesh took advantage of this richness and its importance at world level, using UNESCO heritage sites as a background for its sick propaganda and for practicing its twisted mix of distorted ideology and barbarism. But more importantly, Daesh used this richness for financing its terrorist activities through a vast historic sites loitering combined with well-organized network of cultural and historic artefacts trafficking.

The historic and cultural richness of old Mesopotamia brought to Daesh incomes of more than 100 million dollars a year through illegal trafficking. The ones willing to pay for such artefacts on the black market are ending up financing not only Daesh but also a whole global network of smugglers and organized crime.

In my discussions with Dr. Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, I encountered a profound and genuine concern regarding the implications of these illegal trafficking with patrimonial objects run by Daesh. Apart from the immediate financial implications, there are long term effects on the chances for a return to peace and normality of the whole region that today is devastated by war. When the violence will end, the people of Iraq and Syria will need to reconnect with symbols that, before this conflict, were the bind offering unity beyond the religious and political differences. The many thousands of years of history, which we witness today in the shape of cultural and historic heritage, is a key element for the process of returning to normality. Protection and preservation of this legacy counts a lot in any plan of offering a future for this region.

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