Iraq is home to an ethnically and religiously diverse population and a rich cultural heritage. However, decades of conflict and instability have torn at Iraq’s social fabric, weakened its institutions, and damaged its cultural property. The rise of ISIS and the atrocities perpetrated by the group—including genocide and cultural cleansing—have heightened tensions between different Iraqi communities even further and left much of the cultural heritage in the areas formerly under its control in ruins.
IHSP believes that the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage can contribute to reconciliation and peacemaking within societies affected by communal violence, especially when part of wider humanitarian efforts in post-conflict environments. Our projects in Iraq seek to mitigate the effects of genocide, cultural cleansing, and conflict through the maintenance and promotion of cultural memory, identity, diversity, and freedom of expression. To achieve this goal, we work closely with Iraqi government and civil society groups that are engaged in the protection and preservation of built heritage, particularly in communities directly affected by ISIS and the battle to defeat the group.
IHSP’s projects aim for the following qualities:
• Close work with local stakeholders and employment of local contractors
• Historically accurate conservation and restoration of built heritage for use by living communities
• Action-oriented plans and rapid results
• Cost effectiveness and low operating costs
IHSP was founded in 2018 through a $2 million award from the U.S. Department of State to preserve ethnic and religious minority heritage in northern Iraq. The program is based in the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
IHSP is built upon the foundations of earlier projects dedicated to the support of Iraq’s cultural heritage and cultural heritage professionals. IHSP’s staff have collaborated closely with Iraqi heritage professionals in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain since 2012 through training workshops and scholarly exchanges facilitated by Boston University’s Mosul Archaeology Program. More recently, many of IHSP’s staff worked on Iraqi cultural heritage issues as part of the American Schools of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives.