Wednesday, September 9, 2020 - 09:45
The Tabira Gate is as an iconic monument from the World Heritage site of Ashur that was badly damaged by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks on Iraq’s culture. ISIL attempted to destroy the ancient gate with an explosion in May 2015, resulting in 70 percent damage to the monument. In the subsequent years, rain has penetrated the monument’s core and accelerated its decay. In particular, the support pillars of the Outer Arch are badly damaged, such that the arch may collapse.
Faced with this emergency situation, the International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas (ALIPH) and the Center of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE) at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) are undertaking a new joint initiative to prevent the collapse of the Tabira Gate at the World Heritage site of Ashur. ALIPH is one of the pre-eminent organizations in the world for the protection of cultural heritage in conflict situations, whilst CACHE is an Iraq-based research center that aims to promote cultural heritage as a means for peaceful reconciliation amongst Iraq’s diverse communities.
Thanks to the support of ALIPH, the team from CACHE is on the ground working with the local Iraqi affiliate of Bashtabia Organization for the Arts – a cultural heritage NGO based in the Netherlands – to strengthen the support pillars of the Tabira Gate’s arch. The project team has already cleared a significant amount of rubble from the explosion and prepared thousands of sun-dried mud bricks (libn) that will be used to strengthen the core of the pillars. The production of baked bricks (ajil) in Assyrian style using traditional kilns is expected to start next week. These bricks will form a protective façade to prevent rain entering into the core of the monument. The stabilization of the Tabira Gate thus represents the first stage in the complete rehabilitation of the site after ISIL’s destructive activities.
The project also aims to provide badly needed jobs and job training to the local people of Shirqat who are suffering from high unemployment and poverty rates after the war against ISIL. All stages of the project will be supervised by the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), a part of the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. Every member of the reconstruction team must comply with COVID-19 precautions on site, including wearing gloves, masks, respecting social distancing whenever possible, and undergoing daily temperature checks.