Tuesday April 10, 2007 – Thursday April 12, 2007
On the fourth anniversary of the looting of the Iraq Museum, more than 7,000 items have yet to be recovered and archaeological sites throughout the country continue to suffer from the irreparable damage of wide-scale looting.
Although the plunder of the Iraq Museum aroused considerable awareness to the problems facing cultural heritage worldwide due to looting and the illicit antiquities trade, since 2003, media attention has dwindled significantly, even as the looting and destruction escalate. To commemorate the events in Iraq and ensure that awareness of the global situation is not lost, SAFE sponsored the Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum—a series of commemorative events to take place around the world, between April 10th and 12th, the days that the museum was looted in 2003.
First, we produced a video invitation featuring Dr. Donny George Youkhanna, the former Director of the Iraq Museum. The video was a call to action and an appeal to gather together in a moment of remembrance. We also invited anyone who held a vigil to share their experiences with us and send us photographs from their events. To date, the video of Donny George has been viewed thousands of times on Youtube.
We were moved by the grassroots support we received. Organizations, listserves, bloggers and other individuals around the world helped spread the word. The first group to hold a vigil and send photographs to SAFE was the staff of the Iraq Museum. Though the Museum is not open to the public due to the difficult security conditions, staff members valiantly continue their work to preserve the remaining artifacts of the Museum’s vast collections. These photographs lent a poignant human face to the tragedy. By April 14th, more than twenty groups in England, Canada, Iraq, Lebanon, South Africa and China had shared their vigils with SAFE.
Individuals and organizations participated in the Vigil in various ways. Groups met at museums, art galleries, cafes, schools and other public spaces. Most groups showed our video of Dr. Youkhanna and lit candles. In London, a vigil featured musical performances, while school children wrote a poem after their vigil in Toronto. The ceremony at the Cultural Center of Bet-Nahrain in California, was aired on AssyriaSat to viewers in 40 countries. Archaeologists, professors, cultural property lawyers and authors took part and spoke to attendees about the tragedy of Iraq and the ongoing loss of cultural heritage around the world. Most of all, ordinary citizens showed their support for Iraq’s cultural heritage, our shared cultural heritage. Here is the poem written by the Grade Five students at Forest Hill Public School in Toronto, Canada, inspired by the vigil:
Artifacts being stolen. Antiquities, keys to knowledge. Antiquities being stolen. Something that everybody can share, stolen.
Real links to the past.Realize the awful things that looting causes. Realize what was taken. Not money, but knowledge.
Together we can help stop looting. These artifacts are important. Taking beautiful antiquities for yourself. Learn to share it is a kindergarten rule.
If we support SAFE, we will help save the past. If you loot, you rob the world. It is dreadful, all our knowledge to the past, gone, smashed, stolen. Imagine. Faith in SAFE will help the world.Facts are being stolen from us.
Faith is needed, so is support. Knowledge is power.
Advise those who use the blackmarket. Altruism will help.At the museum in Iraq, knowledge was stolen. Not money, knowledge that was the key to the past.
Care about these artifacts. Check to make sure none of your friends use the blackmarket. Conduct those who are wrong, those who steal the knowledge to the past.
Take action against looting.Tell those who use the blackmarket to stop. Together we can stop looting. Support SAFE and we can do it.
Smashed artifacts don’t give knowledge. Stolen antiquities help no one. Students in our class think it is shocking the way looters take knowledge just for money. Support SAFE and help save ancient links to the past.
By hosting the Global Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum, SAFE has established an important date of remembrance and will continue to speak out about the tragedy of the Iraq museum and the ongoing looting of Iraq’s archaeological sites.
By Leah Bevington