UNESCO Chief Audrey Azoulay arrived on Monday in Iraq at the start of a three-day visit. She visited several workshops and archaeological sites in Baghdad and discussed with officials the matters related to supporting culture and education.
A UNESCO spokesman told Agence France-Presse that the visit is dedicated to rebuilding Iraq and the organization’s investment in its reconstruction.
Azoulay stopped at the National Museum in Baghdad and toured the old city and al-Mutanabbi Street which is famous for its libraries.
The spokesman added that the Iraqi authorities are studying several ideas for preserving the heritage and considering how UNESCO can help shed light on the country’s cultural aspect and pave the way for development.
Iraq includes six UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites, among them the ancient city of Babylon, and is the cradle of the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, and Assyrian civilizations.
After the US invasion in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime, many of Iraq’s antiquities were stolen and smuggled outside the country.
The Iraq Museum was not immune to looting in 2003 amid the chaos that followed the US invasion.
During her visit to the museum, Azoulay congratulated the museum staff who have been working since 2003 to return the stolen artifacts.
The spokesman said that during 20 years, the staff had done a tremendous job recovering the scattered Iraqi antiquities.
On Tuesday, Azoulay is scheduled to visit Mosul to inspect the rehabilitation workshops of archaeological sites that UNESCO is funding in this large city in northern Iraq, a stronghold of the terrorist ISIS organization before its defeat in 2017.
On Wednesday, the official will land in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, and will visit the ancient Erbil Citadel, classified as a UNESCO heritage site.