300-Year-Old Iraq Mosque Minaret Demolished For Road Expansion

300-Year-Old Iraq Mosque Minaret Demolished For Road Expansion

Culture Minister said he had not given permission to destroy the mosque’s minaret

The demolition on Friday of a 300-year-old minaret of a mosque in Iraq’s southern city of Basra to make way for road expansion has enraged locals, religious and cultural authorities who condemned it as a further erosion of Iraq’s cultural heritage.

Built in 1727, the 11-metre (36 ft) Siraji minaret and its mosque were toppled by a bulldozer at dawn on Friday morning, its brown mud-brick spire with turquoise ornaments disappearing in a cloud of dust.

Plans by the Basra governor to remove the minaret to end a traffic bottleneck in the city were known to religious and cultural authorities, including the Sunni Muslim endowment and antiquities officials, but they said it was supposed to be preserved and relocated, rather than destroyed.

“All peoples preserve their heritage and history and here they destroy our history and heritage?” Basra resident Majed al Husseini said, standing by the rubble of the mosque.

Much of Iraq’s rich cultural heritage – dating back thousands of years to some of the world’s first empires in ancient Mesopotamia, and more recently to its Islamic history – has been degraded by neglect and years of conflict such as with Islamic State.

Now, heritage conservationists fear a building boom in Baghdad and plans to expand roads, bridges and other infrastructure across the country could destroy what remains.

Culture Minister Ahmed al-Badrani told Reuters he had not given permission to destroy the Siraji Mosque’s minaret and that local antiquities authorities had agreed with the governor to relocate it.

The ministry would now seek to recover and preserve its remains and reconstruct a model, similar to what was being done with Mosul’s Al-Nuri mosque that was blown up by Islamic State in 2017.

Basra Governor Asaad Al Eidani, who oversaw the demolition in person, defended the move, saying the Sunni endowment and antiquities authorities did not dismantle and relocate the minaret despite being given more than a year to do so.

He said they were recently given notice of its imminent destruction and did not protest, adding he planned to build a new mosque in its stead.

Mohammed Munla, the head of Basra’s Sunni endowment at the time when Reuters spoke to him, said the body had not agreed to, nor had its officials been informed of, plans to demolish the mosque’s minaret, adding it had instead agreed with the governor to find a company that could relocate it.

Munla was relieved of his duties shortly after speaking to Reuters but before this interview was published.

The Sunni endowment did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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