US/ICOMOS Statement on the Preservation of Cultural Heritage During Armed Conflict

US/ICOMOS denounces the suggestion made by President Donald J. Trump that he might order the destruction of heritage sites in retaliation for Iranian aggression in response to recent American actions in the Middle East. The United States has always provided leadership in the realm of protecting historic sites and honoring the heritage of all human societies in the world. The well-known activities during the Second World War of the Monuments Men who rescued European treasures and of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson who protected Kyoto from atomic attack because of its significance to Japanese cultural identity are just two examples of the United States protecting the world’s heritage. The proposed destruction of patrimony besmirches the memory of these brave men and women. US/ICOMOS points out that direct targeting and destruction of cultural heritage is a war crime, one that has been successfully prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

We have no doubt that U.S. destruction of heritage sites—no matter what the rationale provided—will be regarded by people around the world as an attempt at cultural genocide. Many voices will be raised in angry protest to such actions. The story of this kind of cultural destruction will live on from generation to generation. It will prove a disaster for U.S. foreign policy and could very well threaten the safety of U.S. citizens traveling abroad. It could provoke attacks on historic properties in the United States. US/ICOMOS urges the Trump Administration to withdraw this threat immediately and to announce its support for the preservation of the world’s cultural heritage.

The United States National Committee of ICOMOS (US/ICOMOS) promotes the conservation of world heritage and stronger connections to the global heritage community through advocacy, education, and the international exchange of people and ideas. US/ICOMOS is part of the worldwide ICOMOS network of people, institutions, government agencies, and private corporations who support the conservation of the world’s heritage. For over 55 years, US/ICOMOS has worked to deliver the best of international historic preservation and heritage conservation work to the U.S. domestic preservation dialogue, while sharing and interpreting for the world the unique American historic preservation system.

As the only U.S. preservation organization with a global focus, US/ICOMOS is the gateway for U.S. professionals to participate in worldwide heritage conservation. Through a broad member base, US/ICOMOS promotes strong ties between national, regional, private, and governmental organizations within the U.S. and the international preservation community.

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque on the Naqsh-e Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran. Credit: Ninara, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ninara/41364360861

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