US/ICOMOS Expresses Solidarity with Malians In the Midst of Continued Attacks on North African Heritage

US/ICOMOS Expresses Solidarity with Malians In the Midst of Continued Attacks on North African Heritage
With the concerns of the heritage community focused on the Middle East, it should not be forgotten that fighting in North Africa also continues to claim heritage. The Bardo National Museum attack on March 18 in Tunisia is a shocking example and extreme concerns exists for Libya and its cultural resources.
More recently, though, on May 3, a group called the Movement for the Liberation of Masina partially destroyed a portion of the Hamdallahi World Heritage tentative list site in Mali known as the tomb of Seku Amadu. Hamdallahi is some 37km south of Mopti, Mail. New York Times coverage of the attack can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/world/africa/mali-militants-destroy-prized-site.html?ref=topics&_r=0.
The World Heritage tentative listing is known by its name in French, “La Cité Historique de Hamdallahi.” The World Heritage description is here: http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5438/.
Sophie Ravier, Environmental Officer working with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) condemned the attack (speaking in French), saying: “The mausoleums and social practices linked to it are essential elements of cultural identities of Mali. This act that we condemn is a strategy to destroy social cohesion and the common history of populations.”
Alexander Thurston, a visiting professor at Georgetown University has written an absorbing background piece on the Seku Amadu attack, which can be found at his Sahel Blog here: https://sahelblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/on-seku-amadu-and-the-movement-for-the-liberation-of-masina/. Professor Thurston specializes in the study of Islam in Africa, particularly Islamic thought and politics in West Africa and connections between West Africa and the wider Muslim world.
The assault on heritage in Mali has been of ongoing concern here in the United States. Some background can be found in this 2013 Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Rescue and Reconstruction of Cultural Antiquities in Timbuktu: http://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/statement-on-the-rescue-and-reconstruction-of-cultural-antiquities-in-timbuktu
In his Statement, Senator Leahy pleaded for a resumption of US dues paying to UNESCO so that Americans can do their share in supporting a multi-lateral response to the war on culture. Unfortunately, his words have not yet been headed. Meanwhile, as the May 3rd attack in Hamdallahi illustrates, the assault on heritage in North Africa continues.

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