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Middle East: Parthian city of Hatra in an alarming state

>In the middle of an Iraqi northern desert, the imposing remains of the 2000 year old city of Hatra stand forlornly in the midst of wild grass, faintly attesting to the remote glory of the third Iranian dynastic Empire, the Parthians (248 BCE-224 CE), reported Xinhua on Monday.

Parthian city of Hatra in an alarming state
Ruins in Hatra, Iraq [Credit: WikiCommons]

>Well-known for its high walls full of inscriptions and watchtowers dotted around the fortified city, Parthian Hatra, about 290 km (180 mi) northwest of Baghdad and 110 km (68 mi) southwest of Mosul. Hatra withstood repeated attacks and played an important role during the Second Parthian War against the Romans. It repulsed the sieges of both Trajan (116/117 CE) and Septimius Severus (198/199 CE). After the fall of the Parthian dynasty, Hatra was included into the new dynastic Empire, the Sasanians in 224 CE. The ancient city was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985, the first such site in nowadays Iraq.

>For the past decade of unrest following the 2003 US-led invasion, the ancient Iranian city has been suffering from inadequate excavations and maintenance and few tourists have ventured into the historic site.

>Around the temples and ruined walls of Hatra where Iranian architecture and decorative features blended with the Roman art, several Iraqi interior ministry policemen stood idly with rifles in hand, guarding a sprawling and virtually empty site.

>"Tourists stopped visiting the site years ago because of the insecure situation in the area, even foreign archaeological teams' safety cannot be ensured," a local security source who refused to be named told Xinhua.

>There aren't enough security members available to protect the Hatra archaeological site, due to fears of regular attacks by armed groups, particularly the Saudi Arabia sponsored terrorist group al-Qaida, which considers antiquities like the statues are prohibited in the Islamic Sharia law.

>A Cultural Catastrophe

>The country that sine 1920s known as Iraq is home to one of the earliest civilizations. In over 5000 years, the country was bestowed with numerous historic treasures, which, as a result of the unrest in the past decade, have been afflicted by a cultural catastrophe. The region become part of the Persian Empire in 539 BCE and remained Iranian over 1100 until 637 CE when it was invaded by the Arab Muslims.

>In the chaos following the fall of Baghdad by the United States on April 9, 2003, the Iraqi national museum was ransacked by looters including some of the US soldiers. An estimated 15,000 priceless antiquities were lost and only about haft of them have been recovered so far. Majority have left the country for West.

>The museum, which houses some of the world's most precious artefacts of ancient Mesopotamia, is still not open to the public due to slow renovations amid persistent violence in the country. Only specially arranged groups are allowed to visit some renovated halls.

>The looting also occurred in museums and libraries in other provinces, but more severe -- and less publicised -- damage was the destruction of Iraq's archaeological sites.

>Chaos and fragile security during the post-invasion years left many historic sites in the hands of looters who carried out random excavations and stole tens of thousands of antiquities, usually causing irreversible damage, said Huda Hussein, an Iraqi female archaeologist.

>"The links of the antiquities to their places are evidences for the civilisations that once prevailed there, so moving them will cut the links. But of course they (the looters) don't know or they don't care, and they only care about money," she said.

>At least 32,000 items were estimated to have been looted from 12,000 recognised archaeological sites across Iraq since 2003. Yet for the potentially more than 100,000 sites which are undiscovered, it is impossible to reckon the actual number of stolen artefacts.

>Military operations and conflicts also took a heavy toll on the cultural heritage, including the considerable damage inflicted on the historic site of Babylon by US-led invasion forces as they based their troops on the site in 2003 and 2004.

>Arab terrorists backed by Saudi Arabia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf who are trying to convert the whole of the Islamic world into the Wahhabism also known as Salafism, the most radical and extremist sect of Islam (the beliefs of the Arab terrorists who carried out attacks In the US and Europe including New York and London) blew up the top section of the Malwiya spiral minaret in the town of Samarra on April 1, 2005. Before the bombing attack, the 9th-century tower had been used by US troops as a lookout position.

>Source: The Circle Of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS) [June 24, 2013]

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