This initiative, a partnership among the GCI, World Monuments Fund, the Iraq Ministry of Culture, and the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH), aimed to mitigate threats to and repair damage sustained by Iraq's cultural heritage and to rebuild the country's professional conservation and heritage management capacity.

The initiative included the following components:

Known as the Cradle of Civilization, Iraq contains more than ten thousand recorded archaeological sites and monuments. In addition, many thousands of sites have not been excavated. Following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, widespread looting decimated hundreds of these sites. Postwar sanctions prohibited Iraq from receiving international assistance, leaving the country's cultural patrimony in the hands of a severely depleted antiquities staff hampered by inadequate expertise and funding.

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Following the 2003 war, the principal focus of media attention was on the looting and destruction of museums and archives in Baghdad and other cities. Less attention was given to the destruction and endangerment of an untold number of archaeological sites, among them the ancient sites of Babylon, Nineveh, Ctesiphon, and the World Heritage Site of Hatra. In addition to the loss of artifacts, looting has resulted in the destruction of the region's archaeological record—a significant loss to the world's cultural heritage.

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A number of Iraq's important historic architectural structures and complexes were damaged or are endangered. These include the minaret of al-Nuri Mosque in Mosul, the spiral minaret of al-Mutawakkil's Mosque in Samarra, and the Qushla Administrative Complex—a group of Ottoman buildings in central Baghdad that served as the seat of government agencies, including ministries and courts. This complex and others were looted in the civil unrest following the 2003 conflict.

In response to this situation, the GCI and World Monuments Fund (WMF) signed an agreement in March of 2004 with the Iraq Ministry of Culture and the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) to establish the GCI-WMF Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative. In its work, the Initiative collaborated with Iraqi officials and colleagues and coordinated its efforts with those of UNESCO and other cultural institutions.

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The primary objectives of the Iraq Cultural Heritage Conservation Initiative to identify and address priorities for the conservation and management of archaeological and architectural sites in Iraq; to develop long-term tools and professional capacities to support the role of the Iraq State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) in the stewardship of Iraq's archaeological and architectural sites; and to support conservation and management of archaeological and architectural sites in Iraq.

Page updated: January 2015