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Great Mosque of al-Nuree / Al-Hadba Minaret

Iraqi forces on 29 June 2017 took control of the ruins of the historic al-Nuree mosque in the city of Mosul, where three years ago the head of the Islamic State group declared the establishment of a caliphate. Militants blew up the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri mosque and its leaning 45-meter minaret a week earlier, furthering the devastation of Mosul during eight months of fighting.

Located in West Mosul, in the old city, the Great Mosque of al-Nuree was considered one of the main historical mosques in Iraq. It was originally built by Nureddine Zangi in 1172 AD, during the Abbasid Caliphate. It underwent several renovations and restorations throughout the years.

Its outstanding iconic feature was the leaning minaret known as al-Hadba (the hunchback), which had retained its authentic architectural and structural features for hundreds of years. The Al Hadba minaret is the most outstanding feature of the Great Nurid Mosque. The minaret has been leaning 253 cm off the perpendicular axis for several years, suffering from serious structural weakness and risks of collapsing. The 150 foot (45 meter) minaret was one of the few original elements of the medieval Nur al-Din complex, which had been placed on the World Monuments Watch due to its risk of destruction, but not on the UNESCO World Heritage lists.

The "Leaning Tower of Pisa" or simply the "Tower of Pisa" ("Torre di Pisa") is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. Closed from 1990 to 2001 due to fears of an imminent collapse, the tower has been stabilized at a 4.95 degree lean. The height of the tower is 55.86 meters (183.27 feet) from the ground on the low side.

As early as 2012, UNESCO worked for the safeguarding of al-Hadba. A few days prior to the occupation of Mosul by Daesh in June 2014, UNESCO had taken an important step towards safeguarding and consolidation of the al Hadba Minaret. Works had to be interrupted due to the conflict, although a comprehensive study for the conservation of the minaret has been completed and could be useful in the future. In February 2017, UNESCO convened an International Coordination Conference on the Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in Liberated Areas of Iraq and adopted an Action Plan for the future safeguarding of this outstanding cultural heritage.

On 22 June 2017 the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, deplores the destruction of the Al Nuree Mosque and Al Hadba Minaret in Mosul. “The Al Hadba Minaret and Al Nuree Mosque in Mosul were among the most iconic sites in the city, and stood as a symbol of identity, resilience and belonging. When Daesh targeted the mosque and minaret a few month ago, the people of Mosul formed a human chain to protect the site, proving once again that the protection of heritage cannot be delinked from the protection of human lives,” said the Director General.

“This new destruction deepens the wounds of a society already affected by an unprecedented humanitarian tragedy, with 3 million internally displaced persons and 6,2 million in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. This calls for immediate and strengthened international mobilization,” added the Director-General.

Since the launch of the offensive in Mosul in October 2016, around 750,000 to 800,000 people have been displaced from the city; many are trapped or being used as human shields. “On this day, I wish to express to the people of Iraq UNESCO’s renewed solidarity and readiness to support, restore and rehabilitate cultural heritage whenever possible. Despite all odds, the spirit of resilience embodied by al-Hadba must prevail and UNESCO will continue to stand by the people of Iraq to regain their heritage and fight back against all forms of extremism and violence through culture, education and human rights.”

For comparison, Qutub Minar, is the tallest brick minaret in the world, at Mehrauli, Delhi, India - the height is 72.5 meters (237.8 ft). The 820-year-old Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan is the world’s second tallest brick minaret, with a height of 213 feet. A combination of high floods in 2013, illegal excavations for archaeological artefacts, and the difficulty of reaching and restoring a site that lies in a Taliban-dominated area left the tower abandoned with a 3.47 degree tilt. This is less than the 5.5-degree tilt that the Tower of Pisa once endured, but the minaret is 30 feet taller and its foundations much less secure.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2017 19:35:56 ZULU