Locals and cultural officials are angered by the demolition of a 300-year-old minaret, a move they say is tantamount to “the destruction of Iraqi cultural history,” the Art Newspaper reports.
The minaret, a nearly 40-foot tower made of brown mud bricks attached to a mosque, was demolished to make way for a road expansion by at the behest of Basra’s governor, Assad Al Eidani, who claimed it was a public safety hazard and was in danger of collapsing.
However, the Sunni endowment which owns both the land and the mosque as well as officials from the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage say that the demolition violates an agreement with the city’s government that would have seen the tower preserved and moved to a new mosque at a different location.
“We are shocked by this action,” Laith Majid Hussein, the director of SBAH, told the Art Newspaper. “The minaret was of great significance. It was in very good condition and one of the few intact minarets of its era.”
The remains of the tower are still on site at the mosque and, according to Hussein, there is talk of “legal action” against the Basran government. However, he says the main priority is the preservation and restoration of the tower and the SBAH is already reaching out internationally to experts on how to rebuild the tower.
Hussein says similar projects have proved successful in the past. In the mid-1980s, a minaret in the Anbar province that was threatened by modernization was carefully disassembled by a team of experts and moved to another location.
“SBAH is on a mission to preserve our heritage,” Hussein told the Art Newspaper. But he admitted there are many challenges involved in the project, so much so that “it seems like Mission Impossible.”