• Najaf

  • Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at 10:02:46 AM
    Last Update : Monday, March 4, 2024 at 1:45 PM

Christian Cemetery in Iraq’s Najaf Under Threat from Development Plans

(AWP) - Iyad al-Zarfi, the Mayor of Al-Manathira district in the Iraqi province of Najaf, announced his categorical rejection of the removal of archeological sites, namely the Christian cemetery of Umm Khashm, for the establishment of investment projects, deeming the ancient graveyard as “a national treasure.”

In statements to the Arab World Press (AWP), Zarfi said, “This cemetery, extending over an area of 1,415 dunams, tells the story of a very great civilization; the Kingdom of Al-Hira.”

The Umm Khashm cemetery in Najaf dates back to the Kingdom of Al-Hira which was founded in Iraq before Islam. It is one of the largest Christian cemeteries in the Middle East.

Its added significance is that it contains more than seven different burial methods, including the basin method, with ceramic and stone caskets as well as the highly significant glazed caskets, most of which have been plundered or stolen.

Aqeel Ghalib al-Fatlawi, General Coordinator of the Popular Committee for the Protection of Heritage in Iraq, also emphasised the significance of the Kingdom of Al-Hira and its vast civilisation, the majority of whom were Christians. He said, “From this very spot, Nestorian Christianity spread to the Arabian Peninsula.”

Fatlawi explained, “This cemetery and tombstones that were looted and stolen have solved many of the questions, codes, and symbols that archaeologists have used to discover other important archeological sites.”

Karim Abdullah, a man who lives near the cemetery, said that people who have livestock or who practice agricultural work in the area have received notices to clear any encroachments due to plans to excavate the cemetery having already entrusted an investor from Baghdad to do this.

He noted that the local inhabitants had tried to protect the nearby graves from robbers, but the ones further away had been robbed and destroyed.

Unlicensed and haphazard buildings have multiplied in the land adjacent to the Umm Khashm cemetery over the years and it has been exposed to the process of the looting and destruction of its antiquities, despite appeals made to the authorities concerned.