Iraq’s cultural heritage negatively impacted by sectarian politics experts say

Iraq’s cultural heritage negatively impacted by sectarian politics experts say
The city's newly renovated downtown area, with the ancient Erbil Citadel in the background. Mariwan Salihi for The National

The National News : Iraq’s cultural heritage negatively impacted by sectarian politics experts sayIraq’s cultural heritage negatively impacted by sectarian politics experts say

Iraq’s cultural heritage has been deeply impacted by the implementation of the quota-based political system that has brushed aside the idea of a national identity, experts said.

The system, known as the Muhasasa, ensures senior positions in government are divided among the various ethno-sectarian groups. It has linked the state’s economy to political blocs that advocate to have some kind of a sectarian identity.

“It has created an incentive to accentuate sectarianism whereby people from specific groups care about specific, parochial, sectionalist identities rather than the national interest,” Mehiyar Kathem, a University College of London based researcher with focus on Iraq’s cultural sector said during a Chatham House seminar.

“There isn’t a national heritage supported by the state due to the political nature of power in the country,” he said.

Iraq is a complex area to work in and develop the cultural sector due to competition between the various political blocs that has been established by the system.

“Cultural heritage is an extension of politics and mushassa has created powerful groups in the region that competes with the state so there is no real support for national identity and citizenship,” Mr Kathem said.

It is not in the interest of political parties to build a national consensus among the Iraqi public, there must be reinforcements made to enforce a sense of identity and belonging in order for developments to be made, he said.

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