First Published: 2003-07-10

 
Iraq's Nippur easy prey for looters
 

Ancient Mesopotamian city which boasts temple of Enil is in state of total decay after standing sacked by looters.

 

Middle East Online

By Bertrand Rosenthal - NIPPUR, Iraq

UNESCO sounded alarm over the state of Nippur

Nippur, a jewel of Iraq's glorious Mesopotamian past, today stands sacked by looters.

The city, 200 kilometres (120 miles) southeast of Baghdad, dates back to 5,000 BC and boasts the temple of Enil, principal god in the Sumerian pantheon.

Clay tablets have been discovered here, chronicling the lives of the Sumerians, Akadians and Babylonians, but all of that has been rooted out during the plague of looters that descended on antiquity sites across Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's fall.

Perhaps this is the greatest indignity inflicted on the city abandoned by its denizens in the ninth century AD.

"The gang of thieves come armed in the night," says Jamil Fadhel, a retired professor living in the small village of Afak, seven kilometres (four miles) south of the archeological site.

In the midday heat, the site is empty, not a US soldier around, just camels and lambs alongside the irrigation ditches.

The locals seem to resent the US forces in the chaos and anarchy after the final chapter of Saddam's authoritarian regime.

"We do not need anything from the Americans. We can guarantee our own security," says Fadhel Marhab Lafta, a resident of Afak, but "we want them to protect the site".

"This is our civilisation," he said, adding before no thieves could sneak into this site, where great kings ruled including Hammurabi of Babylon who drafted one of the world's first known code of laws.

Mohammed Abdel Hadi, a 44-year-old labourer, said only once did US helicopters swoop down and try to scare off the looters.

Villagers from Afak say they will not travel to the site with armed escorts but admit that some looters operated even under Saddam's rule.

"At night, I hear the thieves," says Abbas Karmod, the site guard for the team from the University of Chicago that had conducted digs here periodically since 1980.

"We have no weapons," he says, while "the looters are well organised."

Professor Munir Buchenaki, deputy cultural director for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), sounded alarm over the state of Nippur and other historic sites Saturday.

"We were also sadly surprised by the decay, the lack of maintenance ... of historic buildings and monuments," he said, describing some as being of crucial cultural importance but in a state of total decay.

Isin, another Mesopotamian site, is also completely destroyed, he said.

"It is total destruction of an archaeological site. The site was supposed to be protected," Buchenaki said.

The head of the University of Chicago team, Mcguire Gibson, visited a month ago and since then a UNESCO team has toured the site.

But while goodwill missions study what to do, the pilfering in the cradle of civilisation carries on. Jordanian customs have recovered artifacts along its borders and at Amman airport.

The looting has been a scourge from the north to the south, with the sacking of the national museum in Baghdad the ultimate symbol of the rampant lawlessness since Saddam fell.

 

Nine killed in luxury Tripoli hotel attack

Obama, Saudi king discuss IS fight, Iran

‘Islamic State’ gives Jordan 24 hours before execution of hostages

Baghdad flights suspended after ‘arms fire’ hits flydubai jet

Saudis pledge allegiance to new king on Twitter

Three killed in Tripoli luxury hotel attack

UN harshly criticises Turkey for deterioration of human rights

Ex-Shebab chief urges others to surrender in first public appearance

Bomb kills and wounds three terrorists in Egypt's Alexandria

Three killed in protest against MINUSMA in Mali

Humanitarian crisis looms for thousands of families in southern Iraq

Rockets fired from Syria explode in Israeli-occupied Golan Heights

Egypt Grand Mufti condemns actions of Muslim Brotherhood

Residents trickle back to Kobane after expulsion of jihadists

Obama comes to Saudi with heavyweight delegation

Cash-strapped UNRWA halts Gaza house repairs

Erdogan says Turkey opposed to Syrian Kurdistan

'Constructive spirit' at Libya peace talks

US says Syria’s Kobane not fully liberated from IS

Egypt court orders release of Mubarak sons pending retrial

Drone targets Qaeda suspects in crisis-hit Yemen

Saudi Arabia seeks greater American role in Middle East crises

Iraq army announces liberation of Diyala from ‘Islamic State’

Tunisia parliament delays confidence vote on new government

After 4 months of fighting, Kurds expel ‘Islamic State’ from Kobane

Libya warring factions meet in Geneva to resume peace talks

Assad: US idea to train rebels illusionary

Tunisia's Ennahda rejects Essid cabinet line-up

Alleged Algerian jihadist arrested in Morocco

UN Security Council to on Yemen crisis

Obama vows to maintain pressure on Qaeda in crisis-hit Yemen

Gaza announces plans to ready sea port for international travel

Barrage of rockets rains down on Syria capital

Egypt extends Sinai state of emergency by three months

Syria ambassador to UN to head government team in Moscow talks

Qatar court tells US family to decide on fate of alleged killer

Gunmen kidnap Libya deputy foreign minister from hotel room

Erdogan visits war-torn Somalia amid tight security

New violence as Egypt marks anniversary of 2011 revolt

Yemen Huthi rebels fire in air to disperse Sanaa protest

Gridlocked streets of Saudi capital turn quiet for day of mourning

Islamist websites confirm death of Ansar al-Sharia chief in Libya

World leaders head to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences

Iran parliament starts to draft law on nuclear enrichment hike

Mauritania prison siege ends with captives freed