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UNESCO launches the reconstruction project of the Al-Askari shrine in Iraq

UNESCO launches the reconstruction project of the Al-Askari shrine in Iraq
  • © UNESCO/Alessandra Peruzzetto
  • The Al Askari Mosque (or Golden Mosque) in Samarra. Its dome (9th century) was bombed and destroyed on 22 February 2006. It was covered in 72000 gold pieces, was 20 metres in diameter and 68 metres high.

UNESCO and the Government of Iraq signed, on 24 June, a Memorandum of Understanding for the reconstruction of the Al-Askari Holy shrine, in Samarra (Iraq), badly damaged by two attacks on 22 February 2006 and 13 June 2007.

“The commitment of the Iraqi authorities and the international community to work together on the reconstruction of this highly symbolic site is a reason for hope,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. “Respecting cultural heritage is one of the fundamental principles of the reconstruction process for a country such as Iraq, and a decisive step towards national reconciliation.”

The reconstruction will start as soon as security conditions are guaranteed and will continue over a period of ten months. The first phase of the project includes preventive works, an assessment of needs and the preparation of the final restoration project. The total budget amounts to $US8.4 million. The United Nations Development Group Iraq Trust Fund (UNDG ITF) will provide $US 5.4 million and the Government of Iraq $US 3 million.

The Al Askari shrine is one of the holy sites of Shi'ite Islam. It is home to the tombs of Ali Al Hadi, the tenth imam, who died in 868, and his son Hassan al-Askari, the eleventh imam, who died in 874. The explosion on 22 February 2006 caused the collapse of the shrine’s Golden Dome and of the Ali al-Hadi shrine. The explosions of 13 June destroyed two 36 metre high minarets of the Al-Askari shrine.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Amman (Jordan) by Mohamed Djelid, Director of the UNESCO Iraq office, and Hak Al-Hakeem, advisor to Iraq’s Prime Minister for Reconstruction and Environment Affairs.


  • Author(s):UNESCO Press Release No.2007-75
  • 26-06-2007
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