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UN criticises cultural cleansing in Iraq, Syria

UN criticises cultural cleansing in Iraq, Syria

UNITED NATIONS: Two top UN officials have denounced the systematic cultural cleansing afflicting societies in Syria and Iraq as “crimes against all of humanity”.

This was stated by United Nations Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Irina Bokova, who met in Paris on Tuesday to discuss the destruction of cultural heritage and possible measures to counter the rise of violent extremism.

Meeting on the eve of an international conference on the protection of victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East in which the Unesco director-general will also participate, the two UN officials also discussed the destruction of heritage and illicit trafficking, as well as persecution of communities on religious and ethnic grounds, led by violent extremists, and in the context of a rising humanitarian crisis involving millions of refugees as well as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

A press release from Unesco said the deputy secretary general and the director-general discussed possible measures to counter the rise of violent extremism, including with young people, to strengthen the ground for living together in all societies, through education towards a global citizenship and enhancing knowledge about different cultures and about history.

“All of this shows the humanitarian crisis cannot be separated from cultural cleansing,” said Ms Bokova. “These are part of the same strategic imperative and must stand at the heart of all efforts for peace. The cultural heritage and diversity of this region must be safeguarded for future peace, as part of the identity of all humanity.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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