In April 2003, the world looked on in horror as the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was systematically and tragically looted. Thousands of invaluable objects went missing or were destroyed. Even today, objects from the museum are still missing, and news coverage continues. What’s more, archaeological sites in Iraq and around the world continue to be plundered for their objects, which are then smuggled and traded illicitly. This immeasurable loss hurts us all, as cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource to be shared with all humanity.
Although the Museum opened very briefly on February 23, 2009, it remains closed to this day. According to Dr. Donny George, former director of the Iraq Museum, besides VIPs and journalists, no one from the public is allowed inside. He also said that the museum displays none of its original small items; they remain in hiding. Large items fixed to the walls and floors are still there, along with some items that were brought back to the museum and some recently excavated items.
April 10-12, on the anniversary of the tragic looting of the Iraq Museum, we urge everyone to join SAFE and others around the world to commemorate the loss and to acknowledge that we are all responsible for the protection of our shared global cultural heritage.
In 2011, the SAFE Global Candlelight Vigil for the Iraq Museum was renamed the Donny George Candlelight Vigil for Global Heritage, in memory and honor of the former director of the Iraq Museum and his ardent support of the protection of the world’s shared cultural heritage. Dr. George, who initiated the Candlelight Vigil in 2007 with SAFE, passed away in March 2011.