Archaeologists urged not to become part of the war planning against Iran
More than a thousand archaeologists from all over the world gathered in Dublin
at the end of June to attend the 6th World Archaeological Congress (WAC). WAC
is the only archaeological organisation with global elected representation, and
one which places particular emphasis on archaeological ethics.
In the final plenary session on Friday 4 July 2008, the delegates passed a
resolution which not only opposes any military attack on Iran, but also urges
archaeologists not to offer any advice to the military on archaeological issues
during the planning of such attack. In the recent past, archaeologists in the
USA were approached by the military and were asked to provide expertise and
advice on Iranian archaeological sites. The Congress felt that to provide such
information at this stage is to offer “cultural credibility and respectability
to the military action”. In 2003, prior to the invasion of Iraq, some
archaeologists both in the USA and the UK were asked to provide (or
volunteered) information on sites “to be spared”. Their actions attracted
considerably criticism from many of their colleagues.
The text of the resolution is as follows:
“The 6th World Archaeological Congress expresses its strong opposition to any
unilateral and unprovoked, covert or overt military action (including air
strikes) against Iran by the US government, or by any other government. Such
action will have catastrophic consequences for millions of people and will
seriously endanger the cultural heritage of Iran and of the Middle East in
general. Any differences with Iran (as with any other country) should be
resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means.
The Congress also urges its members, all archaeologists and heritage
professionals to resist any attempts by the military and governments to be
co-opted in any planned military operation, for example by providing advice and
expertise to the military on archaeological and cultural heritage matters. Such
advice would provide cultural credibility and respectability to the military
action. Archaeologists should continue emphasising instead the detrimental
consequences of such actions for the people and the heritage of the area, for
the past and the present alike. A universal refusal by archaeologists and
others would send the message that such a plan is hugely unpopular amongst
cultural professionals as well as the wider public”.
CONTACT: Dr Yannis Hamilakis, University of Southampton, co-ordinator, WAC
“Archaeologist and War Task Force” (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dr Umberto Albarella, University of Sheffield, (email@example.com)