UNESCO lists Iraq's Babylon as World Heritage Site

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A view of the Ishtar Gate at the ancient archaeological site of Babylon, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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A general view of the ancient archaeological site of Babylon, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (File/ AFP)
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A view of the Ishtar Gate at the ancient archaeological site of Babylon, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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A general view of the ancient archaeological site of Babylon, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (File/AFP)
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a man walks in front of Ishtar Gate at the archaeological site of Babylon, Iraq. (File/AP)
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A general view of the ancient archaeological site of Babylon, south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. (File/ AFP)
Updated 05 July 2019
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UNESCO lists Iraq's Babylon as World Heritage Site

  • The committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku to consider Babylon and another 34 sites, including in Brazil and Burkina Faso, for the World Heritage List
  • It opted not to designate Babylon as the World Heritage in Danger after objections from Iraq

BAGHDAD: UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted on Friday to list the sprawling Mesopotamian metropolis of Babylon as a World Heritage Site after three decades of lobbying efforts by Iraq.
Iraq had been trying since 1983 to have the site — a massive 10-square-kilometer complex of which just 18 percent has been excavated thus far — recognized by UNESCO.
Straddling Iraq’s Euphrates River about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad, the city was the center of the ancient Babylonian empire more than 4,000 years ago.
“What is the world heritage list without Babylon? How to tell the history of humanity without the earliest of old chapters, Babylon?” said Iraq’s representative to UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee ahead of the vote.
The committee met in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku to consider Babylon and another 34 sites, including in Brazil and Burkina Faso, for the World Heritage List.
It opted not to designate Babylon as the World Heritage in Danger after objections from Iraq.
“Babylon is the largest populated city in ancient history,” said Qahtan Al-Abeed, who heads the Basra Antiquities Department and led efforts to get the site listed.
“The Babylonians were the civilization of writing, administration and science,” he told AFP.
Putting Babylon on the World Heritage List “will encourage research and development of the site,” and would “be free publicity for tourists,” he added excitedly.
Babylon occupies a special place in religion, appearing in the Bible, Hebrew scripture, and even mythical prophecies.
It developed as a walled city of temples and towers made of mudbrick and known internationally for its hanging gardens, the Tower of Babel, and the Ishtar Gate.


Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

Egyptian Christians stand outside St. Markos Church in Minya, south of Cairo, Egypt, in this Jan. 6, 2015 file photo. (AP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Dead body business attracts medics, drug dealers in Egypt

  • Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students

CAIRO: The Egyptian Orthodox Church has issued a statement condemning the theft of the body of the Patriarch Gerges, son of priest Ibrahim Al-Basit, from his family’s burial place in the Minya governorate.
Last Saturday, the cemetery was opened and Al-Basit’s body was stolen. The crime of stealing the bodies of the dead has recently spread across Egypt, especially while the sanctity of the body remains preserved. It is also common for the remains to be collected two years after the burial.
Last October, a gang was arrested after stealing bodies from their graves. An investigation has revealed that the main defendant sold the bodies to medical students for practical learning.
Some of the gravediggers remove tissues and grease from the bones by boiling them to remove their odor before selling them to students.
The investigation found that the defendant had put a price on various limbs. The leg and the arm were priced at 3,000 Egyptian pounds ($180), the skull cost 5,000 pounds and the whole body was worth 20,000 pounds.
Ashraf Farahat, a legal expert and lawyer, said that Egyptian law demands up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of 100-500 pounds for criminals who violate the sanctity of graves.
Yasser Sayed Ahmed, a legal expert and lawyer, said he knew of many cases where cemetery guards and assistants help people access graves for superstitious reasons in exchange for large sums of money.
The majority of these cases are happening with the help of the guards of the tombs. They exhume graves at night to extract the bodies and separate the organs to sell bones and skulls. They often sell them to drug dealers by grinding and mixing some materials for sale at high prices.