Arab military women take part in UNESCO workshop

For the first time, female military personnel from the armed forces of Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq gathered at UNESCO’s regional office hall in Beirut to participate in a workshop on protecting cultural property during armed conflict. (UNESCO Beirut Twitter)
Updated 03 October 2019

Arab military women take part in UNESCO workshop

BEIRUT: For the first time, female military personnel from the armed forces of Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq gathered at UNESCO’s regional office hall in Beirut to participate in a workshop on protecting cultural property during armed conflict. They did so along with female officers from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
“Our goal is to introduce participants to means of protecting cultural property during hostilities and military occupation,” UNESCO’s Joseph Kreidi told Arab News.
This is important because “we’re in a region that has witnessed and is still witnessing wars,” he said.
“We decided to allocate a workshop exclusively for women so as to empower them and to promote gender equality, in line with the organization’s objectives.”
Dr. Eric Klein, a senior technical adviser at UNESCO, presented a lecture on ways to protect cultural property during armed conflict, and how it could be a joint civilian-military mission.
Dr. Ali Badawi, regional director of the Lebanese Directorate General of Antiquities, shared with the participants the directorate’s experience in protecting his country’s antiquities during armed conflict.
Catherine Hanson, a researcher in preserving cultural heritage, introduced them to means of dealing with and documenting artifacts.
Myriam Haddad, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, gave a lecture on how to protect civilian areas under international humanitarian law.
Col. Ziad Rizkallah of the Lebanese Army told Arab News that the Lebanese participants in the workshop have law degrees and “are military police investigators and engineers in brigades stationed on the border.”
Before going to the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, where they spent the day among its relics and ruins, the participants listened to the Lebanese experience in protecting these relics.
“The border area of Naqura abounds with ruins and relics, as do all the cities on the Lebanese coast. We rushed to conduct surveys of the sites to preserve them,” said Badawi.
“This area hasn’t witnessed urban movement for decades, which contributed to the relics’ preservation.”
Answering a question about the fate of stolen artifacts that arrive in Lebanon and are seized, Badawi said: “Lebanon keeps the seized relics, but it informs the countries that it has them in its possession, asking them to verify their loss.”
Jordanian military women praised the opportunity that the workshop provided them. “The importance of the workshop is that it allows us, with the participation of men, to safeguard cultural property,” one of them said.
An Iraqi military official said: “The workshop provided us with steps to protect our country from the theft of antiquities, and to recover stolen antiquities on display in various museums around the world.”
She added that Iran, Jordan and Syria are used as routes to smuggle antiquities out of Iraq. She highlighted the serious damage caused by Daesh to archaeological and religious sites.
“When we return, we’ll explain and teach others how we can act to preserve the relics of our country,” she said.


World’s oldest pearl found in Abu Dhabi

Updated 56 min 20 sec ago

World’s oldest pearl found in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI: An 8,000-year-old pearl that archaeologists say is the world’s oldest will be displayed in Abu Dhabi, according to authorities who said Sunday it is proof the objects have been traded since Neolithic times.
The natural pearl was found in the floor of a room discovered during excavations at Marawah Island, off the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which revealed the earliest architecture found in the country.
“The layers from which the pearl came have been carbon dated to 5800-5600 BC, during the Neolithic period,” Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism said.
“The discovery of the oldest pearl in the world in Abu Dhabi makes it clear that so much of our recent economic and cultural history has deep roots that stretch back to the dawn of prehistory,” said its chairman Mohamed Al-Muabarak.
The excavation of the Marawah site, which is made up of numerous collapsed Neolithic stone structures, has also yielded ceramics, beads made from shell and stone, and flint arrowheads.
The “Abu Dhabi Pearl” will be shown for the first time in the exhibition “10,000 years of Luxury” which is opening on October 30 at the Louvre Abu Dhabi — the outpost of the famous Paris museum.
Emirati experts believe that the pearls were traded with Mesopotamia — ancient Iraq — in exchange for ceramics and other goods. They were also likely worn as jewelry.
“The Venetian jewel merchant Gasparo Balbi, who traveled through the region, mentions the islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi as a source of pearls in the 16th century,” the culture department said.
The pearl industry once underpinned the economy of the United Arab Emirates, but the trade collapsed in the 1930s with the advent of Japanese cultured pearls, and as conflicts rocked global economies.