Iraqis urged to protect cultural heritage as violence intensifiesListen /
The people of Iraq have been urged by the head of the United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) to unite and protect their cultural heritage.
The call has come from Irina Bokova, who has expressed concern about an upsurge of violence which, she says, is causing renewed human suffering and loss of life in the country.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Ms. Bokova said that she feared cultural heritage will be looted and destroyed, just as it was several years ago in Iraq and again during the recent tragic events affecting Syria.
She said the country's cultural heritage "represents a unique testimony of humanity."
Her concerns come as Iraqi forces battle fighters from an insurgent group know as ISIS who have taken over a number of towns in the country.
Ms Bokova called on all those involved in the fighting to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites.
She warned that their destruction would be considered a war crime.
The UNESCO Director-General said the perpetrators must be held responsible for their acts.
She urged Iraqi leaders and communities to safeguard their country's cultural heritage, adding that UNESCO stands ready to assist.
Sophie Outwaite, United Nations