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Academic Groups Condemn Threat to Target Cultural Sites

January 7, 2020
 
 

Academic groups on Monday condemned threats by President Trump to attack Iranian cultural sites. Trump said over the weekend that his administration had identified 52 Iranian sites, some of importance to “Iranian culture,” to target for attacks in the event Iran retaliates for the killing of Major General Qassim Suleimani last Friday in an American drone strike. Targeting cultural sites could be a war crime under international laws, but Trump has doubled down on the threat, as The New York Times reported.

“On behalf of more than 50,000 scholars and researchers in the humanities and social sciences, our scholarly and professional societies call upon people throughout the U.S. and, indeed, around the world to remind the President of the United States that targeting cultural sites for military activity is a war crime except under the narrowest of circumstances, and cannot be justified under any circumstances,” says a joint statement from 11 scholarly groups, which variously represent anthropologists, archaeologists and literary scholars.

“Cultural sites at risk of damage or destruction by military activity are irreplaceable and result in a loss to civilization, history, and human understanding,” the statement added. “The U.S. Department of Defense has gone to extraordinary lengths to coordinate with knowledgeable experts over the past two decades to protect cultural sites in the region. This apparent reversal of strategy is misguided, short-sighted, and will only serve to enrage the Iranian people, for whom the President himself has professed his personal admiration.”

The statement was signed by the American Anthropological Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, the Coalition for American Heritage, the Society for American Archaeology​, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Modern Language Association, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the Society for Biblical Literature, the Society for Classical Studies, the Medieval Academy of America and the Society of Architectural Historians. The Archaeological Institute of America also issued its own separate statement on the matter, and the Society for American Archaeology sent a letter to Trump opposing the targeting of cultural sites.

 

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