Culture & Cultural Heritage

U.S.-Iraq Cultural Heritage Cooperation

Iraq holds a place of prominence in world history. As the birthplace of writing, the wheel, and countless other inventions, Iraq has been shaping human civilization for 10,000 years. The United States is committed to working with Iraq to protect and preserve its precious national and global heritage. A bilateral commitment to cultural heritage cooperation is a prominent feature of the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement (PDF 648 KB). Since 2003, the United States has provided some $33 million (as of 2015) in support of a broad range of cultural heritage projects in Iraq. Through cooperation in support of the Future of Babylon project to conserve the ruins of ancient Babylon, the return to Iraq of looted antiquities, training Iraqi preservationists, and upgrading Iraqi museum facilities, lasting cultural bonds are being strengthened between the American and Iraqi peoples. This ongoing cooperation manifests America’s respect and appreciation of Iraq’s rich culture, its important place in history, and its contribution to our shared human heritage.

A cornerstone of U.S. cultural heritage cooperation is helping Iraq to develop its capacity to preserve Iraqi heritage sites and antiquities as well as contributing to international efforts in support of the country’s cultural heritage.  A key U.S. partner in these and other efforts is the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, including the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH). Since 2003, the United States has helped to rehabilitate exhibit facilities at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad; train some 300 (as of 2015) Iraqi heritage and cultural staff ; establish and help maintain the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Heritage and Antiquities (IICAH) in Erbil; contribute significantly to the conservation of and management planning for the ancient Babylon site through the Future of Babylon Project, and; in partnership with international organizations, develop and distribute the Emergency Red List of Iraqi Antiquities at Risk to enable customs officials worldwide to identify looted and smuggled Iraqi artifacts. The United States also supports other programs to expand the professional skills of Iraqi archaeologists, conservators, and museum specialists country-wide. The U.S. contribution to these efforts since 2003 is some $33 million (as of 2015).

Cultural Exchange and Other Programs

The United States is committed to the robust implementation of the Cultural Cooperation Section of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. In addition to cultural heritage cooperation, this ongoing partnership takes the form of a variety of cultural and sports programs and exchanges each year to permit Iraqi and American artists, writers, athletes and others to develop professional and personal ties. Since 2003, some two dozen Iraqis (as of 2015) have visited the United States as part of International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) programs focusing on cultural themes. Participants include staff from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, museum curators and directors, preservationists, heritage site managers, academics, artists and many others. These programs connect Iraqi cultural heritage specialists with U.S. universities, museum and heritage practitioners and their organizations to share expertise, ideas and experiences. Participating Iraqis return to their country with enthusiasm to implement what they have learned at their home institutions. The U.S. Embassy Cultural Affairs Section facilitates cultural and sports events that bring U.S. artists, writers, educators, athletes, and others to interact with Iraqis in person and through remote digital programming. There are also opportunities for Iraqi artists and others to travel to the United States for programs such as the ONEBEAT program for musicians.