Heritage Heroes – Iraq
Najeeb at the Bibliothèque du Saulchoir, Paris (France).
Photography: Bozica Babic
Iraq, Erbil Citadel
(Cultural World Heritage *2014)
"Humanity is the most beautiful thing in this life. Not religion. So we should respect various thoughts and beliefs and work together to complete each other as a mosaic. This is beauty."
The Dominican monk Najeeb Michaeel has been labouring for more than 20 years in the tradition of the Mosul Monastery to conserve, digitise and make accessible ancient documents and historical photographs.
When the fundamentalist movements came to pose a concrete danger in 2007, he swiftly planned the evacuation of archival documents to transfer them over the course of many months to the monastery in Karakoch, 50 km away from Mosul.
In 2014, he again organised the evacuation just two weeks before the attack of the ISIS fighters. The Dominican monks and other religious minorities fled only a few hours before the monastery was captured.
With a particular sense of foresight, Najeeb develops action strategies in the crisis region: The rescued objects are now located in Erbil in the same building as the accommodation for refugees, which he established and now manages. This is where the Christian and Yasidi minorities are taught the conservation of books. By maintaining the artefacts, they can preserve their cultural identity and develop a new connection to the cultural Word Heritage site of Erbil as a refuge for cultural diversity.