Amedy, a historic hilltop town in northern Iraq rich with unique monuments and intangible traditions, was included on the 2016 World Monuments Watch to highlight the need for urgent urban planning to integrate new development that meets community requirements with minimal damage to the historic fabric. Dr. Eng. Shireen Y. Ismael, a member of of the Steering Committee of Development in Amedy, shares her thoughts.
When I first visited Amedy back in the early 1980s, I was fascinated by the city’s unique location (situated on a hilltop with an area less than 0.5 km2) and its diverse landscape, consisting of surrounding mountains, grassy plains, and lush forests. I was immediately hooked to the city and I wanted to know more about it, specifically its history and cultural heritage. To any onlooker, it is very obvious from the archaeological sites that the city is very old, dating back to 900 B.C. and possibly even older. It is one of the most important cities in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. This has inspired me to write a report justifying its position in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites program. Amedy made its way to the tentative list in 2011.
The local population is very proud of the city’s heritage. Stories about the city have been passed down from generations by means of oral tradition. These stories often reflect traditional folklore, wars that happened in the area and foreign intervention from outside powers such as the Ottoman Empire. Older traditions survive to this day among the locals. Spiritual sites such as shrines still exist. These shrines were made by many different groups that once inhabited Amedy, such as Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
The documentation of the historical buildings was a good start by the local authorities. A good step was the Duhok government staff collaborating with the University of Duhok staff. In my opinion, this was an important step to following upon the process of protecting the city’s heritage and its landscape. The Amedy Watch Day (October 27, 2016) was an opportunity to raise awareness of the valuable cultural landscape the city has. Our target audience was the younger population. As we hoped, the young population did volunteer to support our efforts, members of the documentation project were explaining the methods and tools they used to document the sites, and it was very informative discussion. All made the Watch Day a success.
Photo: Watch Day at Amedy took place in October, 2016. Participants included students and staff members from the college of spatial planning and applied sciences at the University of Duhok.