During the April plenary session in Strasbourg, Labour MEPs voted in favour of a European Parliament resolution on the Destruction of Cultural Sites by ISIS/Da'esh.
The resolution followed an initiative by the Socialist and Democrats members of the Committee on Education and Culture of the European Parliament to raise this important issue in a debate with the European Commission and the Council, after the recent attacks perpetrated by ISIS/Daesh against Bardo museum in Tunis, the intentional destruction of the Mosul museum in Iraq, as well as of historical sites in Syria.
The resolution reflects the great concern of the members of the European Parliament and their strong call for the EU to act urgently in the face of this tragedy.
Julie Ward MEP, Labour European spokesperson for culture said:
"Just as the heinous and horrific crimes ISIS commits against ordinary civilians are not only a matter for Iraqis and Syrians, but are a matter for humanity at large, so is the destruction of these ancient cultural sites a matter of common human heritage and identity. The Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia is one of the birth-places of human civilisation, and the sharing of culture with others, is a natural human mechanism for creating openness and understanding between diverse groups of people. It is that common humanity that co-existence and understanding that ISIS seeks to destroy. It is right therefore that the international community moves to act against these crimes."
Through the resolution voted, Labour MEPs particularly call on attempting to track and document that which is lost, and providing support to the brave Syrian and Iraqi archaeologists who are attempting to document artefacts that are destroyed, and are engaged in the prevention of looting, at risk to their own lives.
Members of the European Parliament are also concerned that the lootings of archaeological sites and the illicit trafficking of cultural artefacts are used as an instrument of war to finance terrorist activities, and asked the European Commission to block the trade in the EU Member States of cultural objects illegally removed from either country.
In her speech during the plenary debate, Julie Ward MEP drew a parallel between this action of cultural cleansing and the use of cultural heritage in Europe:
"The concern for the common historic cultural artefacts goes hand in hand with the EU's moral obligation to support those victims of ISIS' crimes against humanity, and providing a moral and humane response to those thousands of refugees fleeing these wars, crossing seas, and risking their lives to seek safety. That very same common humanity embodied by our common cultural heritage demands that we provide a compassionate response to their plight.
What happened in Syria and Iraq must also teach us a lesson on how we must use cultural heritage here in Europe, not as an exclusive and divisive tool but as an educational instrument to deal with societal issues and contemporary challenges, to foster intercultural dialogue in order to bring people of Europe closer, together to live in peace."