The first Iraqi conference at the University of Reading took place on the morning of Friday 15th of July 2016. The conference was sponsored by the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in United Kingdom and the University of Reading; it was organised by Iraqi Students Society of the University, and was supported by Reading University Students’ Union.
The keynote speakers for this conference were Dr Salih Husain Ali, the Ambassador of the Republic of Iraq in the United Kingdom, and Professor Roger Matthews, the Head of Archaeology Department at the University of Reading. In addition, many other speakers gave powerful speeches, such as Professor Robert Van de Noort, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading; Dr Caecillia Pieri, an associate researcher of the Iraqi Heritage Institute in London and the head of the Urban Observatory at the French Institute of the Near-East (IFPO) in Beirut, and Ahmed Al-Arazah, a PhD student at the University of Reading.
The organising team was pleased to invite over 100 participants and guests, including their families. This Iraqi event was held in two of the University of Reading’s lecture theatres. The morning sessions were located in Palmer Building for academic talks and presentations, while afternoon sessions were held in the House Park hall and contained poster and art exhibition. These sessions demonstrated two achievements, first was the scientific posters of PhD students who are studying in different schools of UK universities, and the second session was the art exhibition which illustrated the beautiful galleries that were designed by Iraqi artists. In addition, there was a painting activity for Iraqi children.
Between these periods, there were two breaks: one was for refreshments, and another was for traditional and delicious Iraqi meals. This was a unique opportunity for the delegates and Iraqis to meet and exchange experiences and chat together.
The weather was delightful that day, which fuelled the participants with energy to actively take part in this wonderful event. In fact, this event was looking like a big Iraqi festival in the heart of the University of Reading. Not only PhD students and scientists participated in the conference, but also several artists, musicians, and poets took part, such as the musician Ehsan Al-Emam, and poets Worod Al-Musawi, Zainab Fadhal, and Murtadha Sachit.
The general theme for this event to canvass votes to include the marshlands of Southern Iraq into the World Heritage List of UNESCO, which takes place from 10th to 20th of July 2016 in Turkey. Meanwhile, this conference also provided many discussions and academic consultations that play an important resource to support the heritage sites in Iraqi.
Finally, the main goal of this conference was succeeded by adding the marshlands and heritage sites in Iraqi to UNESCO list on Monday (18/07/2016), so I want to wish a massive congratulations to Iraqis and a huge thanks to all supporters.
I would like to point out briefly and highlight what is the Marshlands of Iraq by this paragraph. Iraqi Marshlands are magnificent and beautiful wetlands, which are located in southern Iraq, which some people call the ‘Venice of Iraq’. Historically, the marshlands, mainly composed of the separate but adjacent Iran and Iraq marshes, used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Euro-Asia region. People who live there always provide the hospitality and friendliness, and they are always offering a warm welcome to all who would like to visit and see these heritage areas. However, these areas have suffered for decades from ignorance and carelessness. Unfortunately, before 2003, the marshlands were drained to 10% of their original size. Nevertheless, a few years later the marshlands have partially recovered, but drought along the upstream dam construction and operation in Turkey and Iran have hindered the process of raising the marshes. Therefore, this event has attempted to support these important wetlands by adding them to the heritage sites of UNESCO.
For further information, please visit the conference website http://icscr.org.uk/index.html
This article was written by: Mohammed Munis Dakheel
PhD Student in Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading
The co-chair of publicity team of the conference (ICSCR-2016)