On 22 March the Global Centre hosted an event on the destruction of cultural heritage focused on the crimes against the Yazidi and Uyghur populations. The systematic destruction of cultural heritage often aims at demolishing a targeted group’s history and symbols, undermining their cultural continuity, and may pose an existential threat to their survival.
During the genocide against the Yazidis in 2014, at least 68 significant Yazidi cultural sites were systematically destroyed by the armed extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as part of their campaign to eradicate the Yazidi presence in northern Iraq. In China the authorities have destroyed Uyghur cultural heritage – including shrines, cemeteries and pilgrimage sites – as part of their ongoing and systematic persecution of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. Approximately 16,000 mosques, 65 percent of the total in Xinjiang, have been destroyed or damaged as a result of government policies.
During the event panelists explored the connection between the destruction of cultural heritage and commission of mass atrocities and examined actions the international community can take to protect vulnerable populations.