Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites ‘a huge crime against the worldwide civilization’

January 6, 2020 - 20:59

TEHRAN - Cultural and tourism officials, activists and fans across Iran, have signed petitions and issued statements in the past two days over Donald Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites, emphasizing that it equals a huge crime against the worldwide civilization.

Trump tweeted Saturday that if Iran attacks any American assets to avenge the killing of the IRGC Quds Force Qassem Soleimani, the U.S. has 52 targets across the Islamic Republic that “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

Some are “important to Iran & Iranian culture,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

A petition by tourism activists urges the United Nations to take measures to end the threat against human cultural heritages. The campaign has so far been supported by several officials including deputy tourism minister Vali Teymouri, ISNA reported on Monday.

“By signing this petition, I declare that the United States of America president’s threat in attacking Iranian cultural and historical sites cannot be concerned as political issues and disagreements between governments and nations,” the petition reads.

“By signing this petition, I declare that the United States of America president’s threat in attacking Iranian cultural and historical sites cannot be concerned as political issues and disagreements between governments and nations.”

“Iranian historical and cultural heritage belongs to human civilization and mankind in the present, past, and future. Any threats and damages to human cultural heritages by anybody in any countries equals a huge crime against the human worldwide civilization.”

Meanwhile, the director of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Hojjatollah Ayyubi, in a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, called for the UN body to both condemn the U.S. president’s threats and inform the public of dangers of such behavior.

The official also reminded a 2017 UN Security Council resolution condemning the destruction of heritage sites, prompted by the actions of ISIS and other armed factions in Syria and Iraq.

“Threatening cultural heritage is a war crime,” Iran’s tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan announced on Sunday in a reaction to the hostile message from the U.S. president.

Moreover, the National Museum of Iran issued a statement on Monday, denouncing Trump’s threat to strike 52 Iranian targets that are important to Iran and Iranian culture.

“Museum condemns U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent tweet (11:52 January 4, 2020) threatening to strike 52 Iranian targets that are important to Iran and Iranian culture. This is clear that targeting cultural sites is against UNESCO’s Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property during War and Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention, Article 53 - Protection of cultural objects and of places of worship of 12 August 1949. Undoubtedly, such action to destroy cultural properties that belong to human heritage is a war crime, and we expect the international community to take necessary actions, even words, especially coming from high-profile political figures,” the statement, signed by the museum’s director Jebrael Nokandeh, reads.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in reaction to the threat, said such a move would be filed as a war crime and another breach of international law.

“Having committed grave breaches of int’l law in Friday’s cowardly assassinations, @realdonaldtrump threatens to commit again new breaches of JUS COGENS,” Zarif wrote in a tweet on Sunday.

“Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME; Whether kicking or screaming, end of U.S. malign presence in West Asia has begun,” Zarif added.

Trump’s threats have also provoked criticism by some international celebrities and social media users that deliberately attacking cultural sites would be a war crime.

Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel at the U.S. Department of Defense emphasized that targeting “the clearly-recognized historic monuments, works of art or places of worship” was a war crime.

Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama and national security adviser to ex-vice president Joe Biden said that “the Pentagon would not provide Trump targeting options that include Iranian cultural sites.”

John G Hertzler, an actor, and an author, reacted by saying that the American people “are not” behind Trump in response to a Twitterer, who said he backed the president.

Eugene Gu, a politically active user on social media, said “the President of the United States should never threaten on Twitter or anywhere else to target another country’s non-military cultural sites.”

Oscar-winning American actor and film narrator Morgan Freeman also lashed out at Trump for threatening to target Iranian cultural sites, stressing that Trump was not his president.

“Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME and makes you no better than the terror you claim to be fighting,” Freeman wrote in a tweet.

After an al-Qaeda affiliated group destroyed ancient religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012, the International Criminal Court took on a unique criminal case: prosecuting cultural destruction, CNN said on Monday.

An attack on a cultural site would violate several international treaties and would likely be considered a war crime.

In 2017, for example, a United Nations Security Council resolution “condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, including the destruction of religious sites and artifacts.” That resolution came as a response to the ISIS’s destruction of a number of major historical and cultural sites in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and 2015.

The 1954 Hague Convention, of which the U.S. is a party, bars any military from “direct hostilities against cultural property.”

Iran embraces hundreds of historical sites such as bazaars, museums, mosques, bridges, bathhouses, madrasas, mausoleums, churches, towers, and mansions, of which 22 being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Under the 2025 Tourism Vision Plan, the country aims to increase the number of tourist arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

AFM/MG

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