Saddam Hussein's Palace Will Become a Museum in Iraq

A new center for art and cultural activities

April 14th, 2016
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In September 2016, more than 13 years after the invasion on Iraq, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's palace in Basra, second largest city in the country, will be open to the public. It served as a mess hall for the British army and now it will become the first museum inaugurated in Iraq since the 2003 occupation.

Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti served as the fifth President of Iraq from 1979, until the invasion on Iraq in 2003. His rise to power began in 1957, when he joined the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party. In 1964 he was imprisoned for attempted merger regime and released after 2 years. Later he took over the leading role in the 17 July Revolution in 1968, in which General Ahmad Hasan al- Bakr came to power. The following year, after killing 51 prominent Iraqis, he had accused of spying, became Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Iraq. In 1979 he became president of Revolutionary Council and Iraq. The Middle Eastern dictator was later convicted of crimes against humanity—including willful killing, illegal imprisonment, deportation, and torture—and was sentenced to death by hanging in 2006.

The director of the Basra section of the state board of antiquities and heritage in Iraq, Qahtan al-Abeed, plans to show in the exhibition artefacts from the ancient civilizations of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria. Beside that he also wants to exhibit Islamic art, with nearly 3,500 objects from Baghdad's Iraq Museum. The British Museum offered free curatorial support. The palace underwent bombardments which damaged some of its parts and in addition to the renovation work, the doors will be strengthened with steel in order to prevent looting. The project is estimated to cost $3.5m. It will be funded by British charity - Friends of Basrah Museum ($500,000) and by the Basra government ($3m).

This project has the aim to become a center of meeting between different cultures. As Qahtan al-Abeed said: "We want a very modern museum that does more than display objects. We want to bring in people for all kinds of art and cultural activities, including training courses and professional meetings.”

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Cultural Diplomacy News
Urška Čelig and Caterina Gion, CD News