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Targeting Cultural Sites is a War Crime

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January 6, 2020

Contact Name: Jeff Martin

Targeting Cultural Sites is a War Crime

On behalf of more than 50,000 scholars and researchers in the humanities and social sciences, our scholarly and professional societies call upon people throughout the US and, indeed, around the world to remind the President of the United States that targeting cultural sites for military activity is a war crime except under the narrowest of circumstances, and cannot be justified under any circumstances.

The President has threatened via Twitter to target 52 sites in Iran, including cultural sites, if Iran retaliates for the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, and he has reiterated that such an action is appropriate even after members of his administration attempted to express restraint. Whatever other efforts are underway to de-escalate hostilities and pursue diplomacy, the Administration must be dissuaded from continuing to threaten cultural sites and civilians.

Cultural sites at risk of damage or destruction by military activity are irreplaceable and result in a loss to civilization, history, and human understanding. The US Department of Defense has gone to extraordinary lengths to coordinate with knowledgeable experts over the past two decades to protect cultural sites in the region. This apparent reversal of strategy is misguided, short-sighted, and will only serve to enrage the Iranian people, for whom the President himself has professed his personal admiration.

Destruction of cultural sites, like the targeting of civilians and noncombatants, must never be considered as a military objective. Please let the administration know how you feel about this issue, and let your Congressional delegation know as well using the form embedded at the bottom of this page. 

American Anthropological Association

American Folklore Society

American Philosophical Association

American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies

Archaeological Institute of America

Bibliographical Society of America

Coalition for American Heritage

Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Community

Executive Committee of the Association for Jewish Studies

Heritage Watch International

Historians of Islamic Art Association

Medieval Academy of America

Middle East Studies Association

Modern Language Association

Organization of American Historians

Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania

Rhetoric Society of America

Society for American Archaeology

Society for Applied Anthropology

Society of Architectural Historians

Society of Biblical Literature

Society for California Archaeology

Society for Cinema and Media Studies

Society for Classical Studies







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