Iraqi authorities demolish a 300-year-old mosque to expand Basra coastal road
Iraqi authorities in the city of Basra demolished a 300-year-old mosque and its minaret last Friday evening to expand a significant coastal road, Abu Al-Khasib in Basra, which sits on the Gulf Sea.
The move shocked locals and was condemned by culture officials.
Al-Siraji mosque was built in 1727 in the city of Basra and it is one of the main historical sites in Iraq, distinguished by its architectural style. Its unique minaret was built with mud bricks.
Iraq's Ministry of Culture said it would respond legally following the demolition of the minaret of Al-Siraji mosque.
"While we affirm the keenness of the Iraqi government and people to build, advance and progress at all levels, we reject harming any building that bears a heritage or archaeological feature, whether religious or civil," as it is considered "the property of the cultural and heritage history of Iraq," the ministry said.
Al-Siraji mosque and its 1,900 square metres area are owned by the Sunni religious endowment.
The ministry called on the Sunni and Shia endowments to "intervene and stand firm and punish their affiliates if they are allowed to transgress or falsify historical facts".
However, the governor of Basra, Asaad al-Eidani, said in a media conference on Sunday that the removal of the mosque and its minaret was done after notifying the Sunni Waqf.
"It was agreed upon between the Basra local government and the director of the Sunni endowment after his recent visit to the province," Eidani said.
The Sunni endowment said they agreed to demolish the mosque but not the mud-brick minaret, which should have been dismantled manually and preserved for future generations. Iraq's Sunni Supreme Endowment Council said that it submitted more than one request confirming that the minaret should remain in place.
But a Basra official said on Sunday that Mohammed al-Mula, who represents the Sunni endowment in the city, was at the site during the demolition of the minaret, and he "neither complained nor objected".
The Basra local government vowed to construct a new mosque and rebuild the ancient minaret in a nearby site with a budget of $900,000, saying that the old mosque location caused traffic in the city.
Iraq's Sunni Supreme Endowment Council said that it submitted more than one request confirming that the minaret should remain in place.
Some Iraqis were shocked to see a 300-year-old minaret knocked down in minutes, describing it as "a crime against the national heritage", the biggest loss since the Islamic State group blew up the Al-Hadba minaret in 2017 in Mosul.