US President Donald Trump has threatened to attack cultural sites in Iran, reports the BBC. The New York Times has reported that the Pentagon has quashed these threats as these actions are prohibited under “the laws of armed conflicted”. However, the US president’s message sets an alarming tone for the state of artistic freedom.
“An attack on these cultural sites is a war crime as defined by the International Criminal Court and should be treated thus,” says Freemuse Executive Director Dr. Srirak Plipat, “Further, these threats show an alarming disregard to cultural heritage, the international cultural community, and humanity at large. Freemuse condemns this threat and calls on the USA standby the international law they have agreed to in order to protect these basic human rights and freedoms.”
On 4 January 2020, President Trump used his personal Twitter account to share that the US had identified 52 Iranian sites, some “at a very high level & (sic) important to Iran & (sic) the Iranian culture”, and warned they would be “hit very fast and very hard” if Tehran carried out revenge attacks on US interests or personnel for the drone killing of General Suleimani.
The US and Iran have signed conventions, including Article 53 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, to protect cultural heritage, including during conflict.
Iran is home to two dozen UNESCO World Heritage sites. Not only have these been determined as critical to preserve for their cultural, historical or scientific significance, but the threat to attack and ruin such further represents a threat to all humankind, as exemplified by the Hague Convention; “Damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind since each people makes a contribution to the culture of the world”.