Speakers bemoan loss of Iraqi art

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In a forum at Kresge Auditorium last night, scholars discussed a side of Iraq rarely covered in the nightly news: the rich artistic history of the country.

“While we all hear about Iraq in the news, we don’t hear that Iraq had a thriving culture,” said Nada Shabout, a professor of Arab visual and Islamic art at the University of North Texas.

As the third out of five conversations in the “Iraq: Reframe: Iraq’s Lost National Treasures” series, last night’s event aimed to reframe popular conceptions of Iraq with a focus on the arts.

McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist from the University of Chicago, spoke alongside Shabout at the event, while Stanford’s Iranian Studies Program Director Abbas Milani served as moderator.

Iraq was once the center of Mesopotamia, one of the world’s earliest civilizations, and the allure of its ancient art exists through the present. However, Shabout fears that the violence in the Middle Eastern state today will overshadow Iraqi art and its storied history.

“In a couple of years, it is going to be difficult to talk about Iraqi art at all,” she said.

Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, more than 15,000 valuable items have been stolen from the National Museum of Iraq. Looters have stolen a variety of historical artifacts, often receiving $50,000-plus for each item on the black market.

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