Lack of revitalization budget puts historic Erbil Citadel at risk of collapse, official warns

The Erbil Citadel is under the risk of collapse due to a lack of budget for rehabilitation as well as heavy rains that have recently damaged the monument.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Erbil Citadel, a historic site which dates back thousands of years, is under the risk of collapse due to a lack of budget for rehabilitation as well as heavy rains that have recently damaged the monument, a Kurdish official said on Wednesday.

The citadel was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 2014, and is considered “one of the most dramatic and visually exciting cultural sites not only in the Middle East but also in the world.”

Restoration of the historic site began in 2010 when the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had allocated a USD 13 million budget for the project.

“In the past few years, a significant budget was provided for the revitalization of the citadel, but over the last three years, the budget has been very limited,” Dara Yaqub, head of the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR), told Kurdistan 24.

“For the past two years, no budget was allocated at all.”

Located in the center of the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, many people recently noticed that portions of the citadel’s outer wall had collapsed.

“It is not only that part but also many structures within the citadel have partially collapsed. This is a result of the lack of budget and attention given to the site,” Yaqub said.

If the archeological site continues to suffer from insufficient funds, the walls of many other monuments inside the citadel might cave in as well, he warned.

The Erbil Citadel has been passed through Sumerian, Assyrian, Sassanid, Mongol, Christian, and Ottoman hands. Throughout history, the citadel has been home to mosques, churches, synagogues, schools, and homes.

According to the Kurdistan Region’s census in 1995, the Erbil Citadel was home to 1,631 people, inhabiting 247 homes.

Kurdish archeologists have expressed their concern that the Erbil Citadel has not yet become a tourist destination in Kurdistan.

“Unfortunately, the citadel has not been turned into a tourist destination yet, and the [KRG] has not paid special attention to it,” Sangar Mohammed, a local archeologist, told Kurdistan 24.

He warned that if more monuments collapse inside the citadel, Kurdistan “might lose this important archeological site, and its name could ultimately be removed from the UNESCO World Heritage list.”

The 100-foot high Erbil Citadel, which has a large Kurdistan national flag flying atop, provides visitors an astonishing view of the city.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

(Additional reporting by Diyari Shekha)