The Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, as part of its multi-organizational partnership under the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq (SHOSI) Project, produced and distributed two pocket-sized, illustrated training aids for military personnel. These training aids, the Guide to Mosul Heritage and the Guide to Heritage in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, provide information about the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, including basic map coordinates and visual information about important religious and cultural heritage sites in and around the respective areas. This information is designed to assist military personnel in carrying out the mission against ISIS while complying with international humanitarian law.
Published in October 2016, the Guide to Mosul Heritage was designed to familiarize Coalition military personnel with cultural sites potentially at risk during their operations in and around Mosul. Funds for design and printing were provided by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. U.S. Army Civil Affairs personnel based in Erbil assisted with distribution of print and electronic copies to military units in Iraq. The success of the Guide led to requests for a similar product for the Raqqa Offensive.
The Guide to Heritage in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor was published in July 2017 to provide U.S. and Syrian Democratic Forces with military information about important religious and cultural heritage sites in and around Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The Smithsonian Institution provided funding for the design and printing of the Guide. Distribution is ongoing.
Both training aids were printed in English, Arabic, and Kurdish and produced in a collaboration among the Smithsonian, the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS), and the Military Cultural Heritage Action Group (MilCHAG).
Heritage Maps and the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
The 1954 Hague Convention requires military combatants to avoid damage to cultural sites whenever possible within the bounds of military necessity. The U.S., Iraq, and Syria are all parties to the treaty. U.S. personnel are providing military training to the Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, and the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIS. The idea comes from the work of the academic community to provide heritage information to the military for use in WWII. Such information has been distributed in more recent conflicts in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, as well as the Mali Heritage Passport map to MINUSMA Peacekeeping personnel serving in Northern Mali.