- Eleanor Robson
From the project website (accessed 2019-10-01):
The Nahrein Network aims to tackle in tandem two challenges presently facing the Middle East:
- the systematic local exclusions from participation in the construction of Middle Eastern antiquity and history; and
- massive population growth, coupled with endemic instability, poverty and youth unemployment.
Nahrein is the Arabic name for Mesopotamia, the area between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates, centred on modern-day Iraq and northern Syria. The literate, urban cultures of Sumer, Babylonia and Assyria predate Greece and Rome by some millennia. Together with Egypt, they represent the crucial first half of world history.
This new antiquity, re-discovered only in the 19th century, is now jeopardised by the conflicts presently tearing the region apart. Since 2014, the destruction of heritage sites throughout Syria and Iraq has received widespread publicity. International aid projects have pumped millions of dollars of aid into the documentation, digitisation, and conservation of threatened and damaged buildings and archaeological sites across the Middle East. However, only a few of these schemes pay much attention to long-term, local interests and impacts.
At the same time, the whole region is struggling with the human effects of war. According to the UNDP's Human Development Report 2016, youth, women and girls, rural dwellers, and those living in conflict-affected areas are the four groups of people most at risk of being 'left behind'. Cultural, ethnic and religious minorities are particularly vulnerable to systemic exclusion.
We will enable people across the region to reclaim their ancient heritage as local history, putting it to constructive use for their communities. The Network will harness interdisciplinary humanities research and education to help Middle Eastern universities, museums, archives and cultural heritage sites build their capacity to contribute to their countries' economic, cultural and social development in the years ahead.