UNESCO adds Erbil Citadel to World Heritage List

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has added the Erbil Citadel to the list of World Heritage Sites after its application received the majority of votes from members at the 21 June committee meeting in Doha.

In a statement to, the Head of the High Commission for the Erbil Citadel Revitalization (HCECR), Dara Yaqubi, said, “We explained the history and conditions of the Citadel and the possible threats facing it in a series of meetings to committee members. In the last meeting, 18 out of 21 members voted for Erbil Citadel to be added to the list of World Heritage Sites.”

Yaqubi explained that a member state of the committee was required to sponsor the application. “In our case, Algeria undertook this task, for which it expressed its full support and played a significant role.” He added that Iraq’s delegation to UNESCO was enthusiastic in its support of the application.

Despite the negative recommendations given by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), he stressed that “the HCECR is willing to work with them.” He also pointed out that in addition to Algeria, Turkey had also played an instrumental role in emphasising the importance that the Erbil Citadel be accepted without deferral to a later date.

The Citadel, built as an elliptical town in the heart of Erbil, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is situated 415 meters above sea level and 26.25 meters above the ground.

Estimated to be 7000 years old, the Erbil Citadel has been mentioned in various historical sources. In 2000 BC, it was referred to as Erbelium in Sumerian records. During the Akkadian era, 2350 – 2150 BC, the Akkadian’s first king, Sargon of Akkad, passed through Erbil in his attack against the Guttis in an attempt to expand his empire. The town was mentioned as Arabelo, or ‘the four gods.’

Erbil was also a part of the historical Battle of Gaugamela in 331 BC between Alexander the Great of Macedon and the Persian King Darius III. It was a decisive victory for the Hellenic League, which led to the fall of the Persian Empire. In the works of Arab and Muslim historians, the city’s name has also been referred to as Irbil and Arbeel. The Kurds refer to the capital as Hawler.