By Khidhir Domle
In an interview with The Globe, Showan Muhammad, director of the Suleimaniya National Museum, explains how the home of irreplaceable treasures withstood looting in chaotic times.
Showan Muhammad explained, "Despite my feeling of happiness, I want to cry." The happiness is because he and seven of his colleagues were able to save museum treasures during the 1991 uprising. His unhappiness is because the museum has yet to be renovated or fully redeveloped.
After a walk inside the museum, Showan Muhammad said, "We all worked to protect the culture of the city; at that time, it was difficult for the Peshmarga forces to protect the museum. Although it was not an easy job, we really decided to protect it."
The museum contains rare cultural artifacts that date back to the age of Hammurabi, the Stone Age, and also to Ottoman history.
"It is necessary to support the development of the museum, and the employees of the museum should be sent abroad in order to learn how to protect its artifacts; also, a great sum should be provided to the museum to expand and develop it," said Showan, who also works as a journalist.
Remembering difficult days of the past, he added, "Some cultural pieces were looted in the 1990s, and there are still investigations underway. At that time, there were people who tried to protect the museum in order for other nations to know that Kurds also have a cultural and civilized background in this small land." Smiling, Showan said, "While most of the people were busy looting and thieving, we defended the museum."
In the museum, people can see wooden boxes that date back to historical ages; when walking near them, one feels as if she or he is closer in time to such antiquated history.
"The museum includes many cultural pieces that are rare in other places, but not enough people care about it," said Delifa Abdullah Darwesh, who has worked in the museum for about five years.
"The ceiling of the museum is moist, and this would not be tolerated elsewhere in the world. That's why we need reconstruction in order to protect the museum," said Darwesh, adding: "Many people don't know that we have an important museum like this in the city of Suleimaniya. Visitors are few. That's why we are depending on the media campaign.
"The museum is located in a small place; that's why all the cultural pieces can't be displayed. The museum needs its employees to take useful and appropriate courses in order to learn the process of managing the museum and protecting the cultural artifacts."
The museum includes many cultural pictures of Kurdistan Region, including one of the Jarstoon cave in the city of Duhok. It includes archaeological items of Khinis in the Sheikhan, and also the obelisk of Hammurabi that dates back to 1792-1750 BC. There are many written expressions on the right side of the obelisk, such as one that describes Hammurabi standing opposite to the god of sun, the god of rightness and justice, with a stick in his hand; the circle symbolizes justice, and in cuneiform writing there are 283 law commandments.
"It is too bad that many people don't know about the cultural pieces that exist in the museum. The only thing that people know is just that we have a museum," said Bushra Nimat Ahmed, who has worked as an interpreter for about 10 years.
Ahmed added: "I feel happy with working in the museum, and I felt more happiness with Mam Jalal's decision to reopen it. The people should know that there is an important museum in Suleimaniya, but it still needs more effort. All nations know of the importance of museums, but not like the importance of the museum in the city of Suleimaniya."