14.COM 10.B.17

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Iraq has nominated Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation (No. 01474) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation is a social practice performed across the central and southern regions of Iraq, from where processions of visitors and pilgrims converge towards the Holy City of Karbala. The tradition – a social practice with deep roots in the Iraqi and Arab tradition of hospitality – is an immense display of charity through volunteering and social mobilization and considered to be a defining element of Iraq’s cultural identity. Every year, around the 20th of the Islamic month of Safar, the Iraqi province of Karbala receives millions of visitors in one of the world’s most populous religious pilgrimages. Hailing from different regions in Iraq and abroad, visitors walk to the Holy Shrine of Imam Hussein. A vast number of people contribute their time and resources to providing the pilgrims with free services along the route. Starting at least two weeks before the date of Arba’in, associations set up temporary facilities or reopen more permanent ones along the pilgrimage routes, including prayer halls, guest houses and stands offering various services. Many people also open their houses for free overnight accommodation. Bearers and practitioners include cooks, families offering hospitality, the administration of the two Holy Shrines in Karbala, volunteer guides, volunteer medical teams, and benefactors contributing generous donations.

2. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation plays a significant role in the rapprochement between cultures and nationalities and is a central element of Iraqi cultural life. It has been an important part of the religious, cultural and historical identity of the members of the related communities. It is transmitted through the joint participation of members of all generations and genders within Husseinian services associations, which are often family-based. It also plays an important role in ensuring social interdependence and wealth redistribution.

R.2:   The provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation is a social institution associated with a specific religious event, which transcends religious or ethnic affiliations. As such, it encompasses the values of cultural diversity, cultural dialogue and mutual respect between people of different affiliations. Through its inscription, the visibility and awareness of the importance of local expressions of hospitality with deep cultural and historical roots would be raised at the national and international levels.

R.3:   The proposed safeguarding measures are well-conceived and coherent with the importance of the element. They provide a logical continuation of the measures undertaken by the communities concerned and the State Party and cover different goals centred on ensuring the viability of the provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation. They mainly focus on formal education, building infrastructure for the element, and collecting and disseminating information on the element to researchers and the public.

R.4:   The nomination process for the provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation has followed a long path since 2016. During this period, many workshops and meetings have been held with the participation of various sections of the population, led by a group of specialists. The members of the communities concerned provided the main ideas for the first document. They then discussed these ideas and the first draft and approved the final document.

R.5:   The provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation was included in the National List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Iraq in 2014 and updated in 2017. The updating mechanism is clear and the relevant community members participate in the process.

3. Decides to inscribe Provision of services and hospitality during the Arba’in visitation on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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