Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.18

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Iraq has nominated Khidr Elias feast and its vows (No. 01159) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Every year in February communities in Iraq honour Alkhidr, a holy figure who, according to ancient beliefs, grants worshippers their wishes particularly those in need. In northern Iraq, during the last three days of the month, families gather on a hill where the sanctuary of Alkhidr is thought to be. Dressed in traditional clothes they enjoy specially prepared dishes and perform a popular dance called the dabkka. In the centre of Iraq, community members join on the bank of Tigris, which they believe is the sanctuary of Alkhidr. They deliver sugar, salt, henna, sweets and myrtle leaves and at night send lit candles on wood along the river, making vows for their wishes to be granted. If the candles go out before reaching the other side, the wishes are said to come true. In the south of Iraq, myrtle leaves are also brought but only one candle lit. If the candle goes out before reaching the other side, believers are encouraged to give to the poor on a Friday so their wishes are met. Younger generations learn about the practice from older family members and at school. Shared identification with the tradition has helped to build social cohesion within communities.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.1:   The feast of Khidr Elias is an element of intangible cultural heritage shared by different components of the Iraqi population beyond ethnicity or religious beliefs. The feast is associated with sacred dishes, vow-making practices, dances and traditional garments. The responsibilities of the practitioners involved in the feast and the modes of transmission (within families and through media and schools) are well described. The element plays an important role in building bridges of harmony, appreciation and rapprochement among different groups of people of various affiliations. The element is also said to promote a spirit of closeness, cheerfulness and gratitude towards ancestors among all Iraqi regions, despite ethnic, religious and other differences;

R.2:   The file makes a persuasive case in terms of how inscription would promote an element that provides a bridge across divides in the country. The nomination clearly states that inscription would encourage mutual dialogue, collaboration and solidarity among different ethnic groups, and religious communities. Given these social benefits that promote peace as well as the media focus on Iraq, the inclusion of the Khidr Elias feast and its vows on the Representative List will enhance the visibility of the Convention and intangible cultural heritage, and consequently the inscription will contribute to raising awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict and in general;

R.3:   The file indicates that the viability of the element is being ensured by the communities concerned themselves and in recent years, with State support. A number of safeguarding measures are proposed (including establishing an institution to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in the country, organizing training workshops and meetings with national experts to debate the element’s meaning and role, documentation and financial and other support to bearers and schools and rehabilitation of sanctuaries). The communities, groups and individuals concerned have been involved in planning these measures, as well as relevant non-governmental organizations, and they have expressed willingness to be involved in their implementation;

R.4:   In addition to the Cultural Relations Directorate (Ministry of Culture), various representatives of community members, bearers, government officials, non‑governmental organizations, research institutes, relevant institutions, groups and individual intangible cultural heritage experts concerned actively participated in the process of preparing the nomination file. The appended letters of consent demonstrate the range of communities, groups, institutions, and individuals concerned in support of the nomination. There are no customary practices restricting public access to this element;

R.5:   The element has been inscribed since 2014 on the First National Inventory List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Iraq, organized by the Cultural Relations Directorate (Ministry of Culture), with the participation of relevant non-governmental organizations, institutions and community members concerned. This inventory will be the object of further updating.

  1. Inscribes Khidr Elias feast and its vows on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.