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The Return of the Assyrian Lamassu to Iraq

Assyrian Lamassu flank the entrances to Baghdad International Airport. ( Al Sura)
The Ancient Assyrian Lamassu has a long history within the Middle Eastern region which saw the large Assyrian empire make its mark across the lands. The Lamassu was a hybrid of a winged bull or lion with the face of a human male. This appeared throughout the mesopotamian region that was ruled by the Assyrian empire amongst others. The role the lamassu played was a protective deity encompassing all life within them. They first appeared the the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh as physical entities in the lands. The eventually evolution of the lamassu across the Assyrian and Akkadian empires led to its widespread use in entrances as a protective icon, often two lamassu would flank an entrance to a city or state building.

In this time Iraq is defeating ISIS which has attempted to erase any beliefs that are contrary to itself, be it Shia Islamic, Assyrian, Sumerian or Ezidi. It has been imperative for the state of Iraq to not only defeat this terrorism that aims to erase the rich history of the country but also the state must begin to not only preserve but activity enshrine its history across the state.

One famous landmark in Baghdad is the Mohammed Ghani Hikmat statue depicting the Sumerian Demi-God Gilgamesh holding together a cuneiform seal which is broken at it's base. This encompasses the effort that the Iraqi government needs to display to preserve its ancient history. Iraq holds within its lands the collective history of several civilizations, all of which are frequently referred to with great pride by many of it's citizens. Given this strong identity to the ancient eras in Iraq, the differentiation of Iraqi identity from the rest of the region where Arab identity is predominant, it follows that Iraq would enshrine this history in its everyday operation.

Mohammed Ghani Hikmat statue of the Gilgamesh holding together a cuneiform seal in Baghdad. ( Al Sura)

In late September 2017 we saw the Iraqi government expand its efforts despite the ongoing war against ISIS and rebuilding efforts, in expressing the ancient history of the Assyrian peoples. Two winged lamassu were constructed with the help of local artists in entrances to Baghdad International Airport. The Babylonian Ishtar gate was also built in conjunction with the lamassu. These two icons represent some of the most well known civilizations in the world. The emphasis on these icons in Iraq continues to have a profound effect on the identity of Iraqis which have for a long time been characterised as simply Arab and Islamic. The continued work of the Iraqi government as well as the Iraqi people in expressing the ancient history of Iraq shows a clearer commitment to a greater identity than simply Arab or Islamic. Neither Arab nor Islamic appropriately describe the state of Iraq and those two identities are certainly not the only ones the state should encompass.


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