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Historic Iraqi homes, buildings fall to wrecking ball

As urbanization is expanding in Iraq, construction companies are not taking into account the country's rich heritage and archaeological history, as historical landmarks are destroyed and replaced by modern buildings.

BAGHDAD — Ali al-Khafaji inherited in 2014 an old house in the old city of Hillah, in Babil province, 120 kilometers (74 miles) south of Baghdad. The house dates back to the Ottoman era in Iraq (1532-1918); its official documents indicate that it was built in 1905. However, the building's history did not deter Khafaji from destroying the house in February 2015, along with its traditional wooden windows and decorated walls that were engraved with religious phrases by skilled craftsmen who are hard to find these days.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Khafaji discussed the reason for destroying the property. He said, “It is located on a street with shops and so I could profit from that. No one stopped me from destroying it [and replacing it with a shop], because it is my property. Even the municipality did not offer to buy it from me despite its great cultural importance.”

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