1,800 old site labeled 'investment opportunity'
Uproar in Najaf as municipality announces development on ancient Christian burial grounds
NAJAF, January 22 — The Najaf Municipality Directorate’s announcement of a development project in the Manathera district, at a Christian cemetery site, has sparked a dispute among local citizens. Activists are demanding the project be halted, and the district commissioner’s office in Manathera is suing the Najaf Municipality, having already lodged an official complaint with Governor Majid Al-Waeli.
The cemetery is situated in the Umm Khshem area of the Al-Hyrah sub-district, located in southern Manathera. It is believed to be approximately 1,800 years old and contains the remains of Christian inhabitants of the era, as well as artifacts and coins from the same period, historians note. The site about 22.3 acres.
The Najaf Municipality has invited citizens and firms to its headquarters in the Al-Adalah district to participate in a bid for the ‘investment opportunity’, which involves constructing a residential complex on the cemetery grounds. This proposal has been criticized by some activists who argue that the land legally belongs to the Manathera Municipality.
Yaser Al-Jubouri, a local resident, told the 964media, “This cemetery, which we estimate to be around 1,800 years old and contains hundreds of graves, should be preserved as a historical site. We are dismayed that it is being considered for development and urge the authorities to immediately halt this project.”
Activist Ali Hassan, in an interview with the 964media, questioned the legality of the Najaf Municipality’s decision, asking, “How can they propose a development project on land that isn’t even under their administrative control? This is unlawful.”
Iyad Al-Zurfi, the Sub-District Director of Manathera, said, “We are closely monitoring this situation. We’ve instructed the Manathera Municipality department to initiate legal proceedings against the Najaf Municipality’s website administration for announcing the development bid. We have also filed a formal complaint with the Governor of Najaf, as they proceeded without our consent, which is against the law.”