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In a horrific incident, three workers lost their lives and 3 others were injured when part of the historic wall of the Tunisian city of Kairouan collapsed on December 3 while it was being renovated as part of a project run by the National Heritage Institute and implemented by a private company.

According to the official Tunisian News Agency, the restoration project of the wall of the ancient city of Kairouan is part of the rehabilitation of a number of monuments in Kairouan (center) that began in 2016 with financial approval from the Sultanate of Oman, and the restoration of the wall of the old city comes as the last phase of the project.

While the authorities held the project responsible and suspended the project manager and contractor, Tunisian specialists and activists called for the protection of the landmarks of a city that has been established for 14 centuries.

On Monday, December 18, a spokesman for the Court of First Instance of Kairouan told local radio "IFM" that it was decided to keep the contractor in charge of the restoration of the wall of the old city and the engineer in charge of monitoring, without naming them.

Historic city

The old city of Kairouan, founded in the seventh century AD, consists of adjacent dwellings and narrow streets, surrounded by a wall that extends for more than 3 kilometers, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

A section of the fence, extending 30 meters by 6 meters high, collapsed near the "Bab al-Jaladin", causing the death of the three workers, while the other two suffered fractures and were taken to hospital, according to local media.

Dr. Riad Mrabet, professor of restoration of monuments at the University of Kairouan (center), said that the wall of Kairouan dates back to the beginnings of the city of Kairouan (50 AH / 670 AD)."

The current shape of the wall belongs to Ali al-Husayni, the "wali" of Tunis from 1759 to 1782, who rebuilt it in 1663 after the wall was affected by political turmoil in the Husseiniya state (1705-1957 AD) throughout the first half of the 17th century, he said.

He continued: There is no company specialized in the restoration of monuments in Tunisia, and the state did not allow the establishment of companies specialized in archaeological studies and the restoration of monuments.

According to the publications of the Association for the Maintenance of the City of Kairouan (independent), the wall is 3.8 square kilometers long, between 4 and 8 meters high, and 2.7 meters wide.

"What happened in the wall of Kairouan is a professional mistake in the field of restoration as a result of a miscalculation of the current status of the wall," the Tunisian academic told Anatolia.

Mrabet attributed the cause of the collapse to "a professional error because the fence was treated like any ordinary building".

"It is customary in the restoration work to divide the work by treating a suit (part of the fence) between two towers that do not exceed two meters in height, but the contractor opened a restoration distance of about 23 meters and did not take into account the rainfall, so the fence was saturated with water," he said. The heart of the wall is dirt, it has grown in size and collapsed."

"The engineer supervising the restoration of the wall is based in the capital and asked for a monitoring mission a week ago, and the National Heritage Institute refused to do so," he said.

Heritage Institute

In all cases, it is not the habit of the National Heritage Institute to constantly follow up on restoration work around the clock, as the work requires the presence of a specialized eye monitored around the clock.

"As an antiquities restoration specialist, I call on the state to allow the creation of companies specialized in the restoration of archaeological sites staffed by university graduates who specialize in engineering and heritage," he said.

Mrabet called for the support of the National Institute for Human Heritage, stressing that "the institute works without capabilities."

It's a big deal.

Samir Fiala, a civil society activist in Kairouan, was met by Anatolia as he looked with sorrow at the collapsed wall southeast of the old city, and said that "the renovations taking place in it were an Omani donation approved by the Omani Council of Ministers in 2014 worth $ 1.4 million, and the first installment was disbursed in 2015, which is $ 500,<>."

"There have been works since 2014, and we don't know if they were deep or medium. Then the work stopped, and two months ago the workers returned to work.

"What surprised us was that the person who took the deal was an ordinary contractor who does not specialize in restoring antiquities through a government tender, and we do not know if his workers are qualified to carry out such delicate works despite promises of monitoring," the activist said.

"The collapse happened suddenly, which is a big thing that happened in Kairouan, and we have three workers who were working on the restoration of the wall who died under the rubble of the collapsed wall," he said.

A 14-century-old city

"We are in a city that is about 1400,<> years old, and it is not easy to find a self-righteous city like Kairouan," Fiala said.

"There are three important landmarks that distinguish the wilaya from others in Tunisia: the wall, the Great Mosque (Uqba Ibn Nafi) and the Aghlabid Sufqiya," he added.

On the importance of the wall for the citizens of Kairouan, Fiala said, "The wall is one of the pillars and emblems of the city of Kairouan."

For his part, Mr. Allani, former governor of the Museum of Islamic Civilization and Arts in the city of "Raqqada" of Kairouan, told Anatolia that the wall is a Husseini that was restored in the 18th century, and all the materials with which Kairouan was built have been preserved in general, roasted bricks and virgin soil.

"There is no doubt that water has something to do with the fall of the wall, especially in traditional construction," Allani said.

He pointed out that there is "criminal responsibility pursued by the judiciary, and there is a moral responsibility that there is a threatened world heritage, Kairouan has been registered in the World Heritage since 1988 and is a tourist city since 1965, but what we see and what we see is alarming."

"After the Tunisian revolution (in 2011), the Association for the Conservation of the Old City lost its partnership with the National Heritage Institute and the authority to restore the sites returned to the National Heritage Institute," Allani said.

"In ancient Kairouan, 50 percent of the houses (houses) are demolished, and there are legal difficulties in restoring them due to the difficulty of obtaining materials that conform to specifications and the weakness of government grants to help restore them," he said, worth 250 dinars (about $81), a one-time grant given to those who apply to the authorities to improve housing.

Kairouan lived on the Waqf (endowments) and was abolished by former President Habib Bourguiba in July 1957, and everything was transferred to the state, according to the governor.

"One of the functions of the Awqaf Association is restoration, and all landmarks have endowments, and when they are dissolved, they are supposed to be carried out by the state," Allani said. It must set the conditions for doing so and draft laws to ensure it, and this the state can do."

Heritage protection

"Whoever has part of the heritage must have cadres and a budget, for example, mosques are the prerogative of religious affairs, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs does not have a budget to restore mosques or scientific cadres that provide restoration without distortion," Allani said.

He demanded "a charter (law) to preserve the city of Kairouan because it has its own characteristics."

"In Kairouan, we are preparing for a major event, which is the 14th anniversary of the founding of the city after about five years, when we reach the year 5 of the Hijra," he said.

He added: "Kairouan was founded in the year 50 of the Hijra, from which Islam was spread in Africa, and it is a major event that we must prepare for."

"If the state is experiencing a financial crisis, and heritage needs significant funding and real cadres, we can employ stamps (for donations) sold to serve heritage in the city to protect heritage," Allani said.

The implementation of the Omani donation project began in the first phase of a number of heritage monuments in Kairouan in 2016, and the works continued over the past years and are nearing the end soon, according to Tunisian techniques and maintenance standards, and the restoration of the old city wall comes as the last phase of the project.

The city of Kairouan contains hundreds of important monuments that document the history of the spread of Islam, and we find on top of them the Aghlabid Fasqiya, the historical wall and the Uqba Ibn Nafi Mosque.

Source : Anadolu Agency