Destruction of cultural heritage by ISIL
Template:History of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant The destruction of cultural heritage has been conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since 2014 in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. The premeditated destruction targets various places of worship, particularly those in Mosul, and ancient historical artifacts. In Iraq, between the fall of Mosul in June 2014 and February 2015, ISIL has plundered and destroyed at least 28 historical religious buildings. The valuable items from some buildings were looted in order to smuggle and sell them to finance ISIL activities. ISIL uses a unit called the Kata'ib Taswiyya (settlement battalions), who are ordered to choose targets for demolition. UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova branded the ISIL activities in this respect as "a form of cultural cleansing" and launched the Unite4Heritage campaign to protect heritage sites threatened by extremists.
Although Libya, Syria and Iraq ratified the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict in 1957, 1958 and 1967 respectively, it has not been effectively enforced.
Mosques and shrines
In 2014, media reported destructions of multiple, chiefly Shiite, mosques and shrines throughout Iraq by ISIL. Among them were Al-Qubba Husseiniya Mosque in Mosul, Jawad Husseiniya Mosque and Saad bin Aqeel Husseiniya Shrine in Tal Afar, Sunni Ahmed al-Rifai Shrine and tomb in Mahlabiya District and the so-called Tomb of the Girl (Qabr al-Bint) in Mosul. The Tomb of the Girl, reputed to honour a girl who died of a broken heart, was actually believed to be the tomb of medieval scholar Ali ibn al-Athir. In June 2014, ISIL bulldozed the shrine of Fathi al-Ka'en. On September 24, 2014, the Al-Arba'een Mosque in Tikrit, containing forty tombs from the Umar era, was blown up. On February 26, 2015 ISIL blew up the 12th century Khudr Mosque in central Mosul.
In Mosul, ISIL also targeted several tombs with shrines built over them. In July 2014, ISIL destroyed one of the tombs of prophet Daniel by implanted explosives. In the same year, on July 24, the tomb and mosque of prophet Jonah was destroyed with explosives. On July 27, ISIL destroyed the tomb of Prophet Jirjis (George). On July 25, 2014, the 13th-century shrine of Imam Awn al-Din in Mosul, one of the few structures to have survived the 13th-century Mongol invasion, was also destroyed by ISIL. All destructions were carried out mainly with explosive devices, in some cases with bulldozers. In March 2015, ISIL reportedly bulldozed to the ground the Hamou al-Qadu Mosque in Mosul, dating back to 1880. In the same year ISIL ordered to remove all decorative elements and frescoes from mosques in Mosul, even those containing Quranic verses that mention Allah. They were regarded by ISIL as "an erroneous form of creativity, contradicting the basics of sharia". At least one imam in Mosul opposing that order was shot to death.
On June 16, 2014, it was reported that the ISIL elements were instructed to destroy all churches in Mosul. On July 26 of the same year it was announced that ISIL elements blew up the Virgin Mary Church in Mosul with several improvised explosive devices. Later, on September 24, ISIL militants destroyed with improvised explosive devices the 7th-century Green Church (also known as St. Ahoadamah Church) belonging to the Assyrian Church of the East in Tikrit. In early February 2015, ISIL blew up the Al-Tahera Church in Mosul, which dated back to the beginning of the 20th century and was among the oldest churches in the city. On March 9, 2015, according to the Iraqi government official Dureid Hikmat Tobia, ISIL destroyed the 10th-century Chaldean Catholic St. Markourkas Church in Mosul. As of 5 April 2015[update], ISIL destroyed the Assyrian Christian Virgin Mary Church on Easter Sunday in the Syrian town of Tel Nasri. ISIL held the church since 7 March 2015. "As the “joint forces” of Kurdish People's Protection Units and local Assyrian fighters attempted to enter the town", ISIL set off the explosives destroying what remained of the church.
Ancient and medieval sites
In the Syrian city of Ar-Raqqah, ISIL publicly ordered the bulldozing of a colossal ancient Assyrian gateway lion sculpture from the 8th century BC. Another lion statue was also destroyed. Both statues originated from the Arslan Tash archaeological site. The destruction was published in the ISIL magazine, Dabiq. Among the lost statues are also those of Mulla Uthman al-Mawsili, of a woman carrying an urn and of Abu Tammam.
On February 26, 2015, ISIL released a video showing the destruction of various ancient artifacts in the Mosul Museum. The affected artefacts originate from the Assyrian era and from the ancient city of Hatra. The video in particular shows the defacement of a granite lamassu statue from the right side of the Nergal Gate by a jackhammer. The statue remained buried until 1941 when heavy rains eroded the soil around the gate and exposed two statues on both sides. Several other defaced items in the museum were claimed to be copies, but this was later rebutted by Iraq's Minister of Culture, Adel Sharshab who said: "Mosul Museum had many ancient artifacts, big and small. None of them were transported to the National Museum of Iraq in Bagdad. Thus, all artifacts destroyed in Mosul are original except for four pieces that were made of gypsum".
On March 5, 2015, ISIL reportedly started the demolition of Nimrud, an Assyrian city from the 13th century BC. The local palace was bulldozed, while lamassu statues at the gates of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II were smashed. A video showing the destruction of Nimrud was released in April 2015.
On March 7, 2015, Kurdish sources reported ISIL had begun the bulldozing of Hatra, which has been under threat of demolition after ISIL had occupied the adjacent area. The next day ISIL sacked Dur-Sharrukin, according to the Kurdish official from Mosul Saeed Mamuzini. The Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry launched the related investigation on the same day.
Following the capture of Palmyra, ISIL was reported as not intending to demolish the city's World Heritage Site. On May 27, 2015 ISIL released a 87-second video showing parts of the apparently undamaged ancient colonnades, the Temple of Bel and the Roman theatre.
On September 22, 2014, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the Department of State had partnered with the American Schools of Orient Research to "comprehensively document the condition of, and threats to, cultural heritage sites in Iraq and Syria to assess their future restoration, preservation, and protection needs". In 2014, the UNESCO's Committee for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict condemned at the Ninth Meeting "repeated and deliberate attacks against cultural property... in particular in the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Iraq". UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova called the destructions in Mosul a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199, and the destruction of Nimrud a war crime. The former Prime Minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki reported that the local parliamentary tourism and antiquities committee had "filed complaints with the UN to condemn all ISIL crimes and abuses, including those that affect ancient places of worship".
- List of destroyed heritage
- Aniconism in Islam
- Destruction of early Islamic heritage sites in Saudi Arabia
- Buddhas of Bamiyan — Buddhist sculptures demolished by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001
- Islamist destruction of Timbuktu heritage sites, in Mali in 2012
- Archaeological looting in Iraq
- List of heritage sites damaged during the Syrian Civil War (since 2011)
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