Archaeological Inheritance Endangered in Iraq, Libya and Syria

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dubai- (PaOrient News) Evidence of mankind’s cultural inheritance in Iraq, Libya and Syria, is gradually being obliterated in armed clashes, causing the world to lose thousands of years of historical treasures.

The international community gazed in shock as video footage of terrorists, such as ISIL members in Iraq, deliberately destroyed Assyrian antiquities in Mosul museum and razed the two archaeological cities of Nimrud and Alhadar, which date back to 13 BC.

In Libya, extremists have destroyed art that dates back thousands of years in a UNESCO Heritage Oasis area south of the country. Graves of the Alqurmlah family, and a Michelangelo statue have also been demolished. Libyan writers and archaeologists have called on UNESCO and the UN Security Council for protection of archaeological sites in an effort to prevent further destruction.

Syria faces a cataclysm of devastating destruction of monuments and robbery as the ongoing clashes between government and rebel forces and foreign groups like ISIL have caused loss of archaeological sites and antiquities that define the history of mankind. Aleppo's famous medieval citadel and the equally famous crusader castle, Crac des Chevaliers, near the city of Homs were bombed. Areas controlled by the ISIL terrorists have almost erased archaeological sites in the cities of Deir ez-Zor and Al-Rqqah and Umayyad Mosque as well as damaging the ancient churches of Homs.

The ongoing conflict has led to both parties of the conflict destroying many of these ancient signs of mankind’s past as they build barracks and prepare barricades and areas of safety for their fighters and weaponry.

Experts warned that humankind is about to lose thousands of years of cultural heritage. A satellite image analysis has reportedly revealed that there are about 300 archaeological sites already demolished or looted, as well as palaces and minarets destroyed. According to a UN report, in Syria 24 sites were completely obliterated, 104 were badly damage, 84 were partially affected, and more than 77 locations suffered some damage.

ISIL and other extremists claim that the smashing of statues is nothing new in Islamic teachings but Muslim scholars say that statues in Mecca and elsewhere in the era of the Prophet Mohammed were only destroyed because people worshiped them at that time, and that monuments have long been regarded as a witness to history. Religious leaders from the Islamic countries have pointed out that the survival of the monuments of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other Arab countries over the past centuries is the best proof that the present destruction is considered a crime against history and humanity. They have confirmed that Islamic teachings promote the study of and not the destruction of, mankind’s past.

Some archaeologists, however, have expressed suspicion that several of the videos released by the ISIL are simply cover-ups – fakes are destroyed and the originals are hidden away for the global black market that could provide ISIL with billions of dollars. It is widely known that the smuggling of stolen antiquities is made through a wide network of brokers who transit them through neighboring countries and then on to Europe, the Gulf States, U.S, or even China. Some go to collectors who keep them for a time before selling them on. It has been said that UNESCO and the United Nations are negotiating with the above countries to honor a 1970 agreement that promises to restrict illicit trafficking in antiquities.

One hope on the horizon is the reopening of the National Museum in Baghdad by the Iraqi government. It had been closed since the beginning of 2003 when the US invaded the country. One third of the museum contents, numbering about 15 thousand antiquities, were stolen, but Iraqi officials say about 4,300 have since been recovered. The Iraqi National Museum is currently showing about ten thousand antiquities dating back to Assyrian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Islamic and other eras.

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