Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | art | looting | sites | treasures

ISIS Pillaging, Destroying Cultural Treasures

By Monday, 27 June 2016 11:05 AM Current | Bio | Archive

For the past few years, ISIS has terrorized much of the Middle East leaving destruction and ruin in its wake, and satellite images show other groups are looting and demolishing ancient sites, as well.

Researchers at Dartmouth University claim Kurdish opposition forces and Syrian authorities may be wrecking, smuggling, and selling stolen antiquities in the black market to further their political causes.

When images were splashed across the internet of the senseless destruction of artwork from the Nineveh Museum in Mosul, Iraq, world leaders and art enthusiasts were aghast.

Militants ruthlessly smashed to bits some priceless objects — including a magnificent Assyrian lion — but the good news is the museum had taken to Baghdad many ancient pieces and replaced them with replicas.

ISIS hoods didn’t seem to care if the statues they were destroying were modern plaster copies with iron rods in them. The mere act of erasing from history certain countries’ treasures and artifacts, regardless of age, is ISIS’ goal.

Many observers speculate they want to fight the U.S. to gain credibility and a larger workforce. ISIS militants believe if they decimate priceless antiquities, the U.S. will send troops to Mosul and elsewhere to battle them, but they also destroy artifacts to sell for millions of dollars to fund weaponry and warhead purchases and to pay salaries to new recruits.

Using power tools, pick axes, chainsaws, and hammers, in March 2015, fanatic ISIS members flattened the ancient 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud on the banks of the Tigris. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities stated the terrorists “continue to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity.”

And although museum directors joined the critical chorus, ISIS continues to plunder.

“They are trying, with their barbarism and arrogance, to destroy the inheritance of humanity . . . of Iraqi people and their civilization,” Iraq’s Prime Minister bemoaned emphatically in 2015.

Soon after, the international community braced for disaster as ISIS forces approached the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra — nicknamed the Pearl of the Desert and an important cultural center of the ancient world — and blew up the city's Baal Shamin Temple (dating back to 17 AD), Temple of Bel, and Arch of Triumph and in an act of horrific viciousness, ISIS beheaded Palmyra's 82-year-old archaeological custodian in the city square.

Beheading people and videotaping the tragic, gruesome act seems to be ISIS’ preferred way to kill enemies because it attracts immediate attention.

ISIS ambitiously plots to take down more ancient monuments, confessing it considers statues and grave markers to be idolatrous. The group wants to destroy the Kaaba at Mecca — the holiest shrine in Islam — and other historically relevant monuments.

Although the U.N. has blocked the export of antiquities from the region and condemned ISIS's demolition of Iraqi’s cultural heritage, it has had little to no effect. ISIS continues to do whatever it pleases. The militant group remains undeterred, and looted artifacts from Middle Eastern cultural sites are being smashed or smuggled every day.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Director Thomas Campbell sent out an email, "Speaking with great sadness on behalf of the Metropolitan, a museum whose collection proudly protects and displays the arts of ancient and Islamic Mesopotamia, we strongly condemn this act of catastrophic destruction to one of the most important museums in the Middle East.

"The Mosul Museum's collection covers the entire range of civilization in the region, with outstanding sculptures from royal cities such as Nimrud, Nineveh, and Hatra in northern Iraq.

"This mindless attack on great art, on history, and on human understanding constitutes a tragic assault not only on the Mosul Museum, but on our universal commitment to use art to unite people and promote human understanding. Such wanton brutality must stop, before all vestiges of the ancient world are obliterated.”

Historian Tom Holland tweeted, "The desecration of ancient Mesopotamia's treasures by ISIS is an attack, not just on Iraqi civilization, but the world's: [It’s] a terrible crime."

ISIS creates havoc for publicity and propaganda purposes. The New York Times revealed, “The Islamic State has said that the historical objects and sites it destroyed were heresy to its ideology, which is rooted in Wahhabism. In Palmyra, for example, the group blew up two historic tombs, one of a Shiite saint and another of a Sufi scholar, because it considers them to be forms of idolatry.

"In March 2015, the Islamic State released videos showing its militants shooting at and bulldozing Hatra and Nimrud, ancient sites in northern Iraq. The dramatic footage gained significant media attention, allowing the group to extend its message widely and potentially expand its recruiting.  . . . ”

Working with thousands of looters in Iraq and Syria, ISIS easily turns a profit after it decimates ancient sites and its recklessness won’t stop, unless world leaders decide once and for all to make them ancient history.

Patricia Jobe Pierce is a freelance writer, art historian, art dealer-consultant, certified AAA appraiser, public speaker, photographer and American art authenticator for museums, auction houses and collectors. She graduated from Boston University with a BFA in 1965, is owner and director of Pierce Galleries, Inc. in Nantucket and Hingham, Mass., and is author of many works, including, "Art Collecting & Investing: The Inner Workings and the Underbelly of the Art World." For more of her submissions, Click Here Now.


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Working with thousands of looters in Iraq and Syria, ISIS easily turns a profit after it decimates ancient sites and its recklessness won’t stop, unless world leaders decide once and for all to make them ancient history.
art, looting, sites, treasures
Monday, 27 June 2016 11:05 AM
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