Who will save the world heritage in Mosul?
ISIL threatens the Middle East’s most valuable archaeological sites
Saturday, June 21, 2014
By I. M. Hussainy
Dubai, The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has expressed concern as an upsurge of violence causes renewed human suffering and loss of life in Iraq. She fears that cultural heritage will be looted and destroyed, just as it was several years ago in Iraq and again during the recent tragic events affecting Syria.
Sectarian violence had picked up considerably since the beginning of June when the Al-Qaeda-splinter organization ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) overran the second biggest city in Iraq, Mosul. The ISIL now controls wide areas of Syria and western Iraq and are moving ahead with their plans of establishing an Islamic regime based on Caliph principles.
While reports from different humanitarian organization shared deep concerns of human rights violations and violence against women, other concerns started to emerge as the ISIL announced their radical interpretation of the Sharia rules in the Nainava declaration document they issued upon taking control over the city. The declaration pointed out that monuments, shrines, statues, and historical sites should be “leveled” with the ground as per their understanding of the Sharia laws.
“I call on all actors to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites.” Said Bokova, referring to the city of Mosul, a rich place for monuments from different civilizations including the Akkadian and the Assyrian (circa 2300 BC). Mosul also has a variety of ancient churches and shrines that were built centuries ago during different eras the cultural-rich city had witnessed.
Unfortunately, the fate of this cultural heritage doesn’t look good. The ISIL had done a brutal destruction to similar historical sites in Syria not very different from that the Taliban had inflected in Afghanistan destroying Buddhas of Bamiyan. The scenes of the explosion of the statue still haunt the minds of archeologists around the world. With Al-Qaeda and their off spring groups freely roaming around in the Middle East.
Images published today on social sites indicated that ISIL already removed a famous statue of Arabic poet Abu Tamam.
Despite the UNESCO and other humanitarian organizations warnings, it is most likely that Nineveh cultural heritage will not survive this crisis. Unless some serious actions are taken to stop the systematic looting and destruction of those sites, one of the world’s oldest cities in the Middle East is about to turn into another cultural desert that radical groups are so efficient at creating while the rest of the world sit and watch.