The Islamic State's barbaric killings have horrified the world, but they aren't only targeting the living. ISIS has been systematically looting and destroying ancient artifacts since it took over large swaths of Syria and Iraq, and it appears their efforts have been intensifying in recent months. Last week, the group released video of its members destroying ancient statues in the Mosul Museum, and on Thursday Iraq officials reported that they are bulldozing the Nimrud archaeological site. Under ISIS's strict Salafi interpretation of Islam, worshiping at shrines and tombs is idolatrous — but that's not the only reason the group destroyed dozens of mosques, churches, and other religious sites. ISIS began looting and selling off antiquities when it took control of large parts of Syria. Within a month of the fall of Mosul, at least six Shiite mosques and four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures had been destroyed in the northern Nineveh province. ISIS posted photos of the landmarks being bulldozed or blown up with explosives on social media. One of the most notable losses is the Sunni Mosque of the Prophet Younis, which is believed to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, who was swallowed by a whale. Over the past few months, ISIS has stepped up its efforts to purge libraries in Mosul of books they consider offensive. ISIS reportedly raided many other libraries around the city and held book burnings in the street. Last week, ISIS released a five-minute video of its members smashing their way through the Mosul Museum, toppling statues and taking sledgehammers to centuries-old artifacts. Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reported on Thursday that ISIS has damaged Nimrud, an archaeological site just south of Mosul, using heavy military vehicles. At the reopening of the Baghdad Museum last weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said his country would not let ISIS erase its history.
March 6th, 2015