Daesh’s destruction of ancient treasures at Nimrud in Iraq is “an assault on the heritage of the Iraqi and Syrian people by an organization with a bankrupt and toxic ideology,” Secretary of State John Kerry said March 6.
“This crude attempt to erase the heritage of an ancient civilization will ultimately fail. No terrorist can rewrite history.”
Press reports said Daesh terrorists began bulldozing the ancient city of Nimrud, founded by the Assyrians in the 13th century B.C.E., on March 5. The terror group has an appalling history of destroying Iraqi and Syrian cultural heritage, including the 2014 destruction of the Mosque of the Prophet Younis in Mosul, Iraq.
The Iraqi government recently nominated Nimrud for placement on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Kerry said Daesh’s “twisted goal” is to rewrite history in its own brutal image.
“And just as the United States stands with the Iraqi and Syrian people in their fight against brutality, we also recognize the need to preserve national treasures — a critical component of a unified society,” Kerry said.
In August 2014, the State Department partnered with the American Schools of Oriental Research to create the Syrian Heritage Initiative to protect cultural property in Syria and areas of Iraq outside of Iraqi government control.
“They are targeting a people as well as its history and culture,” Barsom said, calling for the intervention of international organisations to save Iraq’s heritage. “It’s an attempt to end the existence of a people in their ancestral land.”
Thousands of Chaldeans, Iraq’s main Christian sect, fled their historic homes on the plains of Nineveh in the face of the Isis advance, escaping forced conversions. The militant group also attempted to starve and enslave thousands of members of the ancient Yazidi sect living around Mount Sinjar, triggering air strikes by the US-led international coalition.
“It’s unprecedented,” said Afram of the Syriac League. “No one did that before.” He compared the attack to that of the Mongol invasion of the Middle East, saying Isis militants were going further in their destruction of ancient heritage.
“This is as if they are specialised in erasing whatever signals that we were present in any part of this region,” he added.
Afram condemned the lack of action by the international community, saying there had to be a real military action plan, an inter-faith religious campaign to put an end to religious strife, security cooperation, and action by the “Arab armies” to end the crisis. He said the international community was treating the strife in the Arab world as if it were part of a “basketball game”.
“All this world, from the UN to the security council, really cares about nothing, they don’t care about people who are slaughtered on a daily basis,” he said. “I don’t believe that there is an international community, or that there are values anymore.”
David Vergili, a member of the European Syriac Union, said Isis had done “tremendous damage to the social fabric of the Middle East”.
He added: “Preserving cultural and historical heritage in Iraq and elsewhere should be a concern for the whole civilised world as the birthplace and epicentre of our civilisation.”
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