Will UN Bless Israel’s Destruction of Jerusalem’s Heritage?

Historic photo of Jerusalem shows the Moroccan Quarter that used to exist just below the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock compound. The quarter was demolished by Israel after it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.

“The archaeological projects Israel undertakes in Jerusalem have the narrow agenda of unearthing artifacts that demonstrate an ancient Jewish presence in the land while ignoring or destroying artifacts from other eras…”

By Charlotte Silver

Israel is once again trying to remove Jerusalem’s ancient sites from a UN list of endangered world heritage.

The effort to strip the protection comes as groups that call for the destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque and its replacement with a Jewish temple are intensifying their activities, often with Israeli government funding and support. It also follows decades of Israeli destruction of ancient sites in the city.

Continued here

Jewish ties to Al-Aqsa Mosque turns out to be just another myth

Israeli archaeologist denies Jewish ties to Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | October 13, 2016

15hillary184An Israeli archaeological expert has asserted that there is no relation between the Western Wall of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and an ancient Jewish temple, Al Jazeera reported today. This will likely serve to undermine Israeli excavations of the site.

Meir Ben-Dov, an Israeli archaeological expert who is author of many books about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, further asserted that the Wailing Wall, the Jewish name for the Western Wall, has no sacred significance in the Jewish faith.

In related news, UNESCO members are expected to vote on a resolution that denies Jewish links to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Western Wall, known as the Buraq Wall to Muslims, agencies reported on Thursday.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the resolution is expected to pass by a large majority, referring this to the inability of Israeli lobbying to persuade UNESCO members not to support the resolution.

“Israel has made efforts to block the resolution or at least soften it, but succeeded only in swaying the positions of a few member states,” Haaretz stated.

The Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Sudan pushed the draft resolution forward that declares that Jerusalem is holy for all the three Abrahamic religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

The draft also includes a section that stresses that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is sacred only for the Muslims, referring to it as Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or the Sacred Sanctuary.

In April, UNESCO’s executive board ratified a similar resolution, which was supported by a number of European countries, including France.

However, after a “harsh” telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande, France promised not to support any such resolution in the future.

Related 

ISIL Demolishes Ancient Temple in Iraq, Hints at Destroying Pyramids

 

Takfiri ISIL group vowed to destroy ancient sites built by infidels” after showing video footage of the group blowing up a 2,500-year-old temple in Iraq.

The video showed ISIL militants detonating bombs at the ancient temple of Nabu in Iraq which proceeded to reduce to rubble.

Following the destruction of the ancient temple, the group vowed to destroy other ancient sites that were created by “infidels.”ISIL Demolishes Ancient Temple in Iraq, Vows to Destroy Pyramids

When noting their intention to destroy other ancient monuments, the video showed pictures of the Great Pyramid of Giza indicating the group hopes to destroy the impressive Egyptian structures.

Earlier this year, shocking pictures showed how ISIL militants had destroyed ancient monuments in the Syrian city of Palmyra.

The militants sparked a global outcry when they started destroying Palmyra’s treasured monuments, which they consider idolatrous, after taking the city in May 2015.

They ransacked UNESCO World Heritage sites before finally being ousted after three weeks of fighting earlier this year.

Source: Agencies

08-06-2016 – 14:35 Last updated 08-06-2016 – 16:01

Related Articles

Russia to UN Security Council: “Turkey’s Gaziantep city is the largest center for selling looted antiques from Syria and Iraq”

Syrian Free Press

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History for Sale:
Daesh Selling Looted Artifacts in Turkish Markets

(SputnikNews) ~ The Islamic State (ISIL, ISIS or Daesh) jihadist group generates up to $200 million in annual profits from around 100,000 cultural objects it controls in Iraq and Syria selling them through the Turkish city of Gaziantep, the Russian permanent representative to the UN said in a letter to the UN Security Council presidency.

“The main centre for the smuggling of cultural heritage items is the Turkish city of Gaziantep, where the stolen goods are sold at illegal auctions and then through a network of antique shops and at the local market,” Vitaly Churkin’s letter states.

The letter asserts that artifacts including jewelry and coins are delivered by Turkish transport companies, sold in shops opened on the Turkish-Syrian border, and then arrive in Izmir, Mersin and Antalya where documents are forged to hide their origins.

Daesh’ smuggling operations are said to be organized by its antiquities department, part of the caliphate’s so-called ministry for control of natural resources, under the leadership of Abu Sayyaf Iraqi.

Excavations at and transportation from around 4,500 archaeological sites, nine of which are in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List, are permitted only to those in possession of a stamp and signature from the department, according to the letter.

The disclosures come after the RT broadcaster uncovering a trove of documents last week revealing details of Daesh’ illicit trade in looted antiquities with Turkey through the so-called ministry’s department of artifacts. Two weeks ago, the broadcaster documented further proof of the terrorist group’s fighters enjoying unrestricted travel across the border and selling oil to Turkey.

Ankara officially denies having links to the IS, a group outlawed in multiple countries including Russia.


RELATED :

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Vitaly Churkin: “Turkey has the largest center
for selling the looted antiques from Syria”

(New York, SANA) ~ Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that the Turkish city of Gaziantep is the main center for selling relics looted by the ISIS terrorist organization in Syria.

ISIS terrorist organization illegitimate revenues of the looted relics reach at nearly 200 million USD per a year, Churkin said in a letter sent to the UN, adding that that antiques and artifacts are mainly smuggled from Syria and Iraq to the outside through Turkey’s city of Gaziantep in the south.

“Those pieces of antiques are sold through auctions illegally on websites and through local markets,” Churkin added.

He affirmed that around 100,000 of the world’s archeological sites are under the grip of ISIS, 9 of which are classified within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.


SOURCES:
Sputnik News
SANA, Manar/Mazen
Submitted by Cem Ertür 
War Press Info Network at :
https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/turkey-looting/
~

Mr. Kirby’s Hallucination!

Saturday, 26 March 2016 09:50

 Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

The achievements and victories against the foreign-backed terrorism on the Syria ground do restore territories, heritage and citizens to their peaceful and secure life conditions, which characterized the Syrian Society, for decades! These achievements are made and drawn  by the blood of the Syrian Arab Army heroes and by their brothers in blood, destiny and future. Actually, the ongoing fight by the forces of humanity, goodness and courage, especially the recent accomplishments in Tadmur, Palmyra,  against Al-Qaeda Wahabbi and ISIS affiliates is but a reward for all humanity.

The recent advances and operations, backed by Russian warplanes, are about to restore Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been occupied by terrorists since last May. Surprisingly, the US State Department reaction to the restoration of such a world heritage site is a further  mark of shame. Such a reaction by the State Department spokesperson, John Kirby, towards the restoration of Palmyra to its humanitarian and civilization world heritage  position is indeed a farce, disillusionment and affiliations to the role played for long , be it in  Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, by the US consequent administrations in creating, financing, arming and of turning blind eyes to the Frankenstein of  all terrorism!

Unfortunately, the United States and many of its EU allies, and Ewes, a term to describe anti-Syrians, used by the forgotten Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassem on November 18, 2012,  have been advocating a policy of no policy, mainly for selfish and temporary purposes! Thus, they considered every daring stance in defense of sovereignty, independence and of humanity as against their past colonial history as well as against their yes-sir ewes! Here comes the bankruptcy of Mr. Kirby’s hallucination! They want all but to demonize what they have to demonize! For Kirby, Isis role should not be demonized, but the Army and those heroes who fight terrorism and sacrifice on behalf of all humanity.

 It is a matter of principle, and has nothing to do with language! Mr.  Kirby’s language is good for some! But does it have any sense ! or any human principle! Lies, fabrications and demonization of every human value, principle and ethics! Is imitating Kirby-like hallucinations, or is turning lips long, right, left, round, and meaninglessly, the right way to transparency, objectivity! Those who backed ISIS, Wahabbism, mainly the ewes and their masters, and every terrorism are to pay back for their  Faust’s contract with Mephistopheles! The hour is striking! Syria’s looming definite victory against terrorism is but another reward for all humanity. Syria does export civilization, agriculture, music, amity, and peace to the entire globe.

 This is the result of hero defense of President Bashar Al-Assad, Syrian Army, People, Brothers and true friends. It is the result of the legends and epics made by our great Saint-of-all Saints Mothers, wounded and Martyred heroes, of whom God the Almighty say “Think not of those killed in the way of Allah dead, but alive and well in the Lord.” Allah is love, amity, fraternity and goodness; and this is what unite all those heroes in Syria against hatred, treason, dismemberment and evil.

 

Rest in Peace, Queen Zenobia!

Created on Thursday, 21 May 2015 21:14 | Published Date | | | Hits: 1762

 Seven years back in Tivoli, about 30 kilometers distance from Rome, my eyes were filled in tears once a friend of mine took me to the ruins of what historians say was Zenobia ‘s place after being defeated by the Roman Emperor Aurelian in the year  271 and taken prisoner to Rome and then to Tivoli. The smell, color, taste and grandeur of the Syrian history overwhelmed me; the Syrian 3-rd century Queen was reincarnated in every Syrian as a legend of steadfastness, struggle, Resistance, pride and honor.

Our Queen of Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, cannot rest in peace and the Syrians are saddened and bereaved for hundreds of years for the Queen, who even dared to challenge the unchallenged when all ways did lead indeed to Rome! The Romans did bow in respect for Palmyra, its civilization and even did, according to different history references put the Queen in a cage made of pure gold!

Now, it is ISIS, daesh, the black death of the US, Neo-colonialism, ewes and their proxy satellites! Unfortunately, the civilized world of today has once more turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the people and states appeals for civilization and world heritage preservation. Unfortunately, those who have no history have tarnished destroyed and exploited the history of the founders of civilization! However, a history written in sacrifices, blood and martyrdom can never be cancelled by destruction of stones or statues!

Personally, it was indeed a lifetime press experience for me when I accompanied, as a journalist, H.E. President Bashar Assad and the First Lady in an official visit to Italy in 2002. The Presidential couple was given hero’s welcome as coming from the oldest continuously inhabited capital; the cradle of civilization and of Christianity, the land of history which gave the Roman Empire emperors, popes, artists, architects, and renowned intellectuals. Rome was excited to receive the man who went as a messenger of peace, fraternity and amity in reminiscent of Saint Paul and of all Syria’s great historic figures throughout ages.

During that historic visit President Al-Assad presented to His Holiness, the late Pope John Paul the Second, a unique copy of Quraa’n, the Holy book of Islam, the religion of ‘’justice, equality and of forgiveness’’, and surely not of the non-Islam of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Wahabbism. According to President Assad’s then statements both ”civilizations were mingled together,” and where each, with its own features, gave birth to a “unique example of civilization integration” and joint interaction. President Assad spoke admiringly of the great Italian Civilization; among its pioneers were the Damascene Appolodore, emperors, popes, architects, engineers, writers and many others. I now- 13 years later- repeat what I wrote then to the Syria Times: ”
Had Zanobya, the Queen of Palmyra, spoken, she would have said that some of the past glory had been indeed restored through such a remarkable visit.”

Rest in Peace my Syrian Queen, Wahabbisim, darkness and ignorance can in way overrun morality, light, civilization, given the established reality of the Resistance Axis, and the wise worldwide including Irina Bokova, the UNESCO director-general, who said that any destruction to Palmyra would be “not just a war crime, but an enormous loss to humanity”, and EU Foreign Policy Chief,  Federica Mogherini, who underscored that  Islamic State “mass killings and deliberate destruction of archaeological and cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq amount to a war crime according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” asserting that Palmyra is ”a symbol of Syria’s rich cultural heritage and has been a crossroad of civilization throughout history.”

More Looted Treasure? Israeli ‘Hiker’ Happens to Stumble Upon Gold Coin

[Ed. note – Coming across this AP story made me think of a story about another rather amazing, presumably happenstance discovery of a trove of antiquities–almost, coincidentally, exactly a year ago. Below is the AP article published today, and directly beneath that you’ll find a piece I posted on March 19, 2015. As I commented then, the Israelis seem “remarkably blessed with good fortune these days.” ]

***

Israeli Hiker finds Rare, 2000-Year-Old Gold Coin

AP

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Antiquities Authority says a hiker has found a rare, nearly 2,000-year-old gold coin.

The authority said Monday that the ancient coin appears to be only the second of its kind to have been found. It said London’s British Museum possesses the other coin.

The coin, from the year A.D. 107, bears the image of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. It was minted as part of a series of coins honoring Roman rulers.

Antiquities Authority official Donald T. Ariel said the coin may have paid part of the salary of a Roman soldier.

The hiker, Laurie Rimon, happened upon the shiny coin on a recent walk in Israel’s eastern Galilee region. The authority said she will receive a certificate of appreciation for handing over the coin.

***

Israelis By Chance ‘Discover’ Gold Coins and Other Archaeological Treasures

goldcoins1

By Richard Edmondson

(Originally posted March 19, 2015)

It seems that Israelis are rather remarkably blessed with good fortune these days.

Within a month of each other, two amazing archaeological discoveries have been uncovered in the Jewish state–not by means of an archaeological dig or excavation, but simply happened upon by chance, we are told.

Back in February, approximately 2,000 gold coins were reportedly found by “amateur scuba divers” lying upon the ocean floor, some twelve meters deep, in the harbor of what was once the ancient port of Caesarea.

Then just earlier this month it was announced that a cache of jewelry and ancient silver and bronze coins were discovered in a cave in northern Israel by three members of a spelunking club. The precise location of the cave has not been disclosed, but the discovery reportedly includes rings, bracelets, earrings, and coins minted during the reign of Alexander the Great. One side of the coins features an image of Alexander, while the other portrays an image of Zeus sitting on a throne with arm raised. (H/T Jake Gittes)

caveartifacts

In an article posted last week I discussed an exhibition of Iraqi cuneiform tablets at Israel’s Bible Lands Museum along with questions that have been raised about the provenance of the artifacts on display. The owner of the 2500-year-old tablets is an Israeli collector by the name of David Sofer, who says he purchased them in the 1990s but has reportedly refused to name the person from whom he bought them.

And as I noted, the exhibition comes at a time when archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria are being raped and pillaged, while a $7 billion black market in stolen artifacts has taken root. What I wrote, in part, was:

The attacks upon the Mosul Museum and the ancient city of Nimrud, as well as the earlier ransacking and burning of documents at the Mosul library–these and other incidents like them exact a dreadful toll. They are, in essence, “taking us back to the dark ages,” as an Iraqi official recently described it.

The coins from the find attributed to the divers in Caesarea are believed to be around a thousand years old and apparently are of pure gold. The discovery is described as “so valuable that it’s priceless,” and some have speculated on its possibly being the result of a ship wreck.

“The coins are in an excellent state of preservation, and despite the fact they were at the bottom of the sea for about a thousand years, they did not require any cleaning or conservation intervention,” said Robert Cole, of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Israel’s shoreline is not exactly virgin territory. How did the coins manage to sit there all this time, a thousand years, in water only 12 meters deep, and not get noticed until now? The Israelis actually have an answer for that. The coins, they say, were most likely hidden beneath the sand until a winter storm shifted the seabed.

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Gold coins, photographed supposedly upon their discovery on the ocean floor in February in the harbor of Caesarea.

Be that as it may, the discovery is indeed a rather stunning one, and has turned heads and captured the attention of the media. Here is a bit from National Geographic’s report:

“We were told [that the divers] had found about 30 or 40 coins,” says Jakob (Koby) Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit. “Usually that means you’ve found a hoard. So we went back and performed a small excavation. After two hours, we had found something like one thousand coins.

“We were shocked,” he recalls. “We were so incredibly excited, but when you’re underwater, you can’t talk to each other. It was only when we surfaced and pulled out our regulators that we could scream with happiness.”

That was just for starters, though. On a second trip back to the underwater site, they purportedly found another thousand coins.

Of various sizes and denominations, the coins date to the Fatmid caliphate, a Shia caliphate which arose in the late ninth/early tenth century and which lasted for a couple of centuries until it was absorbed into the Ayyubid dynasty of Saladin. A bit more from National Geographic:

At its height in the mid-tenth to mid-eleventh centuries A.D., Fatimid rule stretched across North Africa and Sicily to the Levant, with trade ties that extended all the way to China. From its capital in Cairo, the caliphate controlled access to gold from sources in West Africa to the Mediterranean, and the currency crafted from the precious metal conveyed the Fatimids’ formidable power and wealth.

It may well be that the coins were discovered just as the Israelis say. Likewise the items found earlier this month in the cave. It is entirely possible, as the report on the latter discovery has it, that three spelunkers simply “wriggled through a narrow passage” at the entrance to the stalactite cave and then happened upon the stash of jewelry and coins.

Certainly there have indeed been instances of archaeological discoveries made by average people who just stumbled upon them. There is the case of the Lascaux Cave in France, with its Paleolithic paintings of animals on the cave walls–discovered in 1940 by four teenagers and a dog. (H/T JS).

But one thing that needs to be pointed out is that there is no independent verification of the provenance of either of the two recent discoveries in Israel. All we seem to have to go on is the word of the Israelis themselves. A couple of other things bear mentioning as well:

  • that in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq, illegal excavations of archaeological sites are occurring on a massive scale, with antiquities thieves sometimes even employing heavy equipment and machinery;
  • that items looted from these sites are ending up in London and other Western cities;

If a portion of these looted items are finding their way into London, where else do you suppose they might be ending up?

Equally worth considering in all this are what appear to be ties or links between Israel and terrorist forces operating in Syria. Here is what I wrote on that last week:

There has of course been abundant evidence of Israeli support for terrorist rebels in Syria (see here, here, here, here, here, here, andhere, for instance) and it has been noted that neither ISIS nor Al-Nusra have launched attacks against Israel, even though the latter, in particular, seems to be active in the Golan Heights very close to Israel’s border.

And not only do Israel and Al-Nusra not attack each other, but Israel has even transported wounded terrorists across the border for medical treatment in Israel.

Most people seem to be of the opinion that the Jewish state’s motivation in all this is its desire for regime change in Syria, but are there perhaps are a few lesser-discussed fringe benefits as well?

Interviewed in the video below is the highly respected Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), who discusses the trafficking in stolen artifacts.

Dr. Abdulkarim is author of the book Archeological Heritage in Syria During the Crisis 2011-2013. The book documents destruction to Syrian archaeological sites in the two-year period mentioned, and in one section, entitled “Illegal Excavation,” the author gives a specific, site-by-site rundown of sites and tells where looting has occurred. Here is a quote from that section:

The danger threatening archaeological sites in Syria is increasing because of the absence of the government institutions concerned and the archaeological authorities in certain areas. Several archaeological sites have been seriously damaged by illegal excavations, some of which were carried out by armed gangs, particularly in areas near borders or where violent conflicts have occurred.

  • The sites of Deir ez-Zor, Mari, Dura Europos, Halbia, Buseira, Tell Sheikh Hamad and Tell es-Sin have all been damaged by thieves who excavate for objects which are sold to local and foreign dealers.
  • Many violations that have damaged the archaeological levels at Tell al-Bay’ah and other neighboring tell sites at Raqqa have been recorded.
  • The site of Ebla has been subject to illegal excavation for some time, causing the destruction of some parts of the site. Efforts made by members of the local community have succeeded in controlling the situation temporarily, but it has been observed that illegal excavation has taken place during the past month.
  • Some sites in the Idlib region, within the area of the Dead Cities, which are inscribed on the World Heritage List (Gebel al-Aala, Gebel al-Woastani and Gebel Barisha) have been subject to destruction and serious damage, in particular some of the unique churches. Information has been received that illegal excavations are being carried out at these churches by gangs of thieves coming from Turkey. Kafr Oqab, according to our information, is the most damaged site in the region.
  • The site of Apamea is considered to be one of the sites most affected as a result of the ongoing pillage at the site, which has occurred in the eastern, northeastern and western sectors of the city. A comparison between two photos taken by satellite, the first taken before the beginning of the crisis in Syria and the second on April 4, 2012, shows the extent of looting and destruction at the site of Apamea due to illegal excavation.
  • Illegal excavation has become very common in the city of Daraa with hundreds of hired men and armed antiquities thieves taking part in excavations inside the al-Omari Mosque and at the archaeological sites along Wadi al-Yarmouk and at Tell al-Ash’ari, which will cause irreparable damage if continued.
  • Large areas of Tell Qaramel near Aleppo were destroyed by means of heavy machinery; other sites in this region are permanently damaged.

Reports from the antiquities departments of some governorates warn against the expansion of the destruction zone engineered by organized armed gangs at the sites mentioned above, especially during the past three months. This destruction affects sites that are highly significant in the history of Syria, and demonstrates that tragically, some components of Syria’s archaeological heritage are lost forever.

Keep in mind that the thefts and damage itemized by Dr. Abdulkarim above are only those which occurred through 2013.

In addition to illegal excavations at archaeological sites, his book also discusses thefts from museums, including a gilt bronze statue of the Aramaean period taken from the Hama Museum; a stone marble piece from the Apamea Museum; 17 pieces of pottery and some clay dolls from the exhibition hall of the Jaabar Castle; as well as historical pieces from Aleppo’s Museum of Folklore. But of all the regions in Syria where museums have been ransacked, it is perhaps the northeast governorate of Raqqa, now under control of ISIS, that has been hit the hardest in this regard:

Due to the events that occurred in the city of Raqqa and the absence of governmental and cultural institutions, robbers seized six boxes stored in the Raqqa Museum’s warehouse which contained archaeological objects. Previously, an armed group moved three boxes containing artifacts which belong to the National Museum to an unknown location under the pretext of protecting them. Efforts made by the officials of the department have not so far been successful in implementing the return of these boxes.

In some cases looted museum pieces have been recovered, though in others, as indicated, the stolen artifacts remain missing.

A visit to the DGAM website provides us with additional information. One of the more important archaeological sites in Syria is Dura Europos, a former Roman colony located in the eastern part of the country, less than 50 miles from the Iraqi border. The city was founded in 303 BC by the Seleucids, the successors to Alexander the Great, and during the Roman period it became a fairly cosmopolitan city, inhabited by Pagans, Christians, and Jews alike. In December of 2014 DGAM posted “before” and “after” photos showing illegal excavations at the site.

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Dura Europos, Temple of Bel. Notice the churned and broken ground in the lower-left portion of the “after” photo.

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Dura Europos, the Governor’s Palace

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Dura Europos, entrance to the Visitor’s Center

Other photos posted by DGAM, also in December of 2014, document illegal excavations–said to be taking place on a “massive scale”–at Rahbaa Castle, in Mayadin, a short distance to the northwest from Dura Europos. Below are a couple of the photos. You can see more here.

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rahbaa2

People all over the world have expressed outrage at the destruction of antiquities in the Middle East, particularly over recent depredations in Iraq, where one incident, the destruction of artifacts at the Mosul Museum, was videotaped and posted online.

“We cannot remain silent,” said UNESCO Director Irina Bokova following destruction at a second Iraqi site, the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”

But none of this seems to have dampened the jubilation felt in Israel over the discovery of the gold coins. Kobi Sharvit, head of the Israel Antiquities Authorities’ Marine Archaeology Unit, heaped praise upon the scuba divers.

“These divers are model citizens. They discovered the gold and have a heart of gold that loves the country and its history,” he said.

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Much to celebrate at the Israel Antiquities Authority

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Kobi Sharvit, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, holds a batch of the gold coins in his hands for observers to view.

Much obviously has been gained in Israel. A rundown on what’s been lost recently in Iraq is given in a recent article by Felicity Arbuthnot. With the outrages at Mosul, Nimrud, and Hatra still fresh in people’s minds, here in part is what Arbuthnot wrote:

On Friday, 6th March, the Muslim Sabbath, the ancient city of Nimrud was bulldozed by self declared “Islamic State” primitives destroying what became the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire, dating back to the 13th century BC. The site also contained the remains of the palace of Ashurnasirpal, King of Assyria (883-859 BC) who made Nimrud his capital.

A local source told Reuters valuables were looted then the city razed to the ground. One entrance to this haunting place was guarded until last week by human headed bulls and lions with hawk’s wings. These guardians prevailed through the region’s turmoils for nearly three thousand years, to be destroyed with all they watched over by terrorists spawned by Bush and Blair’s criminal invasion.

In the south western palace is the temple of Nabu, God of wisdom, the arts and sciences, believed son of the Babylonian God, Marduk. Construction was probably between 810-782 BC.

The attack upon Nimrud was followed, two days later, with a fresh outrage as ISIS began blowing up buildings in Hatra, a 22-century-old archaeological site located 68 miles southwest of Mosul. Says Arbuthnot:

A 1982 Iraqi Ministry of Tourism guide describes in Hatra: “ … a frieze with sculptures which seem to tell a religious story enacted by Gods and musicians – the most beautiful work of art so far discovered” in this vast, ethereal city of creamy stone which shimmers golden under the sun, glowing amber under dawn’s rays and the setting sun.

The columns, temples, statues communicate not alone from the temples of the Gods, but surely from the architecture of the Gods, rendering a writer searching for words seemingly not yet devised.

There is the Temple of the goddess Shahiro (“the morning star”.) An area is: ”paved with veined marble, with walls decorated with geometrical designs and eagles – eagles being the main element in the Hatra religion. Over a decorative frieze, Arabic writing dates from the second half of the Abbasid era” (750-1258 AD.) The Abbasid Caliphate oversaw the “golden age of Islamic civilization.”

Hatra abounds with temples to creation. They were dedicated to the Sun God, to Venus (the morning star) “called variously Allatu, Atra’ta and Marthin – our lady.” The God Nergoul, also with a dedicated temple, symbolized the planet Mars. The revered, great, soaring eagle had his temple, where his statues looked down from on high.

The inscriptions are predominantly in ancient Aramaic, some reading: “Kings and princes of Hatra are the victorious kings of the Arabs.” They are surely weeping.

For those who know these marvels, hearts will never mend. Tears will never dry.

While evidence of Israel’s support for terrorist rebels seems pretty substantial, it’s unclear to what extent Israelis can be held responsible for the wanton destruction occurring at archaeological sites and museums. I suppose it largely depends on whether you think the antiquities are being destroyed for religious reasons or political ones.

What is known, however, is that Israelis have carried out deliberate destruction of Palestinian cultural records. You can go here, here, here,here, here, and here, to read about Israeli attacks upon the Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah and the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in El Bireh, both in the West Bank, and the Orient House in East Jerusalem. In all three places, records as well as cultural items such as works of art were destroyed. Here is what the Israeli journalist Amira Hass wrote about the destruction at the Ministry of Culture, which took place in April of 2002:

In other offices, all the high-tech and electronic equipment had been wrecked or had vanished – computers, photocopiers, cameras, scanners, hard disks, editing equipment worth thousands of dollars, television sets. The broadcast antenna on top of the building was destroyed.

Telephone sets vanished. A collection of Palestinian art objects (mostly hand embroideries) disappeared. Perhaps it was buried under the piles of documents and furniture, perhaps it had been spirited away. Furniture was dragged from place to place, broken by soldiers, piled up. Gas stoves for heating were overturned and thrown on heaps of scattered papers, discarded books, broken diskettes and discs and smashed windowpanes.

In the department for the encouragement of children’s art, the soldiers had dirtied all the walls with gouache paints they found there and destroyed the children’s paintings that hung there.

In every room of the various departments – literature, film, culture for children and youth books, discs, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement.

There are two toilets on every floor, but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building, in several rooms of which they had lived for about a month. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flowerpots, even in drawers they had pulled out of desks.

They defecated into plastic bags, and these were scattered in several places. Some of them had burst. Someone even managed to defecate into a photocopier.

The soldiers urinated into empty mineral water bottles. These were scattered by the dozen in all the rooms of the building, in cardboard boxes, among the piles of rubbish and rubble, on desks, under desks, next to the furniture the solders had smashed, among the children’s books that had been thrown down.

Some of the bottles had opened and the yellow liquid had spilled and left its stain. It was especially difficult to enter two floors of the building because of the pungent stench of feces and urine. Soiled toilet paper was also scattered everywhere.

In some of the rooms, not far from the heaps of feces and the toilet paper, remains of rotting food were scattered. In one corner, in the room in which someone had defecated into a drawer, full cartons of fruits and vegetables had been left behind. The toilets were left overflowing with bottles filled with urine, feces and toilet paper.

In terms of its wantonness, the wave of vandalism and destruction being carried out now by ISIS in Iraq and Syria seems similar to a degree to that described in the quoted section above, although perhaps without the defecation.

And in addition, according to a report here, Israelis also attacked the Museum of Solidarity with Palestine in Beirut in 1982–while other artists in Lebanon suffered more recent losses of their works–in the war of 2006.

So it seems that an Israeli proclivity to eradicate and/or damage the cultural archives of other people has, at least in the past, manifested itself. And of course if we go by the Oded Yinon plan, the destabilization and splintering of other countries in the Middle East has been an Israeli policy since at least the 1980s.

Many may remember that the destruction of cultural heritage sites in Iraq today has its historical precedent in the looting of the Baghdad Museum in 2003, and it behooves us to recall that twelve years ago US forces stood idly by as that looting took place. Likewise America doesn’t seem to be exerting a great deal of effort to stop the destruction by ISIS going on currently. Preserving archaeological artifacts was very much a low priority for Donald Rumsfeld in 2003–just as it seems to be a low priority for Gen. Martin Dempsey today–and in fact, a comparison of quotes from the two men is instructive.

“Stuff happens! And it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy,” said Rumsfeld.

Like Rumsfeld, Dempsey doesn’t seem to place much value on the preservation of antiquities, recently commenting that he would “consider” making an effort in that regard, but couldn’t promise anything:

The Islamic State’s destruction of cultural antiquities in Iraq has stepped up a notch recently, with members of the extremist group both bulldozing the 3,000-year-old Nimrud archaeological site near Mosul and ransackingthe similarly ancient ruins of Hatra in the past few days.

Now, the United States’ top military officer has said the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State would “consider” intervening to protect such sites. But Gen. Martin Dempsey stopped far short of any promises – and added that any action would have to “fit into the priority of all the other things we’re being asked to do on behalf of Iraq.”

“All the other things we’re being asked to do on behalf of Iraq,” presumably includes training “moderate” rebels, though who these “moderates” are actually being trained to fight, ISIS or the Syrian government, remains unclear. This is, by the way, the same Martin Dempsey who claims that Israel “went to extraordinary lengths” to limit civilian casualties in its Gaza attack last summer.

As Israel’s chief enabler, the US has a primary moral responsibility to do everything possible to halt the destruction of antiquities. It also has a moral responsibility to stop ISIS, though the best way to go about this is not by putting American “boots” on the ground.

The Syrian Army is the best-trained and most highly motivated fighting force in the Middle East today. They are highly motivated because it is their own land and their own people that they are defending–and they, as well as their Hezbollah and Iranian allies, are deadly serious about stopping ISIS. If the US truly seeks to defeat the Islamic State, these are the forces it needs to be supporting. But of course Israel wants the government of Bashar Assad overthrown, and Syria and Iraq split into pieces, so an alliance of this sort doesn’t appear likely.

And for the same reason, attacks upon antiquities will probably continue as well.

The question is, how many of these antiquities will surface later in Israel?

Social Control is emerging as ISIS (Daesh) motive for erasing Cultural Heritage in Syria

Social Control is emerging as ISIS (Da’ish) motive for erasing Cultural Heritage in Syria

 

Franklin Lamb

Damascus

It is widely recognized that the damage done to our cultural heritage in Syria and to the heritage of those who will follow us, cannot be calculated. Untold quantities of archaeologically vital artifacts have been looted, sold, displaced and discarded through industry-like efforts.

Citizens of Syria who are increasingly resisting the “IS Caliphate” and risking their own and their families lives to flee ISIS controlled areas in Syria are increasingly willing to discuss their experiences and to offer instructive insights. Among these patriots are regular citizens as well as the stellar nationalist employees of Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) who this observer has interviewed extensively over the past nearly three years as they elucidate why ISIS destroys and loots our irreplaceable antiquities. This observer’s research has been augmented by other eyewitnesses, some who are themselves former jihadists or their victims, to ISIS looting and its distribution of franchises to sell off our shared cultural heritage give witness.

Heretofore, three varying but cogent explanations for ISIS’ rabid destruction of our shared cultural heritage have been commonplace

The first identified the well documented Islamic State iconoclastic antipathy towards their and our pre-Islamic past. The second is that the jihadists are generally considered to be profiting hugely from selling our looted antiquities.

Thirdly there has been some evidence-but not compelling in this observers judgment, that jihadists are destroying our cultural heritage in Syria as ‘publicity stunts’ to get attention on social media, with some motivated by profit and offering to sell Syrian artifacts via Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. Meanwhile, according to a US Congressional staffer this week, leftover artifacts are currently being sold by IS to locals at public auctions including but not limited to Raqqa, Mari, Dura-Europos and Deir al Zor.

With respect to the first and second explanations, it is well documented that ISIS has ransacked thousands of artifacts from dozens of World Heritage and archaeological sites in Syria and that the profits from flogging cheap our cultural heritage helps IS meet its monthly budgets, more than 50% of which goes to pay salaries and multiple relatively generous benefits to its fighters and their families.

Yet research by this observer on this subject concludes that ISIS looting income, contrary to many claims including a recent one by CBS News that reported that ISIS generated “hundreds of millions of dollars” from antiquities transactions, although that figure–which rivals the annual haul of antiquities sold legally throughout the entire world, has not been backed up by probative, material data.

One expert, Randall A. Hixenbaugh, Director of New York based Hixenbaugh Ancient Art, told a Manhattan conference recently, “We’re looking at objects that are worth hundreds of dollars here. When we say that these antiquities are worth millions of dollars, where is the evidence of this? I think that prompts people to pick up shovels in eastern Syria. Are we not adding to the problem right now, by hyperbolic assessments of value?”

On May 15, 2015 a raid by American Special Forces on an ISIS safe house in a small village outside Deir ez-Zor killed ISIS leader Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi, better known by his nickname Abu Sayyaf who was in charge of overseeing the excavation of our cultural heritage. The raid also freed an 18-year old Yazidi slave woman, and captured a trove of documents that revealed far lower amounts from marketing cultural heritage artifacts than earlier estimated. The raid also uncovered many USB’s containing documents verifying that our cultural heritage artifacts are for ISIS just a natural resource to be extracted from the ground rather than as “ghanim” a.k.a looted items or spoils of war.

Selling plundered antiquities is frankly not strategic funding for IS compared to oil, banks, taxes and stolen goods. Far from the initial claims that ISIS was making tens of millions or more from stolen antiquities, the true figures are likely far lower. Some antiquities can indeed be sold to the final buyer in Europe, the United States or Asia for large amounts. But most of the material coming out of the ground in ISIS areas on a daily basis, such as pottery, glassware, coins, and architectural fragments are worth, at most, several hundred dollars at the final point of sale.

The total annual income of ISIS from antiquities is currently calculated by this observer and others who are more expert, at only a few million dollars; compared to, say, oil revenue, which for 2014 was estimated to be between $100 million and $263 million.

Why Does ISIS Destroy Cultural Heritage? ‘Social Control’ Is Now Emerging as the Dominant Reason

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By Franklin Lamb

Damascus

It is widely recognized that the damage done to our cultural heritage in Syria and to the heritage of those who will follow us, cannot be calculated.  Untold quantities of archaeologically vital artifacts have been looted, sold, displaced and discarded through industry-like efforts. 

Citizens of Syria who are increasingly resisting the “IS Caliphate” and risking their own and their families lives to flee ISIS controlled areas in Syria are often willing to discuss their experiences and to offer instructive insights. 

Among these patriots are regular citizens as well as the stellar nationalist employees of Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) who this observer has interviewed extensively over the past nearly three years as they elucidate why ISIS destroys and loots our irreplaceable antiquities. This observer’s research has been augmented by other eyewitnesses, some who are themselves former jihadists or their victims, to ISIS looting and its distribution of franchises to sell off our shared cultural heritage give witness.

Heretofore, three varying but cogent explanations for ISIS’ rabid destruction of our shared cultural heritage have been commonplace. 

The first identified the well documented Islamic State iconoclastic antipathy towards their and our pre-Islamic past. The second is that the jihadists are generally considered to be profiting hugely from selling our looted antiquities. 

Thirdly there has been some evidence-but not compelling in this observers judgment, that jihadists are destroying our cultural heritage in Syria as ‘publicity stunts’ to get  attention on social media, with some motivated by profit and offering to sell Syrian artifacts via Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat.  Meanwhile, according to a US Congressional staffer this week, leftover artifacts are currently being sold by IS to locals at public auctions including but not limited to Raqqa, Mari, Dura-Europos and Deir al Zor.

With respect to the first and second explanations, it is well documented that ISIS has ransacked thousands of artifacts from dozens of World Heritage and archaeological sites in  Syria and that the profits from flogging cheap our cultural heritage helps IS meet its monthly budgets, more than 50% of which goes to pay salaries and multiple relatively generous benefits to its fighters and their families.  

Yet research by this observer on this subject concludes that ISIS looting income, contrary to many claims including a recent one by  CBS News that  reported that ISIS generated “hundreds of millions of dollars” from antiquities transactions, although that figure—which rivals the annual haul of antiquities sold legally throughout the entire world, has not been backed up by probative, material data. 

One expert, Randall A. Hixenbaugh, Director of New York based Hixenbaugh Ancient Art, told a Manhattan conference recently, “We’re looking at objects that are worth hundreds of dollars here. When we say that these antiquities are worth millions of dollars, where is the evidence of this? I think that prompts people to pick up shovels in eastern Syria.       Are we not adding to the problem right now, by hyperbolic assessments of value?”

On May 15, 2015 a raid by American Special Forces on an ISIS safe house in a small village outside Deir ez-Zor killed ISIS leader Fathi Ben Awn Ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi, better known by his nickname Abu Sayyaf who was in charge of  overseeing the excavation of our cultural heritage.    The raid also freed an 18-year old Yazidi slave woman, and captured a trove of documents that revealed far lower amounts from marketing cultural heritage artifacts than earlier estimated.  The raid also uncovered  many USB’s containing documents verifying that our cultural heritage artifacts are for ISIS just a natural resource to be extracted from the ground rather than as “ghanim” a.k.a looted items or spoils of war.

Selling plundered antiquities is frankly not strategic funding for IS compared to oil, banks, taxes and stolen goods. Far from the initial claims that ISIS was making tens of millions or more from stolen antiquities, the true figures are likely far lower. Some antiquities can indeed be sold to the final buyer in Europe, the United States or Asia for large amounts.             But most of the material coming out of the ground in ISIS areas on a daily basis, such as pottery, glassware, coins, and architectural fragments are worth, at most, several hundred dollars at the final point of sale.

The total annual income of ISIS from antiquities is currently calculated by this observer and others who are more expert, at only a few million dollars; compared to, say, oil revenue, which for 2014 was estimated to be between $100 million and $263 million. 

Admittedly hard data is tough to come by and while Archaeologists can no longer visit most of Syria, they do monitor cultural depredation in Syria from the secure vantage point of outer space. Employing pretty amazing high-resolution satellite imagery as Oxford University’s Institute of Digital Archaeology (IDA) is doing as it instructs us and gives us hope for restorations of our cultural heritage in Syria with its One Million Images project.

This observer submits that there is a fourth and even more sinister reason that has not been much considered with respect to the Islamic State brand, which admittedly is an ambitious and seductive vision that has proven to be a fairly major social media success. He posits for dear readers consideration that the destruction and looting of our heritage underpins an intricate scaffolding of intense micro-managed social control over its captive populations, a system that is designed to intensely regulate individual behavior. 

This even applies with respect to where and when to excavate and to loot our antiquities with maps and time and date-stamped permits in hand, at assigned archaeological sites thought worthwhile to excavate and to strip of anything guessed to be of some value.

Recently ISIS has introduced a highly organized control over looting of our cultural heritage which is evidenced by satellite photos revealing neat rows of looting holes on archaeological sites. As noted above, ISIS considers antiquities a natural resource such as oil or gas along with its large-scale operation of theft of personal and real property. Its Department of Precious Resources (Diwan al Rikaz) which controls mines and minerals also now oversees antiquities and issues excavation permits. Diwan al Rikaz demands on average 20% of objects excavated, it also applies a sales tax and uses social media to augment its marketing while relying mainly on obedient citizens to do the excavation work while its fighters perform their jihadist duties elsewhere. Unlike oil extraction, antiquities looting are not a major guaranteed stream of income in fact locally the activity is a bit of a gamble. As in a Los Vegas casino, many can wager but with only a long shot prospect of a high payoff. The vast majority of artifacts currently being unearthed at sites in Syria are of great archaeological importance but little value on the art market.

Increasing its social control by regulating the theft and destruction of our past is now part of a wider and expanding organizing frenzy of the IS.

The ISIS glossy propaganda magazine, now issued in 14 languages, ‘Dabiq,’ named after a key site in Muslim apocalypse mythology,  and which bills itself as a periodical magazine focusing on the issues of tawhid (unity), manhaj (truth-seeking), hijrah (migration), jihad (holy war) and jama’ah (community) frequently features ISIS attacks on Syria’s pre-Islamic heritage sites. 

             Typical of its taunting of those who value culture heritage is Dabiq’s recent comment:

 “Enemies of the Islamic State were furious at losing a ‘treasured heritage.’ The mujahidīn, however, were not the least bit concerned about the feelings and sentiments of the kuffar. (ed: ‘non-believers’). The kuffar had unearthed these statues and ruins in recent generations and attempted to portray them as part of a cultural heritage and identity     that the Muslims of Syria should embrace and be proud of. Yet this opposes the guidance of Allah and His Messenger and only serves a nationalist agenda.”  

 This sort of ISIS iconoclasm mirrors its other social control punishments. Dabiq recently featured a post-card size list of good citizen ‘reminders’ recommending that it be always carried by IS citizens:

            “Death for blasphemy against God, death for blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad, death for apostasy against Islam, death to both the penetrator and receiver of gay sex, hand and leg amputations for theft, more than two dozen violations such as drinking wine earn 80 or more lashes, while “highway criminality” brings death by crucifixion.”

Another sign of intensifying social control by ISIS is found in recently issued laws on Hijab wearing in Syria. According to  conversations of this observer with recent women   escapees from IS areas in Syria, all women past the age of puberty must comply with the following social control  rules on Hijabs or face draconian punishments. Specifically, all women in Syria must wear Hijabs that are thick and not revealing. “It must be loose (not tight). It must cover all the body. It must not be attractive. It must not resemble the     clothes of unbelievers or men. It must not be decorative and eye-catching. It must not be perfumed.” 

In the south Beirut Hezbollah neighborhood of Dahiyeh, where this observer currently resides, Shia women are known and appreciated for their attractive often richly colored            head coverings and scarves/hijabs and for their special way of tying them to one side under their chin that is quite distinctive, attractive and often are conscious fashion statements.  This is forbidden for all Muslims in IS areas of Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere ISIS has control of populations on penalty of 80 lashes.

Further tightening social control is evidenced by ISIS which is currently introducing a higher organized and centralized control over looting of our cultural heritage which is evidenced by satellite photos revealing neat rows of looting holes on archaeological sites. 

ISIS considers antiquities a natural resource such as oil or gas along with its large-scale operation of theft of personal and real property. Its Department of Precious Resources  (Diwan al Rikaz) that controls mines and minerals also oversees antiquities and issues excavation permits, takes on average 20% of objects excavated, applies a sales tax and uses social media to augment its marketing which relies mainly on obedient citizens to do the work while its fighters perform their jihadist duties elsewhere.  Artifacts are now also       being sold, according to Syrian citizens who have fled, to locals at public auctions in Raqqa and Deir al Zor.

By controlling antiquities like other resources, ISIS inserts itself into countless holes in the ground. The real goal is not simply cash profit but rather it is psychological control over new ranges of behavior and thought of its subjects which is part of its totalitarian vision of absolute control. ISIS has transformed the pre-Islamic past of Syria into a forbidden zone, a mere natural resource to be exploited. But while the financial profits may be relatively small, more importantly it also offers ISIS yet another way to control the behavior and thoughts of its population, transforming them from captives into dependents of the “Caliphate.”  

Increasingly the Obama administration and its allies are frustrated regarding the subject of the need to protect and preserve Syria’s Endangered Heritage. They remain less than confident that ISIS plundering of our heritage in Syria as part of its intensifying social control in its “Caliphate” can be stopped anytime soon.

Yet at the urging of the White House, last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee worked on  H.R. 1493, the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act and  favorably reported the measure for full consideration by the Senate.

The original bill which passed in the House of Representative in June 2015 called for the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State as the new United States Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection, commonly referred to in Washington as a “Cultural Czar”.   The new language which was designed to obtain early passage, recommends that the President should establish an inter-agency coordinating committee to coordinate and advance the efforts of the executive branch to protect and preserve international cultural property at risk.”

The mandate of the new inter-agency committee, to be chaired by an Assistant Secretary of State, includes working to protect and preserve international cultural property in Syria while working to prevent and disrupt cultural heritage looting and trafficking in Syria.  

The legislation’s mandate also includes protecting sites of cultural and archaeological significance while seeking to provide for the lawful exchange of international cultural property from Syria.

Franklin Lamb’s recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage, An International Responsibility to Preserve and Protect, is available on Amazon/Kindle, Smashwords, and other ebook sites as well as in hard-copy in Arabic and English. Lamb is currently based in Beirut and Damascus and reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

1400-Year-Old Monastery Destroyed in Iraq

(h/t Greg Bacon)

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group’s relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.

St. Elijah’s Monastery stood as a place of worship for 1,400 years, including most recently for U.S. troops. In earlier millennia, generations of monks tucked candles in the niches, prayed in the chapel, worshipped at the altar. The Greek letters chi and rho, representing the first two letters of Christ’s name, were carved near the entrance.

This month, at the request of the AP, satellite imagery firm DigitalGlobe tasked a high resolution camera to grab photos of the site, and then pulled earlier images of the same spot.

Before it was razed, a partially restored, 27,000-square-foot stone and mortar building stood fortress-like on a hill above Mosul. Although the roof was largely missing, it had 26 distinctive rooms including a sanctuary and chapel. One month later photos show “that the stone walls have been literally pulverized,” said imagery analyst Stephen Wood, CEO of Allsource Analysis, who pinpointed the destruction between August and September 2014.

“Bulldozers, heavy equipment, sledgehammers, possibly explosives turned those stone walls into this field of gray-white dust. They destroyed it completely,” he said from his Colorado offices.

On the other side of the world, in his office in exile, in Irbil, Iraq, Catholic priest Rev. Paul Thabit Habib, 39, stared in disbelief at the before- and after- images.

“Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled,” he said in Arabic. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.”

Continued here

Spike in “Antiques” Imported from Syria Raises Suspicions

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By Rick St. Hilaire

Imports of Syrian goods into the United States have fallen dramatically since war broke out in the Mideast nation in 2011 and since the White House expanded the Syria Sanctions Program. Yet, despite the decline in U.S. imports from Syria, there are now disquieting trade statistics from 2014–the most recent complete data available–that should stir the attention of customs officials, police, and policymakers concerned about looted archaeology, stolen mosaics, and illicitly excavated coins trafficked illegally into the U.S.

Continued here

How ’ISIS’ Funds Itself?

Designed By: Nour Fakih

How "ISIS" Funds Itself

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian 

  

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

I Get Interviewed on Levant TV

A couple of days ago I was invited to guest on Levant TV, on their program “Forbidden Talk,” hosted by Anna Delaney. The topic of the program was the destruction of cultural and religious heritage in the Middle East. What sparked their interest in having me on the show was an article I wrote last month entitled, “Have Pillaged Iraqi Artifacts Ended Up in a Museum in Israel?” The article discusses an exhibition of ancient Babylonian cuneiform tablets now on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. The collection is owned by an Israeli collector, David Sofer, but questions have been raised about how he came into possession of it.

If you haven’t read the article, you can access it here. And you can also visit the Levant TV web page here.

Iraq, the Ultimate War Crime: Erasing the History of Mesopotamia. The Destruction of Nineveh

By Felicity Arbuthnot

Posted on March 18, 2015

“Iraq may soon end up with no history.” – (Archeologist Joanna Farchakh, quoted in Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, 2010.)


In his indispensible book “from Sumer to Saddam” (1) Geoff Simons writes:

“The region of the world that the ancient Greeks called Mesopotamia (land between the rivers) … was a fount of civilization – a veritable crucible … cradle, womb of cultural progress … Here it was the first cities were born, writing began and the first codified legal systems were established. Here, through such ancient lands as Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia and Assyria that the vital cultural brew was stirred, the quite remarkable concoction from which Western civilization would emerge.”

That chapter “The Ancient Crucible” concludes: “We may reflect also that a modern Iraq is entitled to contemplate with awe and pride the fructifying richness of the cultures that first emerged in this land more than five thousand years ago.”

From the day of the US-UK invasion that “fructifying richness”, societal, cultural, historic has been systematically, deliberately erased in one of the most devastating, despotic, desecrating, pulverizing cultural armageddons in history.

March 19th commemorates the twelfth anniversary of the destruction of that “crucible”, it’s wonders still unceasingly pillaged and destroyed.

When the National Museum was looted (10th – 12th April 2003) American troops stood by – whilst their colleagues diligently guarded the Oil Ministry.

As some of antiquity’s most sublime, wonders – fifteen thousand items – were looted, Donald Rumsfeld, demonstrably a cultural cretin, remarked: “stuff happens.”

The US military were given co-ordinates of all Iraq’s museums, monuments, archeological sites. “All of Iraq is an archeological treasure”, remarked an archeologist at the time. Yet the US troops led destruction’s way, creating a military base in Babylon (dating from c 2,300 BC) site of the Hanging Gardens. Ancient miracles were bulldozed to build a military helicopter landing pad. They did the same next to the believed birthplace of Abraham, near Ur’s great Ziggurat. Ur dates from 3,800 BC but is recorded in written history from 26th century BC. War crimes of enormity.

After George W. Bush declared a “Crusade”, the (literally) crusading American soldiers entered predominately Muslim Iraq (as Afghanistan) with thousands of give-away Bibles, yet were clearly supremely ignorant that Babylon, as Ur, which they were destroying was sacrosanct in the three Abrahamic religions. Babylon is recorded in the Bible in the Books of Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Ur is recorded three times in Genesis and in Nehemiah.

The US soldiers’ criminal vandalism resulted in: “Babylon being rendered archeologically barren.” (Guardian, 8th June 2007.)  The: “courtyard of the 10th-century caravanserai* of Khan al-Raba was used  for exploding captured weapons. One blast demolished the ancient roofs and felled many of the walls. The place is now a ruin.” Barbarians through the Ishtar Gate.

Destruction has continued across Iraq by both occupation forces and the unchecked gangs and factions which flocked in with the invasion and due to the feckless abandonment of border controls by the US and UK – countries near paranoid about such controls on their own borders.

The latest archeologists and historians compare again to the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258.

On Friday, 9th March, the Muslim Sabbath, the ancient city of Nimrud was bulldozed by self declared “Islamic State” primitives destroying what became the capital of the Neo-Assyrian empire, dating back to the 13th century BC. The site also contained the remains of the palace of Ashurnasirpal, King of Assyria (883-859 BC) who made Nimrud his capital.

A local source told Reuters valuables were looted then the city razed to the ground. One entrance to this haunting place was guarded until last week by human headed bulls and lions with hawk’s wings. These guardians prevailed through the region’s turmoils for nearly three thousand years, to be destroyed with all they watched over by terrorists spawned by Bush and Blair’s criminal invasion.

In the south western palace is the temple of Nabu, God of wisdom, the arts and sciences, believed son of the Babylonian God, Marduk. Construction was probably between 810-782 BC.

Historian Tom Holland told the Guardian:

“It’s a crime against Assyria, against Iraq, and against humanity. Destroy the past, and you control the future. The Nazis knew this, and the Khmer Rouge – and the Islamic State clearly understand it too.”

Two days later another of the world’s wonders, Hatra, was reported largely destroyed. Hatra was built circa 3rd or 2nd century BC, at the same time as the great Arab cities of Syria’s Palmyra, Petra (“rose red city half as old as time”) in Jordan and Lebanon’s Ba’albek. Hatra withstood repeated attacks by the Roman Empire to be defeated by those spawned by Bush and Blair’s actions.

A 1982 Iraqi Ministry of Tourism guide describes in Hatra:

“ … a frieze with sculptures which seem to tell a religious story enacted by Gods and musicians – the most beautiful work of art so far discovered” in this vast, ethereal city of creamy stone which shimmers golden under the sun, glowing amber under dawn’s rays and the setting sun.

The columns, temples, statues communicate not alone from the temples of the Gods, but surely from the architecture of the Gods, rendering a writer searching for words seemingly not yet devised.

There is the Temple of the goddess Shahiro (“the morning star”.) An area is:

”paved with veined marble, with walls decorated with geometrical designs and eagles – eagles being the main element in the Hatra religion. Over a decorative frieze, Arabic writing dates from the second half of the Abbasid era” (750-1258 AD.) The Abbasid Caliphate oversaw the “golden age of Islamic civilization.”

Hatra abounds with temples to creation. They were dedicated to the Sun God, to Venus (the morning star) “called variously Allatu, Atra’ta and Marthin – our lady.” The God Nergoul, also with a dedicated temple, symbolized the planet Mars. The revered, great, soaring eagle had his temple, where his statues looked down from on high.

The inscriptions are predominantly in ancient Aramaic, some reading: “Kings and princes of Hatra are the victorious kings of the Arabs.” They are surely weeping.

For those who know these marvels, hearts will never mend. Tears will never dry.

On my last visit I stood in front of the statue of Abbu, wife of Santruk 1st. I remembered James Elroy Flecker’s reflections on the British Museum. I repeated them aloud, alone in an azure dawn:

“There is a hall in Bloomsbury


That no more dare I tread,


For all the stone men shout at me and swear they are not dead


And once I touched a broken girl, and knew that marble bled.”

The day after Hatra was destroyed, so was the fourth capital of Assyria, Khorsabad, built by Sargon 11 (721-705 BC.)

Writings show a city with a royal hunting park and gardens with: “all the aromatic plants” found in the fertile Euphrates river valleys. Thousands of fruit trees, including quinces, almonds and apples were planted.

Khorsabad was extensively looted by the French in the 19th century and by the Americans in between 1928 and 1935.

In excavation initiated by the French Consul General in Mosul in 1842, an attempt was made to: “move two 30-ton statues and other material to Paris from Khorsabad on a large boat and four rafts”(2.) Two rafts and the boat were scuttled by pirates and Iraq’s stolen treasures lost for good.

In 1855, a further effort to ship remaining treasures: ” as well as material from other sites being worked by the French, mainly Nimrud, was undertaken. Almost all of the collection – over two hundred crates – was lost in the river. Surviving artifacts from this excavation were taken to the Louvre Museum in Paris.”

Between 1928–1935, American archaeologists from the Chicago’s Oriental Institute dug in the palace area. “A colossal bull estimated to weigh 40 tons was uncovered outside the throne room. It was found split into three large fragments. The torso alone weighed about 20 tons. This was shipped to Chicago.”

The British and Germans did a fair amount of looting in southern Iraq and notably Babylon and Ur, as their national museums bear witness.

The week before the destruction of Nimrud nearly 113,000 irreplaceable books and manuscripts in Mosul Library were burned by IS savages in what Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, described as “cultural cleansing” and: “One of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.”(3) Some items were on a UNESCO rarities list.

Set alight in a pyre outside the library included Syriac books printed in Iraq’s first printing house; eighteenth century manuscripts; volumes from the Ottoman era (1534-1704 and 1831-1920.) Irreplaceable rarities – an astrolabe, an astronomical “computer” for calculating the timing of the positions of the sun and the stars, used in classical antiquity and the Golden Age of Islam also destroyed, as were superb sandglass creations.

Over a hundred personal libraries of notable families from Mosul held “over the last century” were also incinerated.

The library was then blown up.

In the same week, the Mosul Museum was also attacked. Assyrian and Hatrene statues – including one of a Hatrene King holding an eagle – were smashed, with a winged bull and the God of Rozhan. Other items are believed to have been stolen to sell, possibly in Turkey and Syria.

In July last year the centuries old tomb believed of the Prophet Jonah in Mosul was obliterated with ISIS laid explosives with the Mosque in which it lay, dating back to the 14th century. Prior to that it was a church. “The Mosque of Jonah” was also reputed to have held part of the remains of the whale which swallowed him.

All destruction described here lay in Nineveh Province, of which John Masefield wrote:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,

Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,

With a cargo of ivory,

And apes and peacocks,

Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine. 

Iraq, as Palestine, is being erased, with Libya, Syria and even the great pyramids of Egypt now threatened by the monsters Bush and Blair’s “Crusade” has created.

The US, UK, Canada and other countries have “military advisors” in Iraq. They are silent and inactive on these war crimes of the new Mongols.

The US and UK Baghdad Embassy websites are equally mute. Yet on the  US Embassy’s site is:

“Regarding the Status of the Iraqi Jewish Archive:

“January 28, 2015

“The Iraqi Jewish Archive remains in the custody of the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration while plans are finalized on future exhibitions in the United States. None of the materials in the Iraqi Jewish  Archive have traveled outside of the United States.  The United States continues to abide by the terms of its agreement with the Government of Iraq.”

A government under occupation of course, cannot legally make such agreements.

“The exhibit of the material in Washington in 2013 and New York in 2014 has led to increased understanding between Iraq and the United States, and a greater recognition of the diverse heritage of Iraq.  We look forward to continuing our cooperation with the Government of Iraq on this matter so that the exhibit can be displayed in other cities in the United States.”(4)

Thus, Iraqi Jewish Archives (seized by the US in May 2003) safeguarded in Iraq for hundreds of years was spirited away by the United States. Yet they have been complicit in (Babylon, Ur, Baghdad Museum and more) or inactive as the “diverse heritage of Iraq” is systematically looted and destroyed.

Curiously, in in 2005, former US Department of Justice lawyer, John Yoo, suggested that the US should go on the offensive against al-Qaeda, having

“our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist organization. It could have its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps, and fundraising operations. It could launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes, helping to sow confusion … ” (5) See also (6.)

Incidentally, Israeli and US “military advisers” were reported arrested   nearby as destruction befell vast swathes of Nineveh Province, in a story that has gone quiet.

There are far more questions than answers.

* Early resting places for travellers and their beasts of burden within a walled exterior, arranged around a courtyard, with food for travellers and animals, shelter, shops, washing facilities and often baths.


1.     https://www.questia.com/library/97576407/iraq-from-sumer-to-saddam

2.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dur-Sharrukin

3.     http://globalvoicesonline.org/2015/02/25/isis-burns-mosul-library-in-iraq-destroys-thousands-of-valuable-manuscripts-and-books/

4.     http://iraq.usembassy.gov/pr_012815.html

5.     http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/02/x-admitted-false-flag-attacks.html

6.     http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-relationship-between-washington-and-isis-the-evidence/5435405

A detailed chronology of destruction of Iraq’s history 2003-2009, compiled by the Brussels Tribunal: http://www.brusselstribunal.org/Looting.htm

 


Related:
The barbaric destruction of Iraq’s ancient artefacts is a war crime
The Mosul artifacts: A priceless loss
Turning Iraq into a ‘blank slate’

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

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Saving World Heritage – The West’s New R2P Pretext

SYRIA 360°

By Finian Cunningham

Is the defence of world heritage sites in Iraq the new «responsibility to protect» doctrine to justify Western intervention in the geo-strategically important region? The timing coincides with renewed admonitions from the United States and Saudi Arabia for a coalition of ground forces to defeat the Islamic State network in Iraq and Syria – and just when Iraqi and Syrian forces appear to be decisively pushing back the extremists in both countries.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon this week added his voice to calls for an international coalition of forces to prevent the continuing destruction of ancient cultural sites and artefacts by the IS terror group. The initiative comes after the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) condemned the campaign of IS looting and obliteration of antiquities as a war crime.

IS cadres – also known by alternative acronyms ISIL or ISIS – have issued propaganda videos of wholesale vandalism of museums, churches, sculptures and other archaeological treasures in northern Iraq. Images of bulldozers and sledgehammer-wielding militants tearing down 3,000-year-old porticos and statues have indeed shocked the world.

Cities under IS control, Mosul and Nimrud, have seen priceless artefacts destroyed in unspeakable acts of nihilism. Nimrud is the ancient capital of Assyria dating back to 800 BC and has associations with the great grandson of the reputed biblical prophet Noah. The next target for the Islamists is the city of Hatra, which is home to some of the oldest known architecture in the world.

click to enlarge

The land of Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers – straddling what is now modern Syria and Iraq – is known as «the cradle of human civilisation». Its rich tapestry of cultural heritage is reflected in the hitherto peaceful coexistence of religions. The systematic campaign to delete antiquities by the IS network goes hand-in-hand with the group’s lethal intolerance and persecution of other people who do not share its obscurantist Wahhabi ideology. Christians, Shia and Sunni Muslims, Yazidis and others have all been brutally victimised, with graphic images of beheadings and crucifixions of men, and women and children being sold into slavery.

The suspicion is that the West is preparing to use this powerful emotive backdrop as a new pretext to justify military intervention. This seems especially the case because erstwhile pretexts, such as «protecting human rights», have run out of credibility as a political lever on public opinion.

The US and its Western allies have long used the doctrine of «responsibility to protect» or «R2P» as a flimsy pretext for military intervention. The concept can be traced back to the administration of President Bill Clinton during the 1990s when Washington and its NATO allies invoked the «moral imperative» to use military force in former Yugoslavia to supposedly protect human rights. The much-vaunted ethical principle has thus served as a means to interpret international law in such a way that justifies Western military interventions, even when those interventions involve NATO bombardment of cities, as happened in Belgrade. It is also a convenient public relations device in order to convince Western popular opinion to rally around foreign military deployment.

Of course, an ethical dimension has always purportedly been used to justify US and Western wars abroad. We can go back to the First World War and the Wilsonian declaration of «defending the rights of small nations». But the explicit use of human rights under the R2P doctrine became elevated to a primary motivating principle for military intervention during the past two decades. Part of its appeal was its emotive leverage on public sentiments. «It is our moral duty to protect our fellow human beings by force,» goes the argument. It was promulgated by such «liberal hawks» as the current US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and President Barack Obama’s National Security advisor Susan Rice.

Another formative factor was that a new ideological rationale was needed to replace the Cold War propaganda narrative of the US in which it was claimed to be «defending the free world from Godless communism». For nearly five decades that old chestnut served well to give legal and moral acceptance for American foreign interventions all around the globe, from South America to the Middle East, Africa and Asia. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the US and its NATO partners needed a new ideological cover for imperialist war-making to replace the then redundant Cold War narrative. They found success with various tropes, including the «War on Terror», the elimination of «weapons of mass destruction», and the Responsibility to Protect» human rights.

R2P was famously rolled out to justify the NATO role in Libya during 2011, which eventually saw the toppling of the government of Muammar Gaddafi and the ongoing internecine wracking of the North African country. In March 2011, the US and its NATO partners claimed that the setting up of a No-Fly Zone was necessary to prevent a bloodbath by pro-Gaddafi forces in the eastern city of Benghazi. The bloodbath never came but the NATO No-Fly Zone quickly transmogrified into a seven-month aerial bombing campaign that led to IS-related jihadists take over Libya, following the street lynching of Gaddafi in mid-October 2011.

The trouble with all propaganda narratives is that there is a danger of them running out of credibility steam at some point. The threadbare War on Terror and the risible ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction (as in Saddam’s Iraq) have become tarnished like the R2P «doctrine». These propaganda devices have become riven with contradictions, futile self-defeating blowback effects, as well as being replete with absurd hypocrisies and double standards. The evident NATO destruction of Libya and descent into a Mad Max-type warlordism – all in the name of human rights – is indelibly illustrative of the fraudulent pretensions of Washington and its European allies.

This partly explains why the Cold War narrative is being resurrected with new attempts to paint Russia under President Vladimir Putin as an «expansionist threat to global security». But the new Cold War cliché of demonising Russia has nowhere near the potency of the former narrative. It just doesn’t sound credible, with barely a semblance of facts.

Likewise, the US-led aerial coalition to defeat IS in northern Syria and Iraq suffers from a fatal credibility gap. A significant constituency in the Western public knows that Washington and its European allies, along with their despotic Arab monarchies, are largely responsible for the creation of IS and other extremist groups, stemming from the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the West’s proxy war against the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad beginning in March 2011. The flood of refugees in the region and the brutal persecution of communities by IS are all attributable to Western interventions and intrigue. Therefore the invoking of R2P as a «principle» to justify more Western military intervention just does not wash with the public. Indeed, it sounds downright ridiculous and morally reprehensible.

No, some new emotive appeal is necessary. And this is where the latest calls for a coalition to «protect world cultural heritage» seems to fit the bill – at least superficially.

Last week, while visiting the Wahhabi Saudi rulers, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying that «military pressure» may be needed to oust Assad. His Saudi hosts – who have funded IS both financially and theologically – also stated that «a new coalition force is needed to defeat IS on the ground».

Significantly, these US and Saudi appeals for increased military intervention in the Middle East come at a time when Syria and Iraq – both backed by Iran and Russia – have made appreciable gains against the Islamist militants. Assad’s forces are tightening the noose on the militant-held northern city of Aleppo, while the Iraqi army is pushing against the IS strongholds of Tikrit and Mosul.

In other words, the ground war in Syria and Iraq is not suiting the objectives of Washington as it is consolidating gains for Russian and Iranian allies.

A countervailing Western/Wahhabi Arab intervention would be desirable. However, the ideological arsenal of pretexts for US military interventions are depleted, redundant, spent or throughly disgraced.

«Saving world heritage» and 3,000-year-old artefacts could be just the new version of «R2P» that is needed by the US and its Western allies.

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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Turning Iraq into a ‘blank slate’

By Haifa Zangana

The US and the IS have both tried to turn Iraq into a “blank slate” so they can recast the country in their own image, doing immeasurable damage to Iraq’s cultural heritage in the attempt.

The propaganda war between the Islamic State group (IS) and the US-led international coalition reached a new fever pitch last week.

The focus of this round of psychological war was Mosul, north of Iraq, where the IS released a propaganda video showing overzealous men destroying what appeared to be ancient artefacts dating back thousands of years. The justification? The artefacts were deemed idolatrous and Islam prohibits worship of anything other than God.

The Mosul artifacts: A priceless loss
The barbaric destruction of Iraq’s ancient artefacts is a war crime

The world media’s condemnation, with few exceptions, focused solely on the horrendous destruction by the black-clad men of the IS. But it totally ignored the systematic cultural destruction that took place in Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation. Highlighting one crime to cover up another is a propaganda strategy, especially during war, to stop people looking into the root cause of crimes.
Turning Iraq into a 'blank slate'

Nineveh has been described as an archaeological wonder of the world [De Agostini/C. Sappa/Getty]

Blatant hypocrisy

Beyond the immediate media condemnation of IS’s criminal acts, let us recall how US-imposed democracy “protected” Iraqi cultural heritage when the Americans were in charge for 12 years.

Heritage protection is the responsibility of occupying powers under the Geneva Convention. But we all heard US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s “humanitarian” logic. A few days after the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003, Rumsfeld commented on the ongoing looting and destruction of the treasured artefacts of the Iraqi National Museum and other museums.

“Freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.”

A total of 15,000 invaluable Mesopotamian artefacts disappeared from the national museum. “Stuff happens,” Rumsfeld said. Stuff was not allowed to happen in two places, however, the Ministries of Oil and Interior. The disappearance of historic items is a common thread in 2003 across the country and in 2014 in Mosul, but the earlier destruction frenzy was left to the mob, whether these mobs were organised or not.

Under the watchful eyes of the occupiers, museums and libraries including the National library with its historical manuscripts, art galleries and universities, were all looted and burned down. Those acts were simply described either as collateral damage or unforeseen incidents.

Among the “unforeseen incidents” was the use of ancient heritage sites as US bases. Among them, on the lower Euphrates river, was Ur, the capital of the ancient civilisation of Sumer, (around 3000 BC) famous for its impressive ziggurat temple, which was used as a US military base for five years.

A little to the north, on the middle Euphrates, Babylon – for more than a millennium the key city of ancient Mesopotamia – was used as a base for around 6,000 troops.

“About 300,000 square metres of the surface of the site has been flattened… Sandbags were filled with precious archaeological fragments and 2,600 year old paving stones were crushed by tanks,” the British museum reported. Then Samara on the Tigris north of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbassid Caliphate a thousand years ago.

How did the US justify the irreparable damage? To “further defeat terrorists and insurgents,” a US military spokesman said.

The destruction of mosques, a communal space of cultural identity, followed. At least 100 mosques were destroyed in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, by US troops fighting against resistance to the occupation. Photos were circulated of black crosses painted on mosque walls and on copies of the Quran, and of soldiers dumping their waste inside mosques.

This destruction was met with silence except, again, for a few voices like Ralph Nader, who called upon President George W. Bush to stop destroying the mosques of Iraq. He argued that Bush’s reference to a “crusade” and his invocation of religious inspiration for the mission to overthrow the dictator and the invasion based on a platform of fabrications and deceptions, which was clearly illegal under international laws, and the demolition of Iraqi cities and towns, did nothing but enhance “recruitment of al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda clones”.

Under the Geneva Convention, an occupying army should use all means within its power to protect the cultural heritage of an occupied country. The 2003 invasion ignored it. Another casualty was the impunity given by Bush to all his troops and contractors, which gave the green light by extension to the Iraqi government, before and after the withdrawal of the US forces in 2011.

It meant directly or indirectly continuing a mission of destruction. One aspect is the continued looting of archaeological sites left without protection once the age-old system by which local populations were trusted and paid by the government for protecting the sites had collapsed.

Political corruption has swallowed most of the Iraqi oil revenues, leaving nothing for cultural protection. Historical artefacts are sold in international markets. Significant monuments which adorned Baghdad’s streets for decades, such as the statue of Abu Jaafar al-Mansour, the 8th century Abbasid caliph, the founder of the city of Baghdad, and the modern Liqa Monument by Alaa Bashir, were destroyed for reasons ranging from attaining historical revenge to applying the policy of uprooting everything that had been produced under the Baath regime.

The destruction of Mosul’s museum, therefore, was not an isolated case, but one of many. Rumsfeld’s justification might have been different than the IS group’s but the result is the same: To destroy a cultural heritage is to erase memory and above all collective identity. It is a necessary step in the process of manufacturing new identities, especially those that lies beyond existing national identities.

While the US original intention was to create and control an Iraq fit for its global free market, the IS vision is of an imagined virtuous life of the Prophet’s companions and austere puritanism. Both need a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Few Iraqis have been willing to subscribe to these two extremes, opting instead to retain their humanity.

The consequences is what Iraq lives under today: a corrupt sectarian government led by militias, and the sectarian IS, each in its way the product of a destructive occupation. The daily killing and manipulation of the media to foment fear in the long traumatised people have turned the hated ruthless US occupiers into either a protector or a saviour. That is why it is important to put these events into context, to see the overall picture, to reclaim some hope out of the heart of darkness.

Finding ways to shake off the hysterical atmosphere of the “war on terror” and its climate of fear of the other – the Islamist – while trying to resist the US takeover of the world does not mean becoming an IS apologist. Trying to understand is not to condone but to be better equipped to fight terrorism, no matter what clothes it wears.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

 

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The Mosul artifacts: A priceless loss

An image grab taken off a video reportedly released by Media Office of the Nineveh branch of the Islamic State (IS) Group on February 25, 2015, allegedly shows an IS militant destroying the statue of Lamassu, an Assyrian diety, with a jackhammer in the northern Iraqi Governorate of Nineveh. AFP.

By: Maurice Kodeih

Published Tuesday, March 3, 2015

It is hard to overstate the historical and archaeological significance of the area extending from Mesopotamia to Egypt. This stretch contains the early stages of human civilization, especially from the Neolithic era (from 8,000 to 4,000 BC). It was during the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic periods that human beings acquired an advanced level of knowledge. We transitioned from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a settled agrarian existence with major implications for our cultural output and social modes.

This new lifestyle meant domesticating animals and securing some form of housing, leading to the establishment of larger human communities and villages. The Neolithic era ended with the metal age and the discovery of writing, ushering in the historic era — as opposed toprehistoric — with the preservation of written records.

During this period, the right climatic and geographic conditions were in place from southwest Asia to the Nile Valley to Afghanistan, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Asia Minor and Iran. A favorable climate and irrigated plains allowed for an increased population and larger societies. Humans planted grain and certain types of vegetables and domesticated some animals such as goats, cows, pigs and dogs. In addition, the first real signs of religion began to appear with sculpted statues of the gods emerging.

In the fourth millennium BC, writing appeared separately, yet almost simultaneously, in the Nile basin and Mesopotamia, an indicator of the level of civilizational development that human groups in these two regions had reached.

Geographically, Mesopotamia stretches from the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula in the south to Armenia and the Zagros Mountains in the north, and from the Syrian desert in the west to the mountains of Iran in the east. The Mesopotamian terrain is dominated by mountains and hills in the north, plains in the center and south and desert plateaus in the west.

Just as Egypt is the gift of the Nile — as Herodotus remarked — this civilization was the offspring of the great Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Unlike Egypt however, Mesopotamia, by virtue of its geographic location, was more open to influences from India in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west and from Asia Minor and the Caucasus in the north to Egypt in the south.

Archaeological digs indicate that Mesopotamia has been inhabited since prehistoric times and has known advanced civilizations, especially in Ur, Jemdet Nasr, Eridu, as well as other areas.

From the fourth millennium till the 5th century BC, many peoples settled in Mesopotamia, established different political entities and made important contributions to the history of the region.

The first of these people were the Sumerians, known for their knowledge of writing, numbers, the calendar system, mathematics and astronomy since the fourth millennium BC (32,000 BC). They established several cities that were politically divided such as Ur, Uruk, Umma, Lagash, Larsa and Mari. In the middle of the 28th century (2,750 BC) the king of Umma was able to unify his city-state politically, but it soon fell to the Akkadians whose king Sargon I established a city near Babel, and who defeated the Sumerians.

Other civilizations flourished in Mesopotamia including the Assyrians who settled in northern Iraq in the beginning of the third millennium and were ruled by foreign powers until their King Ashur-uballit I established independence and occupied Babel. Assyrian expansion began with Tiglath-Pileser I (1,112 – 1,074) who got all the way to the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Assyrians reached the height of their power in the 8th century BC with Tiglath-Pileser III (745 – 727) when the Assyrian Empire controlled all of Mesopotamia in addition to Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine and even Egypt, which was occupied by Ashurbanipal (668 – 626).

Afterwards, a period of decline began, which ended with the occupation of the cities of Ashur (614) and Nineveh (612), as Babylonian hegemony emerged on the ruins of the Assyrian empire.

Until the 19th century, information about this part of the world was limited to what was mentioned in the Old Testament, in addition to writings by ancient Greek travelers and Herodotus.

With the growth of Western studies of the region, from Iraq to Egypt, especially after Napoleon’s military campaign (1799), and the heightened possibility of reaching and excavating the area when it was part of the Ottoman Empire, digs and research in Mesopotamia began. First came French Consul Botha, in 1842. Excavations followed by various missions, including an English one (1845), another French mission (1851), followed by Americans (1889) and Germans (1899). Amazing artifacts were found, some of them were transferred to Western museums in Paris, London and Berlin, some were transferred to US museums, especially in Philadelphia, while others were taken to nearby countries such as the Museums of Tehran, Beirut, Damascus and Istanbul, or to Iraqi museums such as the Museums of Baghdad and Mosul.

The Mosul Museum is the second most important museum in Iraq after the Museum of Baghdad. It was established in 1951 and consisted of a small hall, before it was expanded in 1972 to showcase different sets of artifacts, especially those found in Nineveh. It covers four large exhibit halls, dedicated to ancient artifacts (prehistoric period), Assyrian, Hatran (artefacts of the city of Hatra) and Islamic.

With the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the museum closed its doors to protect its collection, after organized looting campaigns of a large number of archaeological sites and museums, including the Baghdad Museum, under the supervision of the US authorities . The Museum of Mosul was reopened in 2012 for school and university students, and rehabilitation work began in September of the same year to prepare it for general public access.

The US occupation of Iraq and the accompanying systematic destruction, looting and desecration greatly damaged the country’s historical heritage. This included the destruction of several archaeological sites due to hostilities, or looting, or illegal excavations aimed at trafficking in antiquities, or just a lack of general maintenance and care. This entailed huge and, in many cases, uncompensatable losses, due particularly to destroyed artifacts. A huge number of artifacts were smuggled outside Iraq and sold to collectors of antiquities or international museums through known auction houses; and a lot of these operations are documented. Other artifacts were destroyed locally.

With the return of violence to Iraq, and with the central government losing control of large swaths of land, numerous archaeological sites are under threat again. The media coverage of this disaster is anemic, especially since news of the murder and displacement taking place in areas under the control of the Islamists overshadows everything else.

Losses in Syrian and Iraqi areas outside of government control are enormous and have been going on for months. For example, churches, Sufi shrines and a number of mosques — such as the Mosque of the Prophet Jonah which used to be a church but was taken over a century and a half ago — were bombed. The Library of Mosul was burned down by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who bombed its central building in al-Faisaliah area in the center of the city, burning its books, documents and manuscripts, including rare volumes. Recently we witnessed the conquest of the Museum of Mosul. ISIS posted a five-minute video showing bearded men attacking the museum’s statues with sledgehammers and drilling tools to the sound of Islamist songs.

If it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of the damage done to the museum as it is impossible to get to, the video’s footage is enough to show the enormity of the loss.

Among the destroyed statues is the Assyrian winged bull inside the museum, which dates back to the 9th century BC. The video also shows the destruction of another winged bull found at the ancient Nergal Gate in Mosul. The winged bull is considered the symbol of the Assyrian civilization, which flourished in Iraq and expanded its control all the way to the Nile Valley.

The winged bull was a huge statue that measured 4.42 meters (14.50 feet) in length and weighed 30 tons. It had a bull’s body, eagle wings, and a human head.

The winged bull symbolized strength, wisdom, courage and eminence. The Assyrian civilization was known for its winged bulls, especially the Ashurite Kingdom (the Neo-Assyrian Kingdom) and the palaces of its kings in the cities of Nineveh and Assur in northern Mesopotamia.

In addition, artifacts from the Assyrian and Parthian eras were destroyed, some of which dated back to the era before Christ.

Experts pointed out that some of the destroyed artifacts were original and complete pieces while others were incomplete. They were reassembled from fragments of the original so they could be displayed in addition to replicas (moulages) of original pieces found in the aforementioned museums.

If ISIS and other groups, especially in Syria, benefit from trafficking in antiquities as one of their sources of funding, surely, the crime of destroying cultural artifacts like the one we saw in Mosul has an ideological and propagandistic dimension geared towards salafizing the religious text and heritage of certain groups. The problematic nature of depicting human and animal forms in Islam is too complicated to address in passing. What is certain, however, is that the losses multiply day by day. This issue requires more attention than can be derived from the occasional emotional outburst.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Distorting the story of Syria’s Heritage destruction

Via Syria Solidarity Movement

Feb 3, 2015, Crescent International

-By Eva Bartlett

Much has been written about the destruction and looting of Syria’s heritage sites. Syria’s Directorate-General of Antiquities & Museums (DGAM), as well as UNESCO, have documented the vast damage and looting as extensively as possible in this time of proxy-war-manufactured crisis. In July 2014, the DGAM issued a statement and plea regarding the critical situation of Syria’s heritage under attack.

“A year has passed since we last sent an international call out to all those concerned with defending Syria’s heritage. At the time, we warned against a possible cultural disaster that might be inflicted on an invaluable part of the human heritage existing in Syria,” the DGAM statement read. It noted, “Much of what we had feared happened…vast regions extending along the geography of Syria are now classified as ‘distressed cultural areas’ due to the exacerbation of the clandestine excavation crimes and deliberate damage to our historic monuments and cultural landmarks in those regions…”

As for UNESCO, it noted, “Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has been considerably damaged during the conflict, and has affected all six World Heritage Sites in Syria and eleven sites inscribed on UNESCO’s Tentative List.”

The six UNESCO-recognized sites are: The Ancient City of Damascus; Palmyra; The Ancient City of Aleppo; Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din; The Ancient villages of Northern Syria, many of which have suffered intense digging and looting, as well as various acts of intentional destruction.

Yet, in spite of DGAM warnings and UNESCO confirmations, as we near the start of year five of the war on sovereign Syria, the Axis-of-Interventionalists continue to arm terrorists within Syria, and train and funnel still more terrorists into Syria, terrorists who are not only murdering Syrians and Palestinians, but destroying Syria’s heritage, as they have been doing since the beginning.

THE “MODERATE” HERITAGE-WRECKERS

Over the years, many corporate news pieces either out-right blame the Syrian government and Syrian Arab Army (SAA), or pin the blame almost solely on Da’esh (ISIS/ISIL/IS), obfuscating and/or justifying the crimes of the other militia factions who have plundered and destroyed Syrian heritage for the last four years.

Reports noting the thievings of the so-called “moderates” often follow with claims that it is out of deperate want of funding that they pillage. One such piece, a September 2012 TIME article, both inserts the standard MSM talking points about an “uprising”, a “civil war”, etc, and also notably promotes the line of cash-strapped “rebels” giving into necessity and looting the country to fund a “revolution” against a “dictator.” TIME inserts a sectarian flourish at the end: “Still, says the Sunni Muslim, who has committed to helping his co-religionists across the border, ‘sometimes you have to make a sacrifice. How else will we overthrow Bashar?’”

As with numerous other reports, conveniently overlooked is the amply-documented role of the NATO-Gulf-Zionist-Turkey alliance arming (and training and enabling the transit of) terrorists, from the so-called “FSA” to the Nusra Front to the Islamic Front to Da’esh themselves, including by air-dropping weapons on more than one occasion.

Rick Sterling’s “U.S. Alliance with FSA and ISIL in Six Photographs” notes the US alliance with Da’esh. In just six photos, the link between so-called “moderate rebel” leader Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi and Da’esh and US politicians, is clear. The fourth photo, a still from a November 2013 video interview with Okaida, quotes the “moderate” terrorist saying: “My relationship with the brothers of ISIL is good.” The US politicians include Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Coordinator of the “Friends of Syria”, Robert Ford—shown in May 2013 with Okaidi—and US Congress members—including the repeatedly-illegally-sneaking-into-Syria, John McCain—shown meeting with Okaidi. [see also: “Who is Ambassador Robert Stephen Ford? The Architect of US Sponsored Terrorism in Syria” and “Washington Admits: FSA Equals Fictitious Syrian Army” and “FSA Leader Defects to ISIL and Exposes FSA as a Saudi-Israeli Run Project”]

Maram Susli (“Syrian Girl”)’s December 27, 2014 article in the New Eastern Outlook, “US Armed Rebels Gave TOW missiles to Al Qaeda,” notes: “US supplied TOW anti-tank missiles have ended up in the hands of Jabhat Al Nusra, Syria’s branch of Al Qaeda. The US provided the missiles to CIA vetted Syrian rebel faction Harakat Hazm in May. A video posted by Al Nusra shows the weapons being used to take over Syrian military bases, Wadi Deif and Hamidiyeh in Idlib province. …Currently Harakat al Hazm are united with Jabhat al Nusra, in Handarat Aleppo, and are jointly fighting the Syrian Army. The militant employing the TOW missile in the video, shows clear proficiency in its use, indicating that he has directly or indirectly benefited from US training. In spite of this revelation, there is evidence to suggest the US is still arming the FSA with TOW missiles.”

The article goes on to explain these new revelations are only the latest in years of documented alliances between western-sponsored “moderates” and Da’esh.

“In 2012 the Free Syrian Army (FSA), referred to as the ‘moderate rebels’ by the US State Department, fought along side Islamist State In Al Sham (ISIS) in Aleppo against the Syrian military for control over Menagh Airbase. The FSA head of Aleppo Military Council Abdul Jabbar Al Oqaidi, who has met with US Ambassador Robert Ford, was filmed with ISIS Emir Abu Jandal praising ISIS for helping take the base using a suicide car bomb. As late as September 2014, FSA commander Bassel Idriss said that they had joined forces with ISIS and Jabhat Al Nusra in Qalamoun Mountain.”

Anthony Cartalucci’s Nov 28, 2014, “Germany’s DW Reports ISIS Supply Lines Originate in NATO’s Turkey”, further exposes Turkey’s blatant role in supplying arms to terrorists in Syria. “Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) published a video report of immense implications – possibly the first national broadcaster in the West to admit that the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) is supplied not by “black market oil” or “hostage ransoms” but billions of dollars worth of supplies carried into Syria across NATO member Turkey’s borders via hundreds of trucks a day. The report titled, “‘IS’ supply channels through Turkey,” confirms what has been reported by geopolitical analysts since at least as early as 2011 – that NATO member Turkey has allowed a torrent in supplies, fighters, and weapons to cross its borders unopposed to resupply ISIS positions inside of Syria.”

Before she was killed in a highly-suspect car crash (days after stating she the Turkish intelligence had threatened her), journalist Serena Shim had reported on World Food Organization trucks ferrying Da’esh terrorists via Turkey into Syria.

With the clearly-documented ties between the US (and its Axis-of-Destruction allies) and the numerous terrorist groups destroying Syria, the hollow concern which US figures and media sometimes voice is blatantly hypocritical.

In September 2014, the U.S. Department of State urged “all parties in Iraq, Syria, and the international community to respect and protect archaeological, historic, religious, and cultural sites, including museums and archives. All those who destroy important cultural property must be held accountable.”

American Secretary of State John Kerry topped this hypocrisy with his statement at a white-washing event in NYC, “Threats to Cultural Heritage in Iraq and Syria,” in September, 2014 that: “…no one group has done more to put our shared cultural heritage in the gun sights than ISIL. How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization. We are determined instead to help Iraqis and Syrians protect and preserve their heritage in peace.”

The sting of these hypocritical words is that Syrian patriots are trying to protect their heritage (in many cases give their lives while doing so), and that Da’esh’s recruiters, trainers, and enablers continue to supply weapons and open borders while crying crocodile tears over Syria’s destroyed and pillaged heritage. Had the Western-Zionist-Gulf alliance had not cooked up this plan to attempt to destroy Syria, Syria’s heritage would not be in peril period. [See Seymour Hersh’s 2007 investigative report,“The Redirection”].

In January, 2015, the US Defense Department said that “as many as 1,000 American troops and trainers would be sent to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to assist in the training of Syrian opposition groups,” Sputnik news reported. According to the same report, crocodile-tears Kerry stated that in addition to so-called “moderate” Syria rebels, “other nationals will also undergo special training to join the coalition in their fight against IS militants.”

You can bet the newest batch of terrorists will be just as respectful of Syria’s heritage as all the terrorists before them.

GLEEFULLY DESTROYING THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION

When terrorists—no, not Da’ish, but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA”—terrorized the ancient village of Ma’loula for eight months, they meted out considerable destruction and damage on this heritage site, as well as looted and burned the town’s monasteries and historic buildings. They burned the shrine containing the remains of St. Thekla, stole her bones. They vandalized icons and frescoes in the church in the Convent of St. Thekla, burned parts of the church itself. They shelled and looted icons from the Monastery of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus. [see video report: Syrian historical treasures and archeological artifacts destroyed or stolen by terrorist gangs]

In Homs, it was likewise not Da’ish but al-Nusra and the so-called “FSA” who not only stole the food and valuables of residents in the Old City, but also vandalized, blew up, and set afire historic buildings, like the torched Church of Um al-Zenar (St. Mary’s Church) [“built upon an ancient crypt cave with signs of Christian worship dating back to 59 A.D].”

In both cases, it was the SAA, local volunteers in the National Defense Forces (NDF) and empowered residents who struggled to preserve and minimize damage to their heritage sites. And in both cases, once under control of the SAA and government, plans for restorations were immediately started.

Damascus, which UNESCO describes as “founded in the 3rd millennium B.C. …one of the oldest cities in the Middle East,” has also suffered damage to its heritage sites. Terrorists’ car bombs and mortars, which have terrorized residents of the city, have also hit historic places. The 11th century Citadel, the 8th century Umayyad Mosque, the 13th century Great Madrasa, Al-Adliya. the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Bab Touma, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bab Sharqi, have all suffered UNESCO reported.

But some of the worst destruction of and damage to cultural heritage thus far documented is in Aleppo, which UNESCO describes as “one of the (if not the) oldest, continuously occupied cities in the world with some 7,000 years of known settlement history.”

The Aleppo section of UNESCO’s latest “Damage Assessment Overview” is lengthy. Some of the assessment includes:

  • “At least 121 historical buildings have been damaged or destroyed – equal to 30-40 per cent of the World Heritage property area – in addition to the destruction of more than 1500 shops of the Suq.

  • The 11th century Minaret, the prayer hall, and the main gate of the Omayyad Mosque have been destroyed. The mosque’s courtyard and all of its decorative elements have also suffered severe damage, as did the surrounding neighbourhood.

  • The wooden Minbar has been dismantled and transferred to an unknown location.

  • Damage to the gates of the city wall has occurred, … to some of the most important Islamic architecture buildings, …and to most historic houses of the Jdeideh quarter…

  • The Waqifiyya Library has been damaged due to a fire.”

Youtube videos and online images showed terrorists from the Islamic Front (Robert Ford’s “moderates”) gleefully exploding the 150 year old Carlton Citadel Hotel in Aleppo’s Old City in May 2014, the destruction and damage extending to 13th century Citadel facing the hotel. A report in the Independent cited the Islamic Front’s Twitter account as claiming responsibility for destroying the Carlton. A video posted online shows the takfiris in a tunnel beneath the Old City, repeatedly stating their intent to blow up the hotel. Clearly, with over 23 tons of explosives, these Western-sponsored terrorists knew the detonation would mean extensive destruction to Aleppo’s historic sites surrounding the hotel.

Yet, corporate media noted the destruction with little-to-no condemnation. The LA Times reported blithely:

“The explosion ripped through the Carlton Citadel Hotel, near the landmark medieval Citadel and Aleppo’s walled Old City, both deemed United Nations World Heritage sites,” carefully choosing their words to abstain from condemnation of the terrorist act. The LA Times additionally took the opportunity to plug the so-called “revolution”: “’The attack came as a way to raise the morale of the people after the deal that happened yesterday,” said the pro-opposition activist…” Other headlines justified, rather than condemning, the calculated destruction. Reuters: “Syrian rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used by army”. The Guardian: “Syria rebels blow up Aleppo hotel used as barracks by government forces”.

Conversely, the DGAM stated:

“This criminal act is part of a series of similar acts targeting historic and unique buildings and landmarks in Aleppo, such as the incidents of the Police Headquarters and the Justice Court….This targeting has resulted in great loss in the components of Syria’s archaeological heritage, which can be added to a long list of painful losses that cannot be replaced.”

In early December, Islamic Front militants bombed a historic mosque in Aleppo’s Old City. Al Masdar News noted:

“The militants from the Islamic Front (Jabhat Al-Islamiyya) bombarded multiple historical sites in the Old City of Aleppo this weekend, destroying residential buildings and the 900 year old Al-Sultaniyyeh Mosque. According to a military source in Aleppo, the Islamic Front has destroyed numerous sites in the Old City, including the outer walls of the Aleppo Citadel.”

Video footage shows terrorists bombing the Citadel area at the end of November.

On December 30, the DGAM reported further tunnel explosions in the Old City near the Citadel.

“The Armed groups have detonated bombs in tunnels under Aleppo old city, the bombs were reportedly placed in two tunnels running under historic parts of the city. The explosions caused severe damage to the market and the historical buildings in the area…”

Other examples of terrorists’ deliberate destruction of Syrian heritage include:

-March, 2013: Al-Nusra terrorists destroy a Muslim shrine in Raqqa. Press TV:

“Videos posted online show foreign-backed militants blew up the tomb of Ammar ibn Yasir, who was one of the companions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammad (PBUH)…Anti-government militants have attacked and destroyed several holy sites, including Shia mosques, since the beginning of unrest in Syria.”

-May 2nd, 2013: Syria News:

Terrorists “destroyed one more grave in Syria for a prophet companion Hijir Bin Adi al-Kindi in Adra, Damascus Countryside. They took out his dead body, he died some 1,400 years ago and buried it in an unmarked place…”

-November, 2014: the Independent reported that al-Nusra blew up an Armenian church in Deir ez-Zor dating to 1846.

“All of the church archives, dating back to 1841 and containing thousands of documents on the Armenian Holocaust, were burned to ashes, while the bones of hundreds of genocide victims, packed into the church’s crypt in memory of the mass killings 99 years ago, were thrown into the street beside the ruins,” the report noted.

-January 8, 2015: Business Insider: Al-Nusra blew up a 13th century tomb,near the Jordanian border.

-January 17, 2015: DGAM:

Terrorists destroyed “the shrine of Shaykh Muhammad Nabhan in The Kiltawiye Mosque at Bab al-Hadid the historical gates of the Ancient City of Aleppo, despite the appeals from residents and dignitaries of the region.”

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A RELIC?

The talking-point that the pillaging of militants in Syria is due solely for want of financing and weapons is a lie and a diversion from the truth. It is true that some terrorists are selling relics for money for weapons, but the terrorists’ looting of Syria’s relics stems more from opportunism than from being the main source of funds for their war on Syria. Turkey’s role in allowing terrorists’ transit with stolen relics must be noted. Turkey has, additionally, already plundered factories from Syria.

According to UNESCO, in the Aleppo region,

“The site of Tell Qaramel is at the centre of what can only be qualified as looting on an industrial level, as heavy machinery has been deployed to accelerate the excavation of the site.”

In Deir ez-Zor, the heritage site Mari (Tell Hariri) has been “extensively looted causing irreparable damage to some of the temples and part of the Royal Palace.”

The list goes on:

Daraa region: “The sites in Yarmouk valley, notably Tell al-Ash-ari, have been plundered by hundreds of people hired by gangs, intent on trafficking Syrian cultural property.”

Palmyra (“the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world”):

“The Necropolis has been attacked by looters who broke into a tomb and stole 22 funeral busts and the headstone of a child; Illegal excavations are occurring in the Valley of the Tombs, in the Camp of Diocletian, some undertaken by heavy machinery.”

– Dura-Europos, Ebla, Raqqa: which a December 2014 report by AAAS notes:

“have been heavily looted and damaged,” based on satellite imagery.

SYRIAN PATRIOTS PROTECTING HERITAGE

In a June 2014 interview with Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of the DGAM, he told me of the efforts Syrian civilians and the government are making, to protect and preserver Syria’s heritage.

Early on, the DGAM made the decision to move artifacts from Syria’s thirty-four museums.

“After the US invasion of Iraq, you know what happened in Baghdad museums, they lost about 70,000 pieces…The majority of the artifacts in the museums were evacuated and put in a safe place.”

According to Abdulkarim, the DGAM employs 2,500.

“In each region we have DGAM employees responsible for the area’s antiquities. The people that work there are local,not from Damascus. This is good because they, being local, can mediate.”

Additionally, according to UNESCO, Syria launched a national campaign,“Save Syria’s History,” to inform and educate Syrians about looting, in hopes of preventing such acts, and increasing security at heritage sites, where possible. The DGAM has been digitally archiving information on Syria’s heritage sites and relics, and coordinating with international organizations concerned with heritage preservation, as well as with INTERPOL.

Following the May 2014 exploding of the Carlton Citadel Hotel, the Syria Times reported that Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates sent letters to the UN Secretary General and President of the UNSC calling for “the inclusion of the so-called ‘Islamic Front’ on the terrorism list, as the methodology of this terrorist operation complies with terrorist tactics espoused by al-Qaeda terrorist organization.” It also called for the UNSC to “take immediate action against states sponsoring these terrorist groups to stop providing them with financial and logistical support.”

Further, the DGAM and Syrian government have called on neighbouring countries to be vigilant in preventing Syrian artifacts from being smuggled and sold, and returning smuggled relics to Syria. In areas which the Syrian government has under control, rebuilding and restoration efforts of destroyed or damaged heritage sites are either underway or have been planned.

Homs is one such example. Also, Ma’aloula, Krak des Chevaliers, and damage to the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, among others.

However, some sites and relics are lost forever at the hands of NATO’s terrorists. Would the corporate media fairly report on the proxy war on Syria, and the true culprits of Syria’s heritage loss, and would the Axis-of-Destruction stop funding, training and enabling terrorists’ entry into Syria, the question of Syria’s heritage under attack would cease to be a question.

As DGAM’s Dr. Abdulkarim said in June,

“The destruction of antiquities is a problem for all 23 million Syrians. If we are Syrian, we need to work together to protect our history.”

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Syrian Students Restore our Global Cultural Heritage, Tesserae by Tesserae

 

at the citadel
(Students and their instructors, briefing a guest about their reconstruction 
of the Berhalia Mosaic inside the Damascus Citadel and how they feel about
the current crisis engulfing their country. 6/6/14)

Franklin Lamb

The Damascus Citadel, Syria

During mid-July, 2013, the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) of the Ministry of Culture in Damascus received an urgent message from  citizens of Berhalia, a village about 30 kilometers West of Damascus. Berhalia is located in an area that has seen much fighting and from which the central government has lacked easy access and no control. The simple message was that it might be possible to recover a severely damaged Syria archaeological treasure from militants who took possession of it.

The piles of thousands of small colored Byzantium tiles called tesserae, according to someone involved in the case,  were initially impossible to identify  because the archaeological context had been substantially demolished as had the building which housed the antiquity.   The mosaic chips were discovered to depict elaborate scenes from deep in Syrian history and once finally able to be measured it was determined that the mosaic had been approximately 60 square meters in size. The antiquity is decorated with geometrical ornaments and consists of two rectangular panels, one being an orthogonal pattern of perpendicular intersecting tangent four- pointed star, forming lozenges alternately recumbent and upright. The second, which was only partially conserved, is decorated with a large star of two interlaced squares inscribed in a circle.

The heaps of tesserae predated the second half of the 4th century, according to D. Komait Abdallah, Director of DGAM’s scientific laboratories located in the Damascus Citadel. The massive Citadel was first fortified in 1076 by the Turkman warlord Atsiz bin Uvak and is part of the Old City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Eventually, a local citizen of Berhalia, who had apparently been a former militants sympathizer of some sort and who had been a student of an archaeologist at Damascus University, took an interest in the mosaic which was not far from his home, which his family had fled months earlier.  Contact was then made with Syrian army units in the area and a meeting took place between a delegation of local citizens and some of the militiamen, who some of them had known before the crisis erupted. It was the latter who had possession of the small pieces of the at least fifteen century old irreplaceable Mosaic. The citizens, like so many Syrians this observers has met feel deeply connected with Patrimoine Syrien. They plead their case to fighters on both sides of the current conflict. They beseeched them to put their beloved Syria first and urged that their country’s cultural heritage be spared the ravages of war and that the destruction of archaeological sites stop. An eyewitness reported that the hardened fighters appeared somehow moved the unusual spectacle.  Soon a delegation of specialists in Mosaic and artifacts preservation left Damascus for Berhalia village to investigate.

Some locals hint that an envelope may have changed hands containing approximately one million Syrian pounds ($ 1,200 USD).  But not wanting to encourage even more entrepreneurs getting rich quick by selling Syria’s history, no one is admitting a role in buying or selling Syria’s history-even on such a small scale. Others take more of an attitude of “who really cares much, one way or another, given the continuing maelstrom here, as long as a part of Syrian cultural heritage remains under its citizen’s protective care?”  This expressed attitude has been heard a few times by this observer from the Syrian public who desperately want an end the violence and the soonest possible return to normal life.  Almost immediately, more than one thousand pounds of ¾ inch by ¾ inch Mosiac chips (tesserae) were brought by a military-style vehicle to Damascus for safe keeping.

It was around this time that the Director of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, and some colleagues made it their personal mission not just to preserve but also to restore the ancient irreplaceable antiquity. The tesserae were then moved to the antiquities restoration laboratory in the midlevel fortified palace known as the Ancient Citadel of Damascus.

The mosaic of Berhalia is one of  several of the rare mosaics discovered in the Damascus region and is today being  restored by a team of 15 students under the tutelage  of  Syrian Directorate of Archaeological Scientific and Reconstructive Laboratories, and specifically, Instructors Mouhamed Kayd and Borhan Al Zarra. When their work is completed the restored mosaic will be exhibited in the Damascus citadel, first fortified in 1076 by the Turkman warlord Atsiz bin Uvak and which is part of the Ancient City of Damascus, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

In the course of visiting damaged archaeological sites in Syria, this observer  spent time with this remarkable and skilled team of  artifact restoration students.

Students
 

Students working at the ancient Citadel restore our global

cultural heritage one Tesserae at a time ( 5/16/14)

 

As four of the students took a break from their work one day, and offered their guest tea and a local pastry, I  felt comfortable posing a few questions that they quite spontaneously answered.

Fortunately, I had the needed assistance of a brilliant Damascus University student of Arabic and English Translation and Interpretation,  named Nuhad.  She is from a village near Homs but spends her time these days in Damascus due to  many  security problems in her area. Below are excerpts from our conversation with names changed at the students request.

Q : How does it make you feel, as you go about this work you are doing, knowing there are people in Syria committing atrocities of the sort seen in some of the videos that have been uploaded to You Tube? Are you afraid? Do you worry about getting kidnapped?

Hanan, a twenties something student of pharmacology from Latakia who since last winter has volunteered to work on restoring or repairing whatever she was judged competent to do, answered first.

A : Like most of the world, and I believe like  just about everyone in Syria, certainly among my friends and fellow students,  we are horrified by what is happening. Especially by groups such as ISIS  and al Nursa front, in eastern Syria.  This has never happened in our country and it certainly is not and never has been any part of  our secular culture. But what can we do about it ?  Our army is making big sacrifices to stop it so we can return to a normal life.  Yes, i am afraid and so are most of our friends.  We take care and we go to classes and return to our homes before dark.  Our restoration work is done in the center of Damascus which so far has been mainly safe although last year 17 students were killed or wounded by a militant mortar at Damascus University School of Architecture.  We usually stay home at night but here in Damascus  security is better than in the villages and countryside so if it has been quiet for a few days we might go to a cafe and meet with friends. It is true that there are many kidnappings but usually those held for payment or ransom are known to be from rich families or an important political personality. I am not part of these groups.  Unfortunately, like more than half of the Syrian people who used to work, my father and uncles have no job.

Q : “How does it make you feel knowing that the US has begun arming Syrian militants with anti-tank weapons and other heavy weaponry? Does that increase your level of fear?”

Abed, who is studying engineering at Baath University  in Homs offered his view

A : It’s very scary because when will this end ?  Most of my friends believe that outsiders are keeping the war going because they  believe that they can win it. Does the USA really know or understand who they are arming and what the fighters will do after you give them training ?  Do you think these terrorists love you because you helped them against a nationalist Arab regime which rejects the Zionist occupation of Palestine ?

We worry about when will it end.  Who can stop it if other countries  keep feeding the killing.  You know very well what has happened to us.  More than one half of our families have been displaced.  How can we  ever rebuild our country that we love ? When will the war end ?  What will be left ? Sure we are scared.  My mother is sick from worrying. She cries everyday.  We have no idea what became of many of our relatives across Syria. And what about ISIL ?  They control Raqqa Governorate and now parts of Iraq and they plan to create a proto caliphate of some kind with part of Syria included.  We have relatives in Raqqa. Will Syria become like Iraq or Somalia ?  Or worse ?  This is what me and all my friends worry about and we feel powerless to stop or even influence what is happening out there. Like all Syrians we are exhausted from these years of war.  We are so tired and just want it all to end.  Are we mistaken ?  What do you think ?

Q : The media speculates a lot these days about ISIL or DAASH type groups because they appear to be the most extreme off-shoot of Al Qeada and are killing Shia Muslims and Christians more  or  less where they find them.  How do you and your friends view ISIL ?

Zeina, whose family in Yarmouk camp lost their home and business to terrorist militia in 2012, is a Palestinien business student at Yarmouk Private University. She offered  her view of  militia groups that have invaded her country :

A : Ok, this is what happened. Most of these groups we never heard of but a few years ago there were a few reports about extremist militant groups in Afghanistan, Iraq and  Libya. We just assumed they were crasy or joking. I never dreamed they could get support and operate here because Syria is and has historically been very secular, and we have always respected others political opinion, ethnic backgrounds and religions. We have never experienced this kind of hatred. It is true that in Syria we share festivities with all religions and traditions  and we like to do so because we learn  from them and we all enjoy other peoples backgrounds and culture. We are not religious fanatics in Syria and never have been.  Hopefully we never will be. This is natural and normal isn’t it to share our neighbors traditions ?  You do it in your country i am sure. I know you do because we have family in America and also in Europe.

So we in Syria were as surprised as anyone when ISIL came here and started imposing crazy rules on us—especially on women. Women are being treated like slaves. What is wrong with these gangs ?.  They are not Muslims at all in my opinion. They are perverted in my opinion. I am religious.  I am Muslim. I am Sunni like they claim to be and i have studied the Holy Koran all my life.  I try to follow its teachings but I have never found the kind of nonsense they claim to be true Islam. Have they ever studied the Koran ?  For sure some Sheikhs incite them.

Q : With all that is happening outside of Syria’s Ancient Citadel located here in the Old City of Damascus how do you feel about being here and doing this work nearly every day ?

Jilan, who is studying English Literature at Damascus University quickly answered :

A : Oh my God ! Are you a psychiatrist ?  (laughing).  I need one for sure and I  sometimes wonder myself. My mother asked me this same question not long ago. Some of the many reasons you might find strange but please allow me to give you a couple.

With Allah as my witness, I feel secure somehow being deep inside these ancient walls and I wish my family was here with me.  I worry about them all the time.  I feel safe here also because many people have told me that these walls can withstand mortars, which is what we usually receive randomly from militants based in East Ghouta and areas south of Damascus. Even artillery shells or many bombs cannot reach us. As you see it is so quiet and peaceful in here.  You hear no shelling or rockets or jet planes in the sky.

Another thing i like about working on restoring antiquities is that it’s as though I am honoring those who came before me in our history and culture. I like to think about what their lives must have been like compared to ours.   I feel that I am doing something useful during this terrible time and that I am showing confidence in my beloved country that we will somehow get through this and eventually rebuild what has been damaged. What we are doing here in our simple restoration laboratory.  Plus i love the friends I have made here.  As we work we have plenty of time to talk and get to know each other.  Finally, we sometimes, but not very often these days, meet foreigners  who come to see our work and express support for what we are doing here.  Thank  you for visiting us.  I wish American and other international students could come and join us. They would like this work i am sure.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and volunteers with the Palestine Civil Rights Campaign (PCRC) and the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (SSSP) (sssp-lb.com).  He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com


Source: Al-Manar Website
13-06-2014 – 13:20 Last updated 13-06-2014 – 13:21

 

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As Syria’s war rages, this cradle of civilisation is plundered

 Photos: Tell-Hamoukar

May 26, 2014, the National

Last week, a prominent Arab archaeologist sent me a web­link to a doubly-depressing story from the Hasakeh region of north-east Syria. Bordering Turkey and Iraq, it’s long been one of the poorest areas in the country and now, with control of the area being contested by several of the factions engaged in Syria’s brutal civil war, its 1.7 million people, or those who haven’t already fled across the border, are among those most in need of humanitarian assistance.

Watered by the Khabur river, Hasakeh has seen the birth of some of the earliest civilisations in the region. Indeed, one site, Hamoukar, is considered by some archaeologists to be the oldest city in the world. Dozens of important sites, dating from the Stone Age onwards, have been identified, though few have yet been extensively studied.

There’s no scope for investigations now into what this region has to offer in terms of discovering the origins of agriculture and early urban society. Such studies require a peaceful environment – and that is absent.

The first depressing part of the story is that many sites are being severely damaged by illegal digging, searching for items that can be sold into the underground market for antiquities. Supplies of such artefacts grow dramatically in areas of conflict where the maintenance of law and order breaks down. Local inhabitants, desperate for income, plunder sites, destroying evidence of past civilisations in the search for goods they can sell on to unscrupulous dealers who then put them into the illicit market. Those dealers are often linked with gangs of thugs, thieves and bandits who are themselves to a considerable degree responsible for the level of insecurity that permits the unauthorised digging to take place.

In Hasakeh, such plundering is now apparently widespread. One site that is being affected is that of Tell Ajaja, an important centre during the neo-Assyrian period, around 3,000 years ago. Pictures surfacing on the internet, if authentic, indicate that a number of major discoveries have been made, including large statues and bas-reliefs. If properly excavated and studied, they could yield much valuable information on this early phase of Syrian history. Instead, that opportunity to gain knowledge is being lost.

And the second part of this depressing story? One of the videos recently posted on the internet shows some of the statues being smashed to rubble by gangs from the ultra-fundamentalist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), one of the armed groups competing for supremacy in Hasakeh. Lacking in historical knowledge and indoctrinated by a perverted view of Islam, ISIL’s followers are either unaware that some of the great Islamic civilisations produced art of this type, and did so within the framework of a society where tolerance for the views of others was an essential part of life, or, perhaps more likely, they simply don’t care, glorying in their ignorance.

What lunacy is this? Although the representation of humans may be a controversial topic in some Islamic societies, these statues predate the coming of Islam by 1,500 years or more. They’re not in breach of anything, just like the great statues of Buddha from Bamiyan that were blown to pieces by the ignorant, uncultured Taliban. Instead, they represent important elements of the way in which civilisation has developed, not just since the early 7th century AD, when Islam was revealed, but for millennia before that.

I regret the plundering of Hasakeh’s ancient archaeological sites, because of the loss of knowledge that represents. I can, however, understand the economic imperatives that lead its people to destroy the evidence of their past to survive in a difficult present.

As for the actions of ISIL in reducing these important artefacts of the history of Hasakeh to rubble, I should, I suppose, not be too surprised. Many of the members of the ISIL gangs will be foreign extremists to whom the history of the area means nothing. They are led by evil men who think nothing of slaughtering the innocent just because they have a different set of beliefs, even within Islam.

They care nothing for culture, history or heritage, or even for the basic principles of humanity to be found in all of the world’s religions. They are little better than ignorant and ravening beasts – and many would argue that they are, in fact, much worse. How sad that Hasakeh, a cradle of civilisation, should today be a centre of their ignorance and inhumanity.

Liberating Syria: One Archeological site at a Time by Franklin Lamb

by FRANKLIN LAMB
Krac des Chevaliers, Between Homs and the Lebanese border
Krac des Chevaliers, Between Homs and the Lebanese border – Visiting archeological sites in Syria over the past several months I seem to keep crossing some of the paths traveled by the field archeologist and later Colonel in the British Army T.E. Lawrence. There are plenty of still visible footprints of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ around Damascus and deep into Syria’s countryside, including at the majestic 18th century residence of the Ottoman governor of Damascus Ad’a Pasha al-Azem. The Palace now houses the Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. Most foreigners like to spend time at Azem and Lawrence was frequently there a guest of Emir Faisal, a son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca whose irregular troops Lawrence fought alongside while sabotaging the railway supply lines of the overstretched Ottoman forces and significantly contributing to their defeat.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, a.k.a. "Lawrence of Arabia" (Lowell Thomas/Wikimedia Commons)

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence, a.k.a. “Lawrence of Arabia” (Lowell Thomas/Wikimedia Commons)
As the Ottoman domination crumbled, in no small measure due to the Arabs revolt around Damascus, Lawrence tried in vain to salvage something for the Arabs whom he loved and admired, even if he sometimes expressed his affection for them in an elitist English-orientalist turn of phrase. By the summer of 1917, it had become clear to Lawrence and Faisal that the four century rule over Arabia by the Ottoman Turks was about to collapse thanks in no small part to the Arab revolt and their great bravery and massive sacrifices. It also became clear to him if not to his friend Faisal, who was a bit naive history records, that his country England, a pillar of the “Big Four” at the Versailles Peace conference which included the President Woodrow Wilson, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, France’s Georges Clemenceau and Italian Prime Minister Vittorio Orlando, was planning once again-and not for the last time- to stab the Arabs in the back and renege on the promises that Lawrence was commanded to deliver.
Photos of Lawrence and Faisal hang today on the walls of Lawrence’s bedroom and office at the Azem Palace, and it’s clear from his facial expressions that Lawrence sensed what was coming to Syria and Palestine. Before he died at age 46 in a motorcycle accident, having recently returned to England, Lawrence increasingly expressed what he considered his personal failure during the closing years of the war when told friends and family that he failed to convince his superiors in the British government that Arab independence was in their interests. The secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between France and Britain, according to Lawrence, was an abject betrayal of the promises of independence he had made to the Arabs and for which he felt personally responsible.
I crossed paths again with Lawrence, in a manner of speaking, a few weeks ago at Palmyra archeological and UNESCO World Heritage site across the Syrian desert to the northeast of Damascus, recently liberated from Islamist jihadists. It was there that I read his words on a plaque: “Nothing in this scorching, desolate land could look so refreshing…Moslem story-tellers ascribe the building of Palmyra to the Jinn commandeered by Solomon…” Frankly, I am reluctant to demure from Lawrence’s description, but since he spoke those words it has become clear that the “Tadmor” (Arabic and Hebrew name for Palmyra) referred to in the Torah is not the Tadmor of Syria but of another site now lost to the sands of Palestine if it ever existed at all. So Lawrence might be alarmed to learn that his words linking Palmyra to Soloman are being misused by Zionist cheap land seeking interests who now claim Palmyra in Syria as part of Gods claimed gift and to lend legitimacy for acquiring more Arab land for the ever expanding Eretz Israel. But the misuse of Lawrence’s quote at Palmyra for political purposes is a subject for another Syrian update.
Lawrence and I crossed paths again in a manner of speaking on May 15 during a six hour hiking and climbing tour of the medieval fortress known as Krac des Chevaliers (Castle of the Kurds- who reportedly first inhabited the area in the 11th century). The Syrian Arab Army recaptured the castle and the village of al-Hosn from rebel forces on March 20, 2014 after rebels (aka ‘takfiri terrorists’) had occupied both the nearby 10,000 inhabitant’s village and the fortress over the preceding more than18 months. The “Krac” was widely damaged by the military conflict including in August 2012, July 2013 and again on August 18, 2013. My excellent companion and government guide during my day at Krac was “Mohammad” a Syrian army security commander with 40 troops under his command and stationed inside the fortress to keep anyone from trying to retake it “by a nighttime sneak attack” I was told.
Apparently an history buff, Mohammad’s first comment as we starting to ascend the very steep three floors of medieval steps, often gazing at the marvelous Gothic ceilings as we made our way, was to quote, who else, but Lawrence: “We are walking in the footsteps of Lawrence who called this fortress “perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world, and a castle which forms a fitting commentary on any account of the Crusading buildings of Syria”, Mohammad recited to my great surprise.
Many historians have agreed with Lawrence including Hugh Kennedy who wrote that “the defenses of the outer wall were the most elaborate and developed anywhere in the Latin east … the whole structure is a brilliantly designed and superbly built fighting machine.” Crak des Chevaliers is considered one of the greatest and best preserved castles in the world due to its unique architecture in terms of the defense facilities, building materials and decorations. In 2006, it was inscribed on the UNESCO List of World Heritage sites along with the Citadel of Saladin, its” sister fort” further north in Lattakia.
Among the more than 400 well documented damaged or destroyed antiquity sites in Syria that are more or less now under government control and so more or less available to researchers, Krac des Chevaliers is viewed by locals as a sort of ‘success story’ because for sure it is still standing and a major restoration project was launched in April following the forts liberation and well underway. This observer spoke with some of the fifteen full-time restoration specialists plus some volunteers who are doing the work as government officials including the Ministers of Culture and of Tourism drop by from time to time to encourage them and praise their work. Indeed, on June 1, a “Krak des Chevaliers reopening to the public’ event is scheduled at the fortress and the amazing site will soon be available to international tourists. Whether many tourists will be available by that time is problematical.
But hopefully conditions will allow for their return soon. One of my traveling companions the day of my visit was a Syrian tour operator and he’s more than willing to help rebuild Syria’s second largest foreign exchange earner, tourism, which brought to Syria more than 1.5 billion dollars in 2010. Less fortunate than Krak is the former picturesque village of Hosn just down the road. It too was packed with rebels and was completely flattened such that its current conditions rival the old city of Aleppo and Homs for complete and total destruction. This observer did not see one bird, feral cat or fly in what the locals call, “the village of death.” Two weeks ago a four man unit from Mohammed’s battalion at Krak did discover two hold over rebels hiding out in the rubble and killed them on the spot.
After 12 centuries of invaders trying to conquer it-and a number succeeding- such as when the Muslims took it from the Christians in the seventh century employing the time tested ‘surrender or starve’ tactic, the damage is widespread but will be repaired. This observer’s purpose in visiting Krak was to detail the damage caused by 18 months of fighting over the fortress. My notes on the widespread but relatively modest damage to Krak des Chevaliers noted by this observer on May 15 includes, but is not limited to the following:
  • The complete destruction of the staircase and halls in front of the internal building of the fort.
  • Partial damage to the facade of the Hall of the Knights including some damage to the decorations and arches inside the Hall.
  • Traces of fire behind the church and damage to the library hall opposite the leader’s tower and a part of the staircase leading to the roof of the library hall.
  • Damage in the façade of the king’s daughter tower and partial destruction in the wall between the king’s daughter tower and the roof of the church.
  • Partial destruction in the entrance to the stairs in front of Qalawun tower; damage and destruction in some parts of the tower.
  • Damage to one wall of the warehouse adjacent to the main offices of the castles overlooking the courtyard.
  • The destruction of a part of the pillar supporting the ceiling of the library tower opposite the tower of the knights.
  • Severe damage in the office of the Ottoman House as well as the administration offices.
  • Partial damage and destruction of some walls in several places of the castle including minor damage in the outer wall of the castle.
  • Surface damage caused by domestic fires built by rebels for heating & cooking by the dozens of rebel families that occupied different areas of the vast fortress.
It is clear to me that the Syrian public and their officials are committed in each of this country’s 14 Governorates to the complete restoration of its unmatched archeological sites, just as soon as world heritage sites are liberated and security conditions permit.

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