New Mission in Iraq, Syria: Save Ancient Treasures From ISIS

Precious antiquities being destroyed by militants
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2015 10:37 AM CDT
This Sept. 15, 2014, photo shows bas-relief displayed at the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.   (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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(Newser) – ISIS militants have trashed museum pieces in Mosul with sledgehammers, bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, and yesterday destroyed the Hatra ruins in Iraq, reports the BBC. But while the New York Times catalogs everything that antiquities ministers and workers are doing to stave off the annihilation of some of the world's oldest artifacts in Iraq and Syria, Iraq's tourism ministry is pointing the finger at the rest of the world for just watching it happen. "The delay in international support for Iraq has encouraged terrorists to commit another crime of stealing and demolishing the remains of the city of Hatra," a statement read, per the BBC. "A fool criminal can come with one hit of a hammer and destroy all our efforts, and we can do nothing," Qais Hussein Rashid, deputy minister for tourism and antiquities, tells the Times. "It's a great grief."

Why this destructive mission? To ISIS, ancient art represents idolatry and must be destroyed, the Times notes. But militants have also pilfered many of the artifacts to raise money, experts tracking the thefts tell the Times. Rashid and Minister Adel Shirshab have been lobbying for the US to redirect airstrikes to target militants heading toward other historic sites, the Times notes. And officials took another step yesterday toward designating the ancient Babylon ruins as a Unesco World Heritage Site to offer it more protection. A Babylon "preservation" plan is also in the works, which would include a brick-by-brick rendering of the site so if it were ever destroyed, it could be rebuilt. "This is Iraq's history," a visitor at the National Museum of Iraq's reopening yesterday tells the Times. "You can say it's the world's history."

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