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In ancient Nimrud – “A major crime against the entire world”

March 7, 2015
A relief of a mythological creature in the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, Iraq. Militants used bulldozers and other vehicles to vandalize the site. Credit DeAgostini/Getty Images

A relief of a mythological creature in the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud, Iraq. Militants used bulldozers and other vehicles to vandalize the site. Credit DeAgostini/Getty Images

The images are nauseating and the news beyond belief.  The destruction by ISIS of antiquities, artifacts, archaeological sites and monuments that collectively represent thousands of years of human history and civilization was accurately described by the Cairo-based Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s leading religious institution, as “a major crime against the entire world.”

Today’s New York Times has news of the destruction and the international outrage:

The top cultural official at the United Nations called the destruction a war crime that should be taken up by the International Criminal Court, and she vowed to do “whatever is needed” to stop the plundering by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

“This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country,” said the official, Irina Bokova, who is director general of Unesco, the United Nations organization for education, science and culture.

“It targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage,” Ms. Bokova said in a statement on the Unesco website.

Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquitiesconfirmed on Thursday that Islamic State militants had used bulldozers and other heavy vehicles to vandalize an important archaeological site at Nimrud, about 18 miles southeast of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city seized by the group in June.

Nimrud was founded more than 3,300 years ago as a central city of the Assyrian empire, and today is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the world. Its remaining statues, frescos and other works are widely revered.

“Every person on the planet should pause after yesterday’s violent attack on humanity’s heritage and understand ISIS’ intent not only to control the future of humankind but also to erase and rewrite our past,” said Deborah M. Lehr, chairwoman and co-founder of the Antiquities Coalition, a Washington-based archaeological advocacy group.

“We must unite with global intention to preserve our common heritage and resist ISIS’ effort to steal not only our future freedom but also our history, the very roots of our civilization,” she said in a statement on its website.

The Nimrud destruction came a week after Islamic State militants videotaped themselves marauding through Mosul’s museum, using sledgehammers and torches to destroy statues, artifacts and books. “They’re taking us back to the dark ages, those people,” said Mohamed Alhakim, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations. “They are thugs.”

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