News

ISIS Destroys Historic Sites in Iraq and Syria

by Hrag Vartanian on July 9, 2014

From the unverified video of a member of ISIS desecrating the tombs of the prophet Jonah and others. (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

From the unverified video of a member of ISIS desecrating the alleged tombs of the prophet Jonah (GIF Hrag Vartanian/Hyperallergic)

The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been destroying the artistic and religious heritage of Iraq and Syria as they continue to impose their fundamentalist Sunni doctrine on the lands they’ve occupied. Recent reports, which have been hard to independently confirm, have reported that ISIS most recently destroyed the alleged tomb of the Biblical prophet Jonah (Younis). A short video (posted below) of a black-clad figure hurling a sledgehammer at the tombs, which according to Iraqi authorities includes the prophet’s tomb, is the latest visual evidence of the group’s iconoclastic cultural policy. Jonah is the Biblical figure that was swallowed by a whale, and his tale is recorded both in the Old Testament and the Quran.

The latest bout of destruction by ISIS has raised concerns that the group threatens all religious minorities, including non-fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, and imperils all the monuments and sites affiliated with those groups. Archeological sites are also under threat, and in June the Guardian reported that ISIS “was also known to have reaped windfalls from smuggling all manner of raw materials pillaged from the crumbling state, as well as priceless antiquities from archaeological digs.”

Last month, European Union observers reported that 11 churches were torched by ISIS in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while the Sunni fundamentalists also raped civilians. Among the many architectural monuments destroyed included the grave of 12th–13th-century historiographer Abu al-Hassan al-Jazari, known as ibn al-Athir, and several churches that had been “burnt to the ground.”

An image posted on social media by ISIS showing what appears to be a Islamic, probably Shiite, building being destroyed. (Twitter via )

An image posted on social media by ISIS showing what appears to be a Sufi shrine being bulldozed. (Al-Arabiya News/Twitter)

A Shiite Islamic site being destroyed by explosives (via Al Arabiya)

A Shiite Islamic site being destroyed by explosives (image via Al Arabiya)

ISIS’s animosity towards local Christians is not new, and the group has been targeting Christians heavily since they took over parts of eastern Syria. According to Al Jazeera, earlier this year the group demanded “every Christian man pay a tax of up to 17g of gold, a levy that was common in Muslim states centuries ago,” while the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) reported that ISIS has imposed a $250 minimum tax on Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul. There are also numerous videos posted online of the fundamentalist group’s desecration of Christian churches.

Photos showing what appears to be ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian stateus. (via apsa2011.com) (click to enlarge)

Photos showing what appears to be ISIS militants destroying ancient Assyrian statues. (via apsa2011.com) (click to enlarge)

The AINA has been regularly reporting about the destruction of historic and religious monuments by ISIS. Earlier this year they reported that the group destroyed Assyrian statues and artifacts believed to be 3,000 years old, while more recently they confirmed that ISIS had destroyed a statue of Arab poet Abu Tammam in Mosul last month.

ISIS is not limiting its destruction to non-Muslim sites and four shrines to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures, and six Shiite mosques have also been destroyed in the ISIS-controlled regions of Iraq’s Nineveh province, where Mosul is the capital. Al-Arabiya News is reporting that the “Sunni and Sufi shrines were demolished by bulldozers, while the Shiite mosques and shrines were all destroyed by explosives.”

Destruction of an Islamic religious site by ISIS (Twitter via Al-Arabiya)

Destruction of a Shiite religious site by ISIS (Twitter via Al-Arabiya)

St. Etchmiadzin Armenian church in Mosul following attacks by ISIS. (via aina.org)

St. Etchmiadzin Armenian church in Mosul following attacks by ISIS. (via Asbarez)

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  • PhyllisO

    Off course they did, like when the Taliban destroyed the Buddha in Afghanistan. People are so short sighted. It’s really sad.

  • Ken Temporaneous

    Fundamentalists are fundamentally mad.

  • Joseph Nechvatal

    affreux!

  • Mark Strodl

    These truly are idiots of the lowest order! They might not of liked it, but even the Russians & Hitler respected the antiquities, even when it was never there thing.

    • Rick Deckard’s Terrible Shirt

      This comment has been hanging here for a full day without refutation. Are there simply no Europeans reading this site?
      Your claim is the opposite of history, sir.

      • Mark Strodl

        Well there are about a thousand cathedrals with their towers and art still standing after the genocide in western Europe, still standing after Stalins atheist rule where when the Iron Curtain came down in 1978 with people still worshiping today that might disagree with you.

        • Perfidious Albion

          Not in Coventry there aint’. I only have to take a brief stroll in any direction from my home in Berlin or my previous home in London to encounter realities that discredit your claims, so there’s no conversation. Clearly that means the Allies were no better, but it hardly supports your point. And I don’t think the Atomic strikes on Japan were especially selective.

          A Nazi history that excludes the myriad ways that they destroyed art and hunted out artists and art movements that did not fit with their vision, is no kind of history at all. There are ten thousand links to be shared, but start here and work your way down: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunstschutz

          Any argument that goes “at least (bad people from history) never (comarison to bad thing in present)” is doomed to be outed a fiction. Condemn the act, yes, but not with weird selective comparisons. Nothing can ever change that way.

          • Mark Strodl

            Conservation & Destruction of Art are two different things. Follow the thread.

  • Shawn Chapman

    This is why we can’t have nice things!

  • Steve

    “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” — Isaiah 10:5f

    Once my people rise again, ISIS/ISIL and everyone like them will become our dogs.

    • Shawn Chapman

      I am hoping that the Islamic State terrorist army lives up to their word and goes to destroy mecca and medina.

      • Steve

        They wont do that. They are only attacking mosques and other islamic things because they belong to their rivals within the religion. Sunnis are against Shia and Shia are against Sunnis.

  • http://www.divine-way.com/ Marie Kalivas Devine

    They condemned Osama Bin Laden too for destruction of Buddha statues; but God forbids making images of (anything in heaven, earth or under, neither bow down to it) in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 4 and 5. The Catholic Book of Wisdom chapters 13-16 condemn images and idols. Qur’an- All disdains that you should make so much as the image of a gnat. Jesus said to live by every word out of the mouth of God. It is WE who need to destroy OUR images. God said, Take not the accursed thing into your homes. How many of us have statues of angels, crosses, Christ, prophets and saints or even great politicians? It divides us and keeps our mind bound to physical beings instead of the word of God that is a spirit.

    • timarete

      so what the hell is YOUR image doing here you flipping hypocrite??????????? You obviously have no sense of what you are actually saying and doing.

  • http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/ samarkeolog

    As I pointed out to the author eight days ago (https://twitter.com/conflictantiq/status/487586126786744320), that video absolutely does *not* show the destruction of the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah. In fact, it is at least ten months old (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/syria-iraq-mosul-nineveh-tomb-prophet-tadouf-mausoleums/), it is probably from a different country, and it may be even older. It undermines trust in his reporting in particular and in real reports of real violence in general. It might even contribute to harm (for example, by inciting reprisals). Why hasn’t the author corrected the story?

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      Hi Sam, thanks for following up. I’m still doing some research, but I’m glad you posted a link for readers. Thanks.

    • http://hragv.com/ Hrag Vartanian

      It also turned out that even if that video may have not be real, Jonah’s tomb was in fact destroyed in the most awful way possible. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/24/isis-militants-blow-up-jonah-tomb

  • Bana Nana

    saddest part is that the world is so anti-war that we allow these animals to roam unimpeded even if they are easily beatable. Cant stop these psychos with pro-peace rallies

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