Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Here Are the Ancient Sites ISIS Has Damaged and Destroyed

From 2015. Do they remind you of anyone?

By Andrew Curry

National Geographic

Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria continue their war on the region’s cultural heritage, attacking archaeological sites with bulldozers and explosives.

The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) released a video that shocked the world last month by showing the fiery destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin, one of the best-preserved ruins at the Syrian site of Palmyra. Last weekend, explosions were reported at another Palmyra temple, dedicated to the ancient god Baal; a United Nation agency says satellite images show that larger temple has largely been destroyed.

The destruction is part of a propaganda campaign that includes videos of militants rampaging through Iraq’s Mosul Museum with pickaxes and sledgehammers, and the dynamiting of centuries-old Christian and Muslim shrines.

ISIS controls large stretches of Syria, along with northern and western Iraq. There’s little to stop its militants from plundering and destroying sites under their control in a region known as the cradle of civilization.

The militant group is just one of many factions fighting for control of Syria, where a civil war has left more than 230,000 dead and millions more homeless.

The group  claims the destruction of ancient sites is religiously motivated; Its militants have targeted well-known ancient sites along with more modern graves and shrines belonging to other Muslim sects, citing idol worship to justify their actions. At the same time, ISIS has used looting as a moneymaking venture to finance military operations.  

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