Over the past year and a half, people around the world have watched with horror as the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, murdering thousands (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/iraqi-civilian-death-toll-5500-2014-isis ) and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the process (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/19/world/meast/iraq-refugee-statistics/ ). One of the most disturbing aspects of ISIS political control of conquered regions—aside from the obvious policy of mass murder, forced exile and the instituting of a terrifying version of Islamic law—has been the group’s systematic destruction of the cultural and religious heritage of northern Iraq and Syria. In the space of a few weeks in late 2014 alone, numerous Alid shrines, the tomb of the great Muslim mystic Ahmad al-Rifa’i (d. 1182), and the shrines of the prophets Yunus (Jonas) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/25/isis-jonah-tomb_n_5620520.html), Seth (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/iraq-mosul-islamic-state-destruction-shrine-seth/ ) and Nabi Jirjis (St. George) (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/28/islamic-state-destroys-ancient-mosul-mosque) have been reduced to rubble. In the past few days, Yezidi shrines have been destroyed as well: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=3e8_1407121523. In June 2015, the organization has begun to destroy shrines in the Palmyra region of central Syria as well (http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-destroys-two-mausoleums-in-palmyra-1435143620). This is to say nothing of the countless heritage sites, including Roman ruins, Christian monasteries and other structures that ISIS terrorists have obliterated.
(Tomb of Nabi Jirjis in ruins after ISIS destroys it) (more…)