UNESCO’s director general has condemned the destruction of the ancient site of Nimrud in Iraq by Islamic State (IS) as a war crime
Irina Bokova has issued a statement calling on the people in Iraq to protect the historic heritage of the region, which is home to artefacts dating to some of the world’s oldest civilisations.
The bulldozing of Nimrud, which was founded in 1300 BC, comes only a week after IS took sledgehammers to relics in a museum in Northern Iraq. The fundamentalist group has labelled the historic monuments, many of which are from the Assyrian Empire, as false idols.
In the statement Bokova said: ’This is yet another attack against the Iraqi people, reminding us that nothing is safe from the cultural cleansing underway in the country: it targets human lives, minorities, and is marked by the systematic destruction of humanity’s ancient heritage
‘We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.’
The head of the United Nations cultural agency has alerted the president of the UN Security Council as well as the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of the destruction of the ancient city which lies just south of Mosul.
Bokova vowed to do ‘whatever it can’ to stop illegal trade in ancient artefacts, adding: ‘UNESCO is determined to do whatever is needed to document and protect the heritage of Iraq and lead the fight against the illicit traffic of cultural artefacts, which directly contributes to the financing of terrorism. At stake is the survival of the Iraqi culture and society.’
Fundamentalist groups have increasingly targeted ancient monuments and artefacts in recent years. In 2013 militants set fire to libraries in Timbuktu in Mali, destroying many of the manuscripts in the city. IS ransacked Mosul Library earlier this year, burning hundreds of historic documents.
International IS comdemnation
Historian Tom Holland commenting in the Guardian
‘It’s a crime against Assyria, against Iraq, and against humanity. Destroy the past, and you control the future. The Nazis knew this, and the Khmer Rouge - and the Islamic State clearly understand it too.’
UNESCO condemns Nimrud destruction as war crime