According to multiple witnesses, the Islamic State has started destroying the ancient city of Khorsabad. The group has already destroyed two other cities from antiquity, and Iraq is asking for international assistance to prevent more relics from being destroyed.
On Friday, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) destroyed the 3,000-year-old city of Nimrod, according to the Chicago Tribune. Saturday they moved on to 2,000-year-old Hatra, using a bulldozer to eradicate the city. Both Nimrod and Hatra were recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites.
Now, they’ve moved onto Dur Sharrukin, which is modern-day Khorsabad.
According to the Telegraph, Khorsabad was the capital of ancient Assyria shortly after King Sargon II came to power in 721 B.C. Khorsabad was originally excavated in the early 20th century by American archaeologists. The site shed light on ancient Assyrian culture and art. Although many artifacts were taken to museums around the world, the Islamic State is still doing damage to people’s knowledge of Iraq’s ancient past.
The Telegraph reports that the U.N. is outraged at the destruction, with U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki Moon calling it a “war crime,” just one more on the Islamic State’s long list.
A spokesman for the U.N. leader added that he is “outraged by the continuing destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq.”
The U.N. has called a special session of the security council to come up with a solution.
Likewise, Iraq’s minister of tourism and antiquities, Adel Shirshab, is calling for international action.
“The world should bear the responsibility and put an end to the atrocities of the militants, otherwise I think the terrorist groups will continue with their violent acts.”
According to the Guardian, the Islamic State department in charge of destroying the artifacts is called the committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice — the same name as the Saudi Arabian committee in charge of enforcing the country’s strict code of Islamic moral laws.
The Guardian reports that the Islamic State is attempting to take the area it controls back to “year zero,” meaning that it must erase all traces of pre-Islamic Iraq as a means of purification.
Other Islamist movements have done the same, even to relics from early Islam. Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia destroyed the grave of the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, in Mecca, along with that of his uncle, Abu Talib. In Medina, other grave sites belonging to the prophet’s ancestors were destroyed because they were seen as drawing worship from God and becoming “polytheistic.”
The Taliban took a similar stance in Afghanistan, destroying the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001.
As for the Islamic State, destroying ancient cities like Khorsabad isn’t enough, they’ve also released videos showing them smashing artifacts in the museum of Mosul.
[Image Credit: Jean-Christophe BENOIST/Wikimedia Commons]