Footage shows ISIS militants in Iraq smashing contemporary replicas of statues, UNESCO Experts and conservationists express 'deep shock'
Islamic State militants ransacked Mosul’s central museum, destroying priceless artefacts that are thousands of years old, in the group’s latest rampage which threatens to upend millennia of coexistence in the Middle East.
The destruction of statues and artefacts that date from the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, revealed in a video published by Isis on Thursday, drew ire from the international community and condemnation by activists and minorities that have been attacked by the group.
The five-minute video, which was released by the “press office of the province of Nineveh [the region around Mosul]”, begins with a Qur’anic verse on idol worship. An Isis representative then speaks to the camera, condemning Assyrians and Akkadians as polytheists, justifying the destruction of the artefacts and statues.
The man describes the prophet Muhammad’s destruction of idols in Mecca as an example.
“These statues and idols, these artifacts, if God has ordered its removal, they became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” the man said.
Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, the UN cultural agency, said she was deeply shocked at the footage showing the destruction1 and has asked the president of the UN security council to convene an emergency meeting “on the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage as an integral element for the country’s security”.
- 1. But, according to archaeologists, most if not all the statues in the Mosul museum are replicas not originals. The reason they crumble so easily is that they're made of plaster.
"You can see iron bars inside," pointed out Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London, as we watched the video together. "The originals don't have iron bars."
According to Eleanor Robson, chair of the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, the majority of original statues have been taken to the Baghdad Museum for safe-keeping.