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 birthplace of human civilisation … is being destroyed”, said Kino Gabriel, one of the leaders of the Syriac Military Council – a Christian militia – in a telephone interview with the Guardian from Hassakeh in north-eastern Syria. The destruction took place in Mosul, the Iraqi city that has been under the control of Isis since June when jihadi fighters advanced rapidly across the country’s north.
“In front of something like this, we are speechless,” said Gabriel. “Murder of people and destruction is not enough, so even our civilisation and the culture of our people is being destroyed.”
The kidnapping of up to 150 Assyrian Christian men, women and children by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marked the latest tragedy to strike the region’s long-persecuted Assyrian community, which has been unable to shield itself from the region’s sectarian violence as its ancestral homeland across Syria and Iraq is pillaged.
At dawn on Monday, residents of about 10 lightly guarded Assyrian villages south of the Khabur River in northeastern Syria awoke to ISIL fighters sweeping through the area, burning homes and churches, and taking hostages, activists told Al Jazeera. The roughly 3,000 residents who were able to escape from the captured villages and from those nearby have mostly taken refuge at Assyrian churches in the nearby Kurdish towns of Qamishli and Hassakah, many boarding crammed buses organized by relatives outside the ISIL strike zone.
There will be rivers of blood and oceans of fire all over the Middle East before these devils die out. I wish I knew what to say, or what the US should do, aside from arming the Kurds to the teeth and taking in Christian refugees. It is impossible to imagine the good that might come from the US being dragged into another war there could possibly outweigh the likely terrible consequences.
And yet, these are my people, Christians, being slaughtered, raped, or enslaved by Muslim fanatics simply because they are Christians. And these are irreplaceable artifacts from humankind’s ancient history, smashed to bits, because they are not Islamic.