ISIS Beheads 82-Year-Old Syrian Antiquities Expert Who Refused to Reveal Hidden Ancient Artifacts

The brutal public execution is the latest ISIS atrocity.

The city of Palmyra in Syria. Photo: Flickr via sarahchats.

Islamic State militants in Syria beheaded 82-year-old antiquities expert Khaled al-Assad and hung his mutilated body on a Roman column in the main square of Palmyra after he refused to reveal where valuable artifacts had been moved for safekeeping.

Asaad had been held prisoner by ISIS for the past month, according to various reports, including detailed stories in the Guardian and the New York Times. The public beheading reportedly took place Tuesday, August 18.

Asaad’s murder is the latest atrocity perpetrated by the militant group, which has now taken over a third of both Syria and neighboring Iraq, having declared its own strict version of Islamic rule or “caliphate” on the territory it’s controlling.

ISIS views artifacts as idolatrous but has also been selling looted antiquities in order to fund its activities.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim told the Guardian that Asaad’s family informed him of the beheading. Asaad had worked for more than five decades as head of antiquities in Palmyra, a city northeast of Syria’s capital, Damascus with antiquities dating back to the neolithic period.

The report said ISIS supporters used social media to circulate a gruesome but unverified image of Asaad’s beheaded body, tied to a pole on a street in the city.

“Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to the place and to history would be beheaded. . .and his corpse still hanging from one of the ancient columns in the centre of a square in Palmyra,” said Abdulkarim. “The continued presence of these criminals in the city is a curse and bad omen on the city and every archaeological piece in it.”

Asaad’s son-in-law Khalil Hariri said his father-in-law had been a member of President Bashar Asaad’s ruling Baath party since 1954. Asaad is survived by six sons and five daughters.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In