Following reports that several mosques in the Iraqi city of Mosul and others have been destroyed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), British archeologist Colin Renfrew and others have condemned the act. According to the Art Newspaper, it could even be considered a war crime.
The most prominent site destroyed was the Mosque of Younis, said to contain the remains of the Prophet Jonah, a figure present in both the Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions for having been swallowed by a whale. Earlier this month, ISIS militants are said to have entered the structure, telling visitors to leave before placing explosives around its perimeter and detonating the bombs remotely. They claimed that the mosque had become a site of apostasy.
Contextualizing the act of destruction, Renfrew told TAN, “From a cultural perspective the sad loss of some of the great historic monuments of Mosul is analogous perhaps to the loss of a medieval cathedral in one of England’s cathedral cities, the fate of Coventry cathedral in the Second World War.”
He says that the UN and UNESCO could prosecute the offenders after political stability is returned to Iraq. If those international bodies can demonstrate that the invaluable cultural heritage sites were deliberately destroyed, then he says the acts could be considered war crimes.
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