UNESCO has warned that ISIS is looting and selling ancient artifacts on the black market to finance their terrorist activities, the AFP reported. These latest findings contribute to growing evidence that ISIS continues to raise money by selling stolen antiquities (see “Is ISIS Bankrolling Terrorist Activities With Stolen Antiquities?“).
Experts gathered at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters on Monday to discuss the effects on cultural heritage caused by the crisis in Iraq. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova condemned what she called the “cultural cleansing” of Iraq and revealed that UNESCO had alerted museums, Interpol, and the World Customs Organization to be vigilant “over objects that could come from the current looting of Iraqi heritage.”
According to Baghdad Museum director Qais Rashid, “Assyrian tablets were stolen and suddenly found in European cities.” He added that “the Mosul Museum, the second most important in Iraq, suffered an attack from Daesh [an alternative name for ISIS] and they also attacked the staff from the museum.”
Describing another incident Rashid said “Daesh gathered over 1,500 manuscripts from convents and other holy places and burnt all of them in the middle of the city square.”
The extremists have also destroyed shrines and churches throughout the country (see “ISIS Destroying Iraq’s Cultural Heritage One Site at a Time“), including the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul, the tomb of the Prophet Jonah which was revered by Muslims as well as Christians (see “ISIS Militants Demolish Jonah’s Tomb in Iraq“). “There were explosions that destroyed buildings dating back to the Assyrian era,” Rashid lamented.
Meanwhile Philippe Lalliot, France’s ambassador to UNESCO, responded to criticism of the emphasis placed on preserving heritage sites when people are suffering by saying: “When people die in their tens of thousands, must we be concerned about cultural cleansing? Yes, definitely yes […] culture is a powerful incentive for dialogue that the most extreme and the most fanatical groups strive to annihilate.”
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