In the latest attack against the art and antiquities, the Islamic State which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria – began demolishing the 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud using bulldozers. Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities reports in a statement posted on its website on Thursday. The terrorist group has “assaulted the historic city of Nimrud and razed it with heavy vehicles”, the ministry has stated to the press.
The head of UN’s cultural agency condemned the “systematic” destruction in Iraq as a “war crime”. According to the AFP, an Iraqi antiquities official speaking on the condition of anonymity stated that the attack started after noon prayers, and that trucks may also have been used to haul away artefacts, but the extent of the damage could not yet be determined. An official speaking to Al-Jezeera added that the winged-bull lamassu statues at the gates of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II had been badly damaged.
IS says ancient shrines and statues are “false idols” that have to be destroyed, bit it has also been suggested that in fact IS is attempting to sell off art and antiquities to fund its activities in iraq and Siria.There have been fears that Islamic State would target Nimrud, after it used drills and sledgehammers to vandalise museums and antiquities in Mosul and Nineveh last week, which is only 30 kilometres to the north.
Iraq’s ministry adds in its statement that it “condemns these criminal acts and calls upon the UN Security Council to speed up the convening of its emergency response and activate its previous resolutions to support Iraq.”
This latest act of cultural vandalism by the Islamic State, is already being compared with the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddha rock sculptures in Afghanistan in 2001, says the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut. There was an international outcry in 2001 when the iconic Buddhas of Bamiyan were dynamited and destroyed by the Taliban, on orders from leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, after the Taliban government declared that they were idols.
In 1221 with the advent of Genghis Khan “a terrible disaster befell Bamiyan,” nevertheless, the statues were spared by the great warrior. Later, the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb, tried to use heavy artillery to destroy the iconic statues. Another attempt was made by the 18th century Persian king Nader Afshar, directing cannon fire at them but the Buddha’s survived. But in the end a cocktail of modern technology and ignorance saw to their demise, as it has now with the ruins of Nimrud.