According to multiple videos surfacing on the internet that show members of the Islamic State group using sledgehammers, drills, or explosives to obliterate archaeological antiques, the militants are pillaging and destroying historical artifacts found in the ancient sites of Mosul, Nimrud, Hatra, Dur Sharrukin, and elsewhere.
The group says it is its duty to erase irreplaceable works of human history because they go against a ban against the idolatry of Muhammad, predate Muhammad’s time, or are heretical. Outside of the Middle East, onlookers have criticized the Islamic State group’s actions as repulsive or wrong about Islam.
“It’s a gross misinterpretation of the Islamic religion,” said Jiho Kim, a political science student at Brown University. “All this serves to do is generate anti-Muslim sentiment around the world.”
Kim continued, “It’s a serious tragedy that those important historical artifacts were destroyed in what seems like a pitiful attempt to draw attention. I’m sure that the artifacts that were destroyed were priceless and we probably won’t feel the weight of these actions now. But when historical evidence is just destroyed, it means our future insight to the past is narrowed.”
“It’s really a shame how governments can’t stop ISIS as of right now,” said student Daniel Ko to JSR. “Although it looks bad in the short run, and it is, the pillaging of war sites has been going on throughout history. This happens in any major war as the conquerors take from those who can’t fight back.”
The group’s actions have prompted various groups, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to condemn the group of actions as more than war crimes as they have desecrated historical heritages. Yet there is not immediate action that can be taken against them, as air strikes would be ineffective and have a chance of destroying the artwork as well.
Such rampant destruction is a heinous crime, as people are losing pieces of their histories and cultures.
“You don’t have to be religious to understand [what the Islamic State group] is doing,” said Toby Han in an interview with JSR. “They’re destroying not only religious artifacts, but historical artifacts that will never be recovered again. Those artifacts stood for centuries of human history and now they’re gone.”