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Destructive Attacks on Humanity’s Ancient Cultural Heritage Escalate

This oil painting and graphic is inspired by jewelry recently discovered from an ancient Assyrian tomb, an Egyptian historic statue of Nefertiti and a contemporary woman, and especially the need to bring awareness to the heinous war crimes accelerating in Iraq in the name of religion.

Diane French

This oil painting and graphic is inspired by jewelry recently discovered from an ancient Assyrian tomb, an Egyptian historic statue of Nefertiti and a contemporary woman, and especially the need to bring awareness to the heinous war crimes accelerating in Iraq in the name of religion.

Diane French, Contributing Writer

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Imagine a world in which all of the treasures of past civilizations have been lost. Now, wake up and take a closer look at the volatile situation in Iraq today regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS is on a mission to “cleanse” the country of statues and art they consider to be idol worship.

It seems eerily reminiscent of a modern day version of the 2014 movie, “The Monuments Men” which was based on a similar event during WWII. Nazi militants pillaged art museums in an attempted cultural cleansing. Sadly the treasures of today’s Iraqi wars are not just stolen, but are destroyed, plundered, and in some cases, lost forever.

Hatra, Iraq is the latest casualty in ISIS’s war against non- Islam religions. The ancient city–located in “the cradle of civilization” — was reportedly destroyed in March 2015, according to United Nations officials at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in a press release statement posted on www.UNESCO.org in mid-March 2015, said,”The destruction of Hatra marks a turning point in the appalling strategy of cultural cleansing underway in Iraqa��We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”

Hatra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, according to their website, and was a critical junction on the Silk Road. It thrived from 400 B.C.E. to 300 A.D., in spite of Roman attacks and was one of the most important sites from ancient Mesopotamia. The loss of such important archeological artifacts and knowledge from this senseless destruction follows in the wake of a string of several similar acts of cultural intolerance in previous weeks.

In February, ISIS released a propaganda video showing militants using sledge hammers on artworks and statues in a Mosul museum. Library books were burned, and the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud was bulldozed.

A company of digital preservationists under the name “Project Mosul,” is asking for any old photographs from people whom have previously visited the Mosul museum. With image information from every available perspective, they can reconstruct, using 3-D modeling and 3-D printing, a copy of some of these lost treasures.

The Project Mosul website states, “For those who are willing to help – even by simply spreading the word” – the Project Mosul website “invites any and all volunteers to help with restoring these important artifacts of Iraq history.”

Meanwhile, let us spread the word here in Spearfish, S.D., and let us embrace tolerance.

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Destructive Attacks on Humanity’s Ancient Cultural Heritage Escalate