The Devastating Path of ISIS and  its wake of Destroyed UNESCO World Heritage Sites

As the Unparalleled spread of ISIS continues, more needless wholesale bulldozing and the destruction of valuable cultural sites are being seen. As ISIS push towards in  Jordan, officials even worry for the safety of such major landmarks such as Petra. After Nimrud, the ancient Assyrian  city, home to the first monotheistic religion culture, Zoarastrianism, long before the Hebrews established their covenant with Yahweh, was bull dozed the world finally began to take note. Beautiful sphinxes with human faces have been chiseled off, after over a thousand years of continual stewardship by Muslim nations, have been destroyed.

As the juggernaut advance of ISIS seems at times unstoppable, the sites being damaged or slated for damage seem to be growing exponentially. Sites thought once in safe and in secure areas, popular, and accessible to the International tourist industry are now virtual ghost ruins, excavations stopped, artifacts, monuments, sculpture being bulldozed, sledghammered and lying in ruins. Even such ares as Jordan, and Egypt, occasionally troubled with random violent incidents against the tourist trade, are now off limits to most tour companies and are being re-alerted by embassies and nations throughout the world. The sustainable, viable , and lucrative tourism dollar, now withering on the vine. Is this a way ISIS seeks to control both the  economy, and local populations, by maintaining a strict control over both funds and access to other citizens of the world by a populace now becoming isolated to the flow of dollars, and to other views,  while dependent on Muslim extremist charitable organizations like the Muslim brotherhood for basic resources such as food, clean water, and medicine.These previously could be effectively provided for with more income generated by tourist dollars. 
In the minds of the ISIS, this is an extension of their conservativism views given to them directly by the Q’uran. By taking the laws to the letter interpretation, and their belief in an arrogant style of  righteousness that enables them to destroy sites, artifacts, and art  that was there before the advent of not only their extreme conservative construct of Islam, but even before the prophet Muhammed received the word of Allah in the form of the Q’uran without regard or thought to the Muslims that cared to preserve them, they show selves as poor stewards culturally. And even poorer historians of their own roots and place in society.


Afghanistan’s Buddhas of , UNESCO site , destroyed .

The writing on the wall should have been made clear to us all when the Taliban committed the  Destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in the year 2000. What seems to be the issue and why is the idea of tolerance for artistic, cultural, or historical depictions of civilizations, even those who had evolved into their own,  so egregiously incongruent with their own development that the wanton destruction of such sites is necessary and in fact now a priority of ISIS. 

Recently just in the past few months, we hear and see images of the Destruction of the Assyrian city of Nimrud, one of the oldest ruins of an organized city in Mesopotamia, being bulldozed by ISIS. Reliefs are being chiseled so that the faces are removed from the cultural record. These are  the very ancestors of the same bedouins of the region that founded Islam. Is it their own ancestor’s images they fear, or is it the Sh’ iiah sect that is in control the area that they do this against?  Is The United Nations and its diligent care and preservation of Unesco world heritage sites the targets they work to destroy?  Or is it any form of economic revenue opportunity for secular based revenues?  What do they seek to control? Why do they seek to destroy  the rich legacy the Levantine and Fertile Crescent civilizations have left for us to learn from..


ISIS follwer , chainsaws off the Sphinx’s face.

 Is it possible this goes beyond the Muslim Q’uranic code of the image of both Gods and man not being acceptable in the worship of Islam,  often seen as idol worship,  but more the idea of the United Nations and its presence and control of such sites in the area. While  such a powerful force in the region in the form of Unesco and its commitment to preservation, conservation, and even restoration, provides much needed vehicles for study, maintenance, and the resources to do so, not to mention local jobs. Does just the name, United Nations, and their failed policies, which have brought coalition forces and major conflicts in the areas, yet not able to keep other member nations in check with security council resolutions in regards to Israel remind them of their being on the losing end of the organizations continued failed policies in regard to Israeli sovereignty and incursions into U.N. sanctioned borders and cease fire areas?  Does the continued snubbing of Palestine as a Member state, while allowing Israel seemingly a carte Blanche veto, without the apparent threat or use of force like demonstrated in , Desert Storm, or Desert Shield, her not even respecting the resolutions that created Israel, but to violate scores more resolutions condemning them and their actions in regards to the former country of Palestine, their treatment of refugees, form some of the basis of this backlash and destruction of valuable sites to cultures directly linked to their own?

Could this be the true reason for the destruction, one must remember that for over a thousand: years Islam has for the most part been a fine steward of ancient ruins, artifacts, and civilizations. One only need to look to ancient Egypt  and how the generations of Islamic rulers from Ottoman Sultanates, forward thinking project related communist backed Presidents such as Nassar, U.S. funded Presidents Sadat and Mubarak, while oppressive, dictatorial and supportive to the Israeli State,  have successfully  stewarded, embraced , and claimed the Pharaonic  Egypt for the Muslims of modern Egypt as a source of pride, vast tourism revenue resulting in economic security, scientific study opportunities,  without  interference or infraction to Q’uranic law or conservative sects such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which actually was founded in Egypt during the 19th Century. 

The Islamic presence evident in these governments has, rather than exploited such sites like the French and British occupiers and imperialists, which sought do damage, dissemble, export, pillage , and mutilate these sites, has truly stewarded them developing them, while protecting them, into a sustainable, incredible economic boom for Egypt’s often fragile economy.


Zawi Hawass, Director of Egyptian Antiquity

The Islamic governments control of such areas and the cooperation extended to the United Nations Unesco World Heritage Organization’s designations as member sites has enriched both the sites general sustainability, tourism accessibility, and promotions as well as brought in technologies, researchers, and resources unavailable to the Egyptians if working on their own. Not to mention replaced such stodgy representations of stereotypical archaeologists such as Howard Carter and armchair digger Lord Carnarvon with dynamic, committed, media savvy, and national role models like Zahi Hawass. Mr. Hawass, in his long standing former role as Director of Egytian antiquities,  has worked for and with CNN, and The National Geographic Society, bringing attention to his supervision of multiple large scale projects in Egypt.

 He has published tens of best sellers on Egyptian Antiquity, and as official host to foreign archaeologists, research projects, and media projects as become Egypt’s face of antiquity. This provides the reminder that Egypt is indeed the steward to their own ancient culture without being exclusionary or closed to tourism or international joint research projects. It shows to the young of Egypt and other middle Eastern, North African nations a great role model in a man educated, dedicated , and media savvy in the role off host rather than collaborator with the West. 


ISIS woker removes cross from Church

Will ISIS, as its march through the Islamic world continue to destroy such sites or will they reach a point or benchmark where the destruction of cultural, spiritual, and vast economic potential for generations of Muslims to come. With some of these areas relying virtually solely on tourism what will bring income into such an area if such things are destroyed. Imagine the Nile River Valley without the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings, or any hieroglyphics- key to the understanding and evolution of all written language including Arabic, the only language sanctioned by Allah for the Q’uran to be written in. The latest being the wanton destruction of ancient libraries including one of the seven wonders of the Ancient world, just being excavated and developed for tourists.

Underwater Statue in The Library of Alexandria Underwater Sanctuary, Unesco World Heritage Site

 After these visions and musings of our imaginations, remember ISIS is destroying the Library of Alexandria, which is an underwater park reserve and currently being excavated underwater and brought to surface or left under and restored. An interesting argument for the idea that books do not traditionally in scroll form or cunitorm have pictures just characters mean nothing is being disproved here. Most modern science agrees this language is a common ancestor of current day Arabic.  Why destroy  such a repository  of written information not in violation of animal, or facial representations.


The Library at Hatra, Unesco World Heritage Site

 For now we are aware of three major areas of destruction, the first being the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Nimrud. The process took a week or two and heavy equipment was brought in. Not only were the museums looted, the artifacts being sold on the black market for funding of ISIS, but the sites themselves were blasted, attacked by bulldozers,  reliefs, and statues faces and heads removed and destroyed. These ruins having survived thousands of year s the ravages of time, climate, wars, religion and regime changes are now struck down by the Islamic State.

The next major site being devastated is the Unesco World Heritage Site of Palmyra, which is an extn save archaeological site located in Syria, containing valuable ruins such as the archive of Mari, other libraries and valuable cultural sites relative to the early organized civilizations that settled and developed cities and cultural centers in Syria during the Mesopotamian and subsequent periods in the Levantine.

  Libya seems to be the current center of destruction for ISIS . Moving away from the typical destruction of  Shi’ia and Sufi sites, as well as pre-Islamic archaeological sites ISIS is now engaging in the destruction of Roman and Greek sites located along the coast of the southern Mediteranean in Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. Areas ripe and laden with a rich historical blending of such ancient cultural sites and often better prese fed and less stressed touristically than sites in Greece, Italy, Turkey or other close, populated tourist areas. To lose such sites in generally better condition than others would indeed be ashamed for all of humanity. 

Isis Representative, Removing an Animal Head Relief, deemed as sacreligous

 Are the predecessors to all things Arabic, all things Muslim- remember Moses and the flight from Egypt, delivered by the same God as Allah, the events depicted on the tombs of Ramses in hieroglyphics which are pictographs the language just before characters and Arabic lettering. This as evidence to their own Gods miracles and power to free his chosen from oppressors destroyed by them in his name. One would not find such a quatrain or ghazal on the Q’uran that justifies such destruction.


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