March 6, 2015

Islamic State’s reportedly started to bulldoze Nimrud. If it hasn’t yet, it is ‘just a matter of time’.

As far as I know, no material evidence has been published. Certainly, I haven’t seen any, beyond quotes and paraphrases of an official statement by Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. According to an anonymous antiquities official, ‘destruction began after noon prayers’. Nevertheless, if it hasn’t yet, as Abdulamir Hamdani observed, ‘it [is] just a matter of time’.

Apparently, the Islamic State ‘assaulted the historic [thirteenth-century B.C.E., Assyrian] city of [Kalhu/Calah/]Nimrud and bulldozed it with heavy vehicles‘, ‘heavy machinery’. To be precise, it began bulldozing the ancient city. Seemingly, the Islamic State also ‘used heavy military vehicles to transport the artefacts from Nimrud‘, though a more limited claim only asserts that ‘trucks that may have been used to haul away artefacts had also been spotted at the site’.

I’m away and offline for the next twenty-four hours at least.

February 28, 2015

Unevidenced and seemingly (hopefully) impossible claim that IS burned alive those who refused to wreck Mosul museums

I’ve continued to update my original post on Islamic State’s attack on Mosul Museum and the Nergal Gate Museum at Nineveh and am working on more, but there is one report that I want to address straight away on its own: “IS burns 4 members in Mosul for refusing to destroy museum”.
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February 27, 2015

State arms-for-antiquities trafficking between Turkey and Syria?

Consolidating my attempt to piece together evidence of terrorist antiquities trading and state arms smuggling between Syria and Turkey (with testimony of antiquities trafficking by air), there is new evidence that a Turkish intelligence agent not only smuggled weapons from Turkey into Syria, but also smuggled antiquities from Syria into Turkey.
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February 26, 2015

Islamic State has toppled, sledgehammered and jackhammered (drilled out) artefacts in Mosul Museum and at Nineveh

It is notable that the Islamic State released this propaganda, to assert their religious purity through their commitment to cultural destruction, immediately after the were exposed for making a deal with Turkey and not destroying Suleyman Shah’s tomb.

Last June, it was rumoured and mistakenly reported that the Islamic State had ‘destroyed ancient masterpieces, including the rare Assyrian winged bull’ at Nineveh Museum. This time, they’ve done it – at Mosul Museum and the Nergal Gate to Nineveh [the Nergal Gate Museum at Nineveh]. You can stream or download the mp4 (or watch it on YouTube/YouTube archive).

But if, like other sensible people, you don’t want to boost the web traffic to their pornography of violence – which they try to advertise as Islamic although they also preserve “heretical”, “idolatrous” things as long as they profit from them – I’ve taken screenshots from the video for verification and analysis. Christopher Jones, at the Gates of Nineveh, has ongoing, historically-informed coverage of this and other destruction, including Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum, Part 1: the Assyrian Artifacts.
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February 23, 2015

Suleyman Shah’s tomb exhumed, mausoleum pre-emptively destroyed, Syrian territory annexed by Turkey?

It’s difficult to headline or even strapline the story of these events, but Turkey has extracted sarcophagi and other artefacts from a Turkish exclave that is surrounded by Islamic State-held Syrian territory, and apparently deliberately destroyed the mausoleum that housed the tombs. What, you might justifiably ask, the fuck is going on?
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February 13, 2015

United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199: ban on wartime-exported antiquities from Syria and Iraq

UNESCO has published the text of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199.(1) As expected, it prohibits any international trade in Syrian antiquities that have been exported since the 15th of March 2011. It also reaffirms its prohibition of any international trade in Iraqi antiquities that have been exported since the 6th of August 1990 (which certainly suggests that this legislation will not suffice on its own).
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February 9, 2015

Tomb raiders and the profits of doom

Lask week, the World Today published an article on the conflict antiquities trade by me and Sasan Aghlani (@Aghlani), a Research Assistant in International Security at Chatham House and PhD student in Politics and International Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He’s written elsewhere on the role of violence against religious property in conflict (the power of sacred geography in Iraq). Apart from giving it the superlative title, the World Today has kindly given us permission to share the fully-sourced text here. (Sources were provided for fact-checking during editing, but not published in the magazine.)
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February 7, 2015

Terrorist antiquities trading and state arms smuggling between Syria and Turkey

The antiquities trade rules in the Russia-drafted United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution against terrorist financing have been reviewed by China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States – and revised (or most significantly revised) by the United States.
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February 5, 2015

Resolution against terrorist antiquities trading is welcome, but why not resolution against conflict antiquities trading?

Russia is drafting a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to combat terrorist financing, which will specifically target illicit trading in antiquities by the Islamic State.
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February 1, 2015

Operation Aureus-Hieratica: Egyptian-Spanish antiquities trafficking may have funded Islamic State

The details of Operation Aureus (within Spain, Operation Hieratica) – a massive and remarkable Europol-coordinated, Interpol-assisted, UNESCO-supported investigation – are beginning to emerge. (Paul Barford has been keeping track of the news.) Now, a new report claims that the Egyptian-Spanish antiquities supply line was run to fund the Islamic State [but no evidence has yet been presented].
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