Is there a fact-checking service for violence against cultural property in Iraq and Syria?

Over the past week, I’ve noted that fear, concern and propaganda are spreading false information about destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq; ISIS are using fear to drive communities to exile themselves, so that ISIS don’t have to confront, control or (directly) cleanse them. Confusion is making the problem worse. And while mainstream media are reporting the (para)military battles and territorial struggles, much other information is disappearing in the fog of war.

I know that Iraq Crisis (@IraqCrisis), Eleanor Robson (@Eleanor_Robson) and other citizens (for example, those I’ve cited in my posts) are checking rumours. But (for good reasons, but nonetheless) [for uncontrollable technical reasons,] the information on the Iraq Crisis listserv does not show up in web search results. Christopher Jones is doing occasional news round-ups at the Gates of Nineveh, which are valuable partly because they are round-ups, but they are by nature occasional.

In Ukraine, I know of at least two services – Stop Fake (@StopFakingNews) and Fake Control (@fakecontrol_org) – that are dedicated to (publicly) confirming or challenging claims in news and social media. Are there any such services (in Arabic or other languages) for the Iraqi and Syrian crises?

I’m very happy to host such checks, but I am not an authority on the subject – I can’t even speak Arabic – so I can’t do much more than compare foreign (or machine-translated) reports for consistency and check photos for misappropriation.

10 Responses to “Is there a fact-checking service for violence against cultural property in Iraq and Syria?”

  1. Hi Sam, I know of no reason why information on IraqCrisis shouldn’t be visible in web searches The archives is unrestricted, and the feeds are syndicated to Facebook and Twitter. Am I missing some obstacle? – Chuck-


  2. This is why:

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /

    See for an explanation.


  3. Sam I understand the connection between terrorism and stolen artifacts is a very serious one. But I feel that focusing solely on that connection marginalizes the larger problem of stolen antiquities in general. When an artifact is stolen and not properly cataloged we lose that history forever, this is a crime against humanity. The perpetrators and those complicit are far ranging; and this crime is very difficult to stop for numerous reasons. Much more attention needs to be given to this issue for the sake of posterity.


    • I completely agree that the illicit antiquities trade is a much larger problem, and that the social/cultural as well political/economic consequences are serious, but there are moneyed NGOs and research centres that look at the illicit trade more widely. I don’t even spend all of my time on it (not even all of this blog’s posts, and not even my mum reads this blog). If there isn’t more public discussion of the illicit trade in general, I don’t know what I can do about it.


  4. Other than the illicit trade which I understand is the focus here; I also feel that if countries lack the infrastructure, facilities, security, and overall ability to care for priceless artifacts they should not automatically be allowed to keep the artifacts in country. Take for example the priceless tyrannosaurus bataar specimen taken from that Virginia archaeologist right before auction last year. The specimen was repatriated back to its original country (mongolia)and we have heard nothing of it since. Its probably in some sub-par facility where it will collect dust or even worse disappear during some period of strife as is the case so often. #freeprokopi


    • Maybe if we sentenced someone who was a ‘one-man black market‘ to more than three months, vulnerable countries wouldn’t be at such risk. Mongolia is struggling as it develops economically and educationally, but it’s establishing at least one dedicated dinosaur museum, which will display the Tarbosaurus bataar, and expanding palaeontological education. It’s not always possible, especially during conflicts, but if these countries had their natural and cultural heritage, it would help them to bring in money and develop sustainable economies.



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