There is no evidence (yet) of the destruction of the Shrine of Sayeda Zeinab

First I debunked claims of that the Islamic State (1) had destroyed the Shrine of Sayeda Zeinab (2) in Sinjar (3), then I confirmed the source of those claims with other evidence. Inevitably, the time has come for me to debunk myself. I explained my nagging doubts about that evidence the other day, and András Riedlmayer judged that my querying was probably right.

To reiterate, I mistakenly confirmed the claim with TV news footage of the “destroyed shrine”, which had been translated, clipped and published by an international researcher who was in the region with local communities. I do not say that to pass the blame; he will have checked the evidence as carefully as possible; I only say that to reinforce just how insecure so much of this evidence is.

  1. Unlike the shrine, the ruin has some pitched-roof structures.
  2. Compared to the shrine, the ruin is on shallow slopes near suburban buildings.
  3. Compared to the shrine, the ruin is set amongst hills.
  4. Although I cannot find the specific source page, and I still hope to get a translation of the search results, I think that I have traced the source of the photo to a 2013 post on Malmö Kurd.

[Update (1st September 2014): Local citizen Shingal’s photo reaffirms that the supposedly post-destruction photo does not show Sayeda Zeinab.] So, there is probably no evidence yet that the Shrine of Sayeda Zeinab has been destroyed.

Riedlmayer observed that the lack of official photos

does strongly suggest that any “post-destruction” images of this site that have appeared on Kurdish websites, Iranian media, or Baghdad govt websites in recent days are likely to be generic “destruction shots” from other incidents, posted “for illustration”…. [However, given] the past record and the ideology of IS militants, it may well be that they’ve already done the dirty deed and have destroyed the Sayyida Zaynab shrine, as well as other Shiite, Sufi and Yezidi shrines in the Sinjar area.

While I, too, am very pessimistic, given the past record of the Islamic State, if they had destroyed the shrine, they would have advertised their sacrilege. Again, this information could inform understanding of the Caliphate and protection of civilian communities. Have they destroyed these sites but not advertised the fact because that might provoke effective intervention?

Evidence for comparison

(c) Iraqi TV, 3rd August 2014; Matthew Barber, Syria Comment, 3rd August 2014

(c) Iraqi TV, 3rd August 2014; Matthew Barber, Syria Comment, 3rd August 2014

Here is the holy shrine attributed to Hazrat Zainab before destruction (1) (c) AhlulBayt News Agency, 4th August 2014

Here is the holy shrine attributed to Hazrat Zainab before destruction (1)
(c) AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA), 4th August 2014

Here is the holy shrine attributed to Hazrat Zainab before destruction (2) (c) AhlulBayt News Agency, 4th August 2014

Here is the holy shrine attributed to Hazrat Zainab before destruction (2)
(c) AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA), 4th August 2014

Google Image search results for an alleged image of the Shrine of Sayeda Zeinab 'after being blown up' from Iraqi TV, 3rd August 2014; Matthew Barber, Syria Comment, 3rd August 2014

Google Image search results for an alleged image of the Shrine of Sayeda Zeinab ‘after being blown up’ from Iraqi TV, 3rd August 2014; Matthew Barber, Syria Comment, 3rd August 2014

Notes

1: The Islamic State is also known as the Caliphate, Da’ash, Da’esh, Da’ish, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

2: Sayeda Zeinab is also written Sayeda Zainab, Sayyda Zainab, Sayyda Zaynab, Sayyeda Zainab, Sayyida Zainab, Sayyidah Zainab, Sittna Zainab… Sayyeda Zaynab bint Ali was one of the granddaughters of Muhammed, one of the daughters of Imam Ali (who became the forefather of Shia Islam).

3: Arabic-language Sinjar is Kurdish-language Şengal (Shengal) or Şingal (Shingal) and Syriac-language Siggar.

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