Archive for September, 2014


ISIS have destroyed the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church in Deir ez-Zor

I’m on the road at the moment, but I haven’t been able to outrun the bad news. I first heard claims that the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church had been destroyed through the Antiquities Coalition (@CombatLooting); then, while I was querying the unevidenced report and debunking community activists’ fabricated evidence, JP (@AgenerationXer) sent me the evidence that corroborated the claims.

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Alalam does not have any evidence that the Islamic State has destroyed Sufi shrines in Deir Ezzor, Syria, September 2014

Since some of Alalam’s false evidence was slightly less obvious than the rest (in the last post), I felt I should debunk it properly. Alalam News Channel‘s photos have been recycled from the documentation of earlier acts of violence in Syria in 2013, Iraq in 2014 and Libya in 2012. I won’t be online much for the next two or three weeks.

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There is not yet any evidence that the Islamic State has destroyed Sufi shrines in Deir Ezzor, Syria, September 2014

Ruslan Trad @ruslantrad asked me, ‘is this true? “Islamic State destroys Sufi shrines in eastern Syria“‘ (in Deir Ezzor). I have fact-checked this report, but I repeat: I cannot do this fact-checking any longer.

Miracle of miracles, I actually have a very short period of paid work, for which I am working more than full-time. After that, I will have to work more than full-time on the book. I would dearly love to do this work properly, but no-one is paying me for it, not even the mainstream media that are using my work, and I cannot live without an income.

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Maiduguri city is ‘completely surrounded’ and at risk of ‘total annihilation’ by Boko Haram

Maiduguri is a city of two million plus people – the capital city of Borno state in north-eastern Nigeria. It was the birthplace of Boko Haram (Western Education is Forbidden), an Islamist group who have long been committing terrorist attacks and annexing territory (including in Adamawa state), who have recently established a caliphate.(1)

More than 650,000 people are enduring internal displacement to escape the brutal campaigns of insurgency and counter-insurgency – ‘tens of thousands‘ of those had retreated to Maiduguri. But now, according to the Borno Elders Forum (BEF), it is ‘completely surrounded’ by Boko Haram. They have closed ‘almost all the roads’ out of city. The BEF fears ‘the total annihilation of the inhabitants of Borno’.

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Taliban have wrecked museums in Ghazni, but Afghans will rebuild, again

On the 4th of August, the Taliban used trucks to commit two suicide bombings against Ghazni Police and the Afghan National Directorate of Security (Intelligence), then launched a gun attack on the sites. The death toll rose inexorably from ten, to twelve, to twenty, to thirty-one, to thirty-three; the number of wounded grew from ‘dozens‘, to 150, to 160, to 200, to 350; and many civilian propertiesplaces of everyday life – were damaged.

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Correction of a false lead: there is still no evidence that the Shrine of Baba Yadgar (Tel Leben, Mosul, Iraq) has been destroyed, but the story is very different

I didn’t have the time to research this before and I certainly don’t have the time to do it now. At least my instincts seem to have been right: the source of the false evidence seems to have been Turkish news (though they may have plagiarised it from someone else); the source of the unevidenced claim was an Iraqi Kurdish politician.

I’m going to be working more than full-time on other stuff over the next two-to-four weeks, and I’m going to be offline most of that time anyway. After that, I will be working more than full-time to make some minimal progress in my writing on conflict antiquities, which I abandoned in order to fact-check these media and community reports of destruction in Iraq. So, from now on, I simply will not be able to perform such fact-checking.

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There is no evidence that the Shrine of Baba Yadgar (in Iraq) has been destroyed

Simon Crook asked: ‘Any info on Baba Yadgar’s shrine (main holy site of Ahl-e Haqq sect)? This [YPG Bim] tweet doesn’t look good [though it may have been misattributed]’. The photo is real, but of a different site at a different time, and at some point someone knew that, because it was an official Islamic State photograph. Someone removed the Islamic State caption that identified it.

[Update: Do not use this. The reference to Suleymaniyah was a false lead. The Shrine of Baba Yadgar is in Tel Leben – and there is no evidence that it has been destroyed there, either.]

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It is not the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Ephraim in Mosul, Iraq; it is the Coptic Church of Saint Tadros in Minya, Egypt

The co-founders of Iraq Heritage, (Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Centre) Luay Al Khatteeb and (Executive Director of Iraq Heritage) Aymen Jawad have highlighted the urgency of saving vulnerable minorities – such as Christians, Yazidis, Shia Turkmen and Shabak – in Iraq.

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Does the ‘e’ in eBay stand for ‘easy’? Antiquities from India, Egypt or Ukraine, via the US, Turkey or Cyprus…

Archaeologist-lawyer Tess Davis saw an advert for an Ancient Sarcophagus with Hieroglyphics from Egypt on Facebook. As she said, ‘shame!’ But it’s difficult to know where to begin. Obviously, neither Facebook nor eBay vets adverts for suspect products (which are, presumably, automatically selected by computer algorithms), and eBay doesn’t vet the material that is sold directly through it either.

Their immediate defence is that the sellers are responsible for the things that they sell (or mis-sell to evade vetting); there is too much material for them to vet; and they are proactive when they are notified of a problem. As archaeologist Paul Barford lamented of the online trade in metal-detected antiquities from Britain, ‘this has been going on day-after-day, week after week, almost since the beginning’ of eBay in 1995.

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There is no evidence yet that the historic cemetery in al-Shahwan (Mosul, Iraq) has been destroyed (2nd September 2014)

This is the last of five posts that are based on the efforts of the team for Monuments of Mosul in Danger. So far, there is no evidence that the disused cemetery in the al-Maydan neighbourhood has been destroyed.

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