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.

Baba Yadgar

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]’. Two photos have been used in the spread of this false information. Both of them are of different sites from a single earlier campaign of destruction, and the producers of the false information must have known that, because they removed the identifying captions from official Islamic State photographs.

The place in one supposed photo of the Shrine of Baba Yadgar is the Shrine of Arnaout/ar-Mamout

On the 23rd of August, (Syrian Kurdish paramilitary) YPG News had reported, ‘ISIS blew up the holy pilgrimage site/shrine of Mohammed’s descendant Baba Yadgar[/Yadegar/Yadigar] [Işid Kakayî’lerin kutsal mekanı olan Seyid Baba Yadgar Ziyaretini patlayıcılarla havaya uçurdu]’.

ISIS blew up the holy pilgrimage site/shrine of Mohammed's descendant Baba Yadgar. [Xazerê -  Işid Kakayî'lerin kutsal mekanı olan Seyid Baba Yadgar Ziyaretini patlayıcılarla havaya uçurdu.] (c) YPG Bim, 23rd August 2014

‘ISIS blew up the holy pilgrimage site/shrine of Mohammed’s descendant Baba Yadgar. [Xazerê – Işid Kakayî’lerin kutsal mekanı olan Seyid Baba Yadgar Ziyaretini patlayıcılarla havaya uçurdu.]’
(c) YPG Bim, 23rd August 2014

That photo shows the Islamic State’s destruction of the Shrine of Arnaout/ar-Mamout. You can see from these images that it is an official Islamic State photo, which has an identifying caption, so YPG News (or an unacknowledged source) must have deliberately removed that caption and exploited the image.

بالصور: تنظيم "داعش" الإرهابي يهدم الحسينيات والمزارات الإسلامية المقدسة في محافظة نينوى العراقية (AhlulBayt News Agency, 5th July 2014)

بالصور: تنظيم "داعش" الإرهابي يهدم الحسينيات والمزارات الإسلامية المقدسة في محافظة نينوى العراقية
(c) AhlulBayt News Agency, 5th July 2014

'ISIS in Tal Afar have also destroyed smaller shrines. Images have been published of the destruction of the Shrine of Arnaout (or ar-Mamut).' (c) Christopher Jones, the Gates of Nineveh, 5th July 2014

‘ISIS in Tal Afar have also destroyed smaller shrines. Images have been published of the destruction of the Shrine of Arnaout (or ar-Mamut).’
(c) Christopher Jones, the Gates of Nineveh, 5th July 2014

The place in another supposed photo of the Shrine of Baba Yadgar is the Mosque of Imam Saad bin Aqeel

The day before, Turkish news – the Timeturk news site and Alevi newspaper via the Anadolu news agency – had reported that the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has blown up the shrine of Baba Yadgar [Irak Şam İslam Devleti… Baba Yadigar’ın türbesini havaya uçurdu]’.

'The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has blown up the shrine of Baba Yadgar. [Irak Şam İslam Devleti... Baba Yadigar'ın türbesini havaya uçurdu.]' (c) Anadolu Ajansı, Timeturk, 22. Ağustos 2014

‘The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has blown up the shrine of Baba Yadgar. [Irak Şam İslam Devleti… Baba Yadigar’ın türbesini havaya uçurdu.]’
(c) Anadolu Ajansı, Timeturk, 22. Ağustos 2014

That photo shows the Islamic State’s destruction of the Mosque of Imam Saad bin Aqeel in Tal Afar.

Evidence of analysis of the original publication of the evidence (c) Christopher Jones, 5th July 2014

Evidence of analysis of the original publication of the evidence
(c) Christopher Jones, 5th July 2014

Source check

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Mosul Representative Sait Memozini ‘told [the Turkish Anadolu News Agency (Anadolu Ajansı)] that the shrine of Baba Yadgar, which is in the village of Tel Leben, [which is] 40 kilometres east of Mosul, had been bombed by ISIS members [Musul’un 40 kilometre doğusunda bulunan Tulebend köyündeki Baba Yadigar’ın türbesinin IŞİD mensuplarınca bombalandığını söyledi]’.

Archaeologist (and the lead on Endangered Heritage Sites in Iraq on Facebook) Simone Muehl identified Tulebend as Tel Leben and remembered Yezidi community researcher Matthew Barber’s relay of the news that ‘#IS has destroyed a temple belonging to the Kakai (Yarsan) religious minority in Tel al-Leban, a village in the Qaraqosh area’, which was even on the same day as the first Turkish news report, so it must be the same claim. There is no evidence for it.

From propaganda to propaganda

As I showed in the original report (which followed a false lead), these processes of manipulation began immediately. Within a day of the campaign of destruction, the captioned photos had been shorn of their boastful notes and repurposed as incitements to the defence of holy places, and they spread from then on.

(c) IRGC Network, Twitter, 6th July 2014

(c) IRGC Network, Twitter, 6th July 2014

Why indeed

As Crook concluded after the initial investigation, ‘I now understand why various reports [start] with “It has not been confirmed that x has been blown up…”‘

Notes

The Islamic State has also been 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).

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