In the month since the destruction at Mosul Museum and the Nergal Gate Museum, at least in the West, there has been an increase in the profile of reporting and an explosion in the volume of commentary on political violence against cultural property in the conflict (specifically, political violence against archaeological heritage in Iraq, compared to the coverage of previous and ongoing destruction of religious sites in Iraq and Syria and beyond).
There have also been increasing calls for military intervention – albeit, remarkably, only to protect archaeological, cultural, historic sites, not the civilian communities who are the target of the genocide (and based on unevidenced, though not necessarily entirely false claims). I’ll post more on that soon. Still, cultural heritage workers and Western politicians are not the only people who are exploiting events. Amongst the confusion and advancement of political narratives, I spotted a peculiar image and wanted to query it and learn more about it.
A lazily photoshopped frame from the destruction video has been circulating. A “badge”, with a “banner” or “scroll” of text over a circled “4”, has been put over the sleeve of one of the perpetrators. In an inset photo of someone who closely resembles the perpetrator (and wears a similar jacket), the same badge has been put over that person’s jacket.
Although it’s at the same angle in both places, I don’t think it’s a watermark. If nothing else, it wouldn’t make sense to watermark a frame from an Islamic State video. In addition, at least one Arabic-speaker close to one of its sources told them that the image had been doctored, and none of the respondents explained that it was simply a personal or organisational brand, so they didn’t think that the “badge” was a watermark either. Furthermore, in the bottom left corner, the image is branded with a modified version of the coat of arms of Iraq, which appears to have a motto in a circle around it.
At the source locations, the producer-promoters of the image claim to identify the perpetrator not only by name, but also by military authority; they claim that he is a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter. Did they get that information from the same source as the inset photo? If they know who he is, how do they know who he is, and why do they only know one of his names?
It would mean nothing if he had served among the Peshmerga before he joined the Islamic State. These images seem to imply that he was a Peshmerga and acted as a Peshmerga when he destroyed the lamassu. They seem to imply that the destruction was a false flag attack to make the Islamic State look even worse than it did already. More importantly, they seem to insinuate that the Peshmerga are equivalent to the Islamic State and likewise need to be defeated. But it could be something completely different. Does anyone recognise the symbols? Does anyone have any idea?