ISIS barbarism threatening Iraq's rich history

As ISIS claims it has captured aid and weapons from a U.S. air drop meant for Kurdish fighters in Kobani. 

In a report from CNN, the militant group has also managed to get its hands on valuable ancient artifacts in Iraq. Few are the lands that can boast a history as deep and rich as Iraq, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Baghdad's Iraqi Museum. Museum Director Qais Hussain Rashid said the museum holds priceless pieces. 

“This is from 3,000 BC,” he says, pointing to a Sumerian mosaic. “It's 5,000 years old.” Thousands of years before the birth of Christ, the people of Mesopotamia mastered the first writing system, mathematics, astronomy, literature and law. 

Iraq's past, however, is threatened by the nightmare of its present. The group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, is not only at war with the Iraqi state, it's also at war with Iraq's very identity by blowing up religious shrines, slaughtering and enslaving minorities and executing its enemies. 

And what is hasn't destroyed, ISIS is selling on the black market. "They cut these reliefs and sell them to criminals and antique dealers," he says. "Usually they cut off the head, leaving the rest, because the head is the expensive part."

The area around Mosul is replete with ancient ruins, now in peril. These artifacts come from the ancient city of Hatra, or Al-Hadr is Arabic, which dates back to around 300 BC. It's located south of Mosul. 

ISIS took over the site a few months ago to store weapons and ammunition, to train fighters and to execute prisoners. Hatra's fate keeps Rashid up at night. “There are palaces, temples and statues there and ISIS is living among them,” he says. "I'm afraid they'll do something crazy." 

ISIS has taken over Mosul's museum, turning it into an office to collect Jizya, the tax levied on non-Muslims. 

The fate of the antiquities there is unknown. Iraq's history is full of catastrophes, one of the worst was the Mongol sacking of Baghdad in 1258, when it's said the Tigris River ran red and black with blood and the ink of thousands of priceless manuscripts tossed into the waterway. 

To Rashid, the Mongol's barbarity pales in comparison with that of ISIS. “They are people from another planet,” he said. "They take pride in nothing. Their mentality is completely putrefied. They don't think of all this as the accomplishments of humanity.”

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