Iraq P.M: ISIS 'barbarians' will not destroy our history

During the reopening of the Baghdad Museum on Saturday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi made one thing clear: The artwork that epitomizes Iraq's culture and history will not be wiped away by anyone or anything, including ISIS. 

"They are trying, with their barbarism and arrogance, to destroy the inheritance of humanity, the inheritance of Iraqi people and their civilization, [the] same way they destroyed humans," al-Abadi said. "I want to send clear message from here in Baghdad, that we will preserve this human civilization and its inheritance, and we will pursue those who are trying to destroy it." 

The Prime Minister's comments came after a video was released by ISIS purporting to show militants smashing and shattering pieces at a museum in Mosul. "These antiquities and idols behind me were from people in past centuries and were worshiped instead of God," one masked man said in the clip. 

"When God Almighty orders us to destroy these statues, idols and antiquities, we must do it, even if they're worth billions of dollars." It isn't clear from the video how many artifacts were lost or how many of those destroyed were originals. 

There's reason to believe that some pieces were spared, according to Qais Hussain Rashid, the director general of Iraqi museums at the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism. He told CNN that ISIS sells stolen antiquities on the black market to finance their operations. The Prime Minister also mentioned the smuggling reports in his speech on Saturday. 

He also alleged that ISIS is receiving some sort of assistance in its smuggling operation, though he did not specify any organization in particular. "We have all the details on all the antiquities in Mosul, every single piece is marked, numbered and saved in our records," he said. "Therefore, we will pursue all these antiquities." 

The Mosul Museum has 173 original pieces, according to Rashid. Also, reports began to surface about a month ago that ISIS militants were burning thousands of books and manuscripts from museums, libraries and universities in Mosul. 

Those reports amount to "a new phase in the cultural cleansing" being perpetrated by the extremist group, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said in a news release. If the reports of book burnings are confirmed, the U.N. cultural agency said, "this would be one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history." 

CNN's Ben Wedeman and Dana Ford contributed to this report.

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