UNESCO Demands Meeting Over ISIS Destruction of Artifacts

Head of UN's cultural agency demands emergency meeting following ISIS's destruction of ancient artifacts in Iraq.

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UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova
Reuters

The head of the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, on Thursday demanded an emergency meeting of the world body's Security Council following the mass destruction by jihadists of ancient artifacts in Iraq.

"This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy - this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq," UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.

"This is why I have immediately seized the President of the Security Council to ask him to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the protection of Iraq's cultural heritage as an integral element for the country's security," she added.

The statement came after the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group on Thursday released a video in which its terrorists are seen smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum in Mosul, their biggest hub and Iraq's second city.

They are also shown using a jackhammer to deface a large Assyrian winged bull at a huge archeological site in Mosul.

Archaeologists and heritage experts have described the destruction as a catastrophe and compared the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

Bokova pointed out that some of the statues destroyed in the video were from the ancient city of Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site which lies around 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Mosul.

She also said the destruction was a violation of the UN Security Council's resolution 2199.

It was adopted earlier this month in a bid to curb trafficking of looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, which is considered a key source of funding for ISIS.

Last December, UNESCO held a special session to discuss ISIS's rampan tdestruction of Jewish historical sites in the regions of Iraq and Syria under its control.

Among the damaged Jewish sites are the shrines of the prophets Daniel and Jonah, the Eliyahu Hanavi (prophet Elijah) shrine and synagogue in Damascus, the tomb of Yehezkel (Ezekiel) the prophet, and the Dura Europos synagogue, one of the oldest known synagogues.