The Destruction of Heritage Sites in Iraq and Syria
The Islamic State (ISIS) has destroyed and damaged numerous cultural sites in the region, claiming that their actions are religiously motivated in eliminating idolatry. The group’s looting has been used to fund their military operations. Here are some of
Apamea Palmyra LEBANON Nineveh Mosul Museum and Libraries Mar Behnam Monastery Nimrud
Beyond improved legislation, activist groups have worked to come up with creative means of salvaging heritage sites. Several projects seeking to protect, preserve and archive threatened heritage sites and lost artefacts are working to ensure that history is not lost – or at best, can be recreated.
One such effort involved a projection of the lost Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. Built in the 6th century, these ancient sandstone carvings were the world’s tallest Buddha statues until they were destroyed by a bomb placed by the Taliban in 2001. Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar justified the deliberate destruction of the statues on religious grounds, saying that “These idols have been gods of the infidels”. Recreating the Buddhas involved using threedimensional laser projection technology to recreate the statues as a hologram, filling the empty cavities in the cliffs with the projections. According to a report in The Atlantic, the holograms were the work of a Chinese couple who
Several projects seeking to protect, preserve and archive threatened heritage sites and lost artefacts are working to ensure that history is not lost
Replicating the tombs, statues, temples and archaeological sites is happening even without the support of international organisations. Artists are reconstructing the past. In Iraq, Ninos Thabet, an 18-year-old who studied art at Mosul University, is putting his creativity to good use. He is working on creating miniature replicas of the statues destroyed in the 3,000-year-old Assyrian city of Nimrud, south of Mosul, when it was overrun. Thabet fled Mosul with his family to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, and has since created more than 50 miniatures of the now lost statues. In Jordan, Syrian artists in the Zaatari refugee camp came together for a special project aimed at reconstructing Syrian artefacts and cultural sites destroyed during the war.
Further afield in Italy, replicas of several masterpieces vandalised or destroyed in Syria and Iraq have been recreated. The replicas have been featured in a Unesco-sponsored