On Tuesday, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) destroyed the 200-year-old Maryam Khatoon Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, which the Ottoman Empire erected in 1821.
“The [ISIS] fighters blew up Maryam Khatoon Mosque, which was a heritage site, located in Hawsh Khan neighborhood, in the west of Mosul,” claimed an anonymous source.
ISIS has made it a mission to destroy churches, mosques, and tombs as it barrels its way through the Middle East. The terrorist group claims these buildings promote idolatry, which is not allowed under its interpretation of Sharia law.
However, the militants know the antiques inside these buildings are incredibly valuable. Since they took over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in June 2014, media outlets documented the many times the militants received cash for the antiques. Now, an Iraqi antiquity official claims they purposely destroy these buildings to steal and sell the priceless items.
“According to our sources, the Islamic State started days before destroying this site by digging in this area, mainly the palace,” explained Qais Hussein Rashid, an antiquity official. “We think that they first started digging around these areas to get the artefacts [sic], then they started demolishing them as a cover up.”
In October 2014, Shawnee State University Professor Amr Al-Azm made the same claim since there are 4,500 archeological sites in the group’s Caliphate. He believes the antiques pushed the group’s accounts from under $1,000 to billions. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ) wants legislation to curb “the sale of stolen antiquities from conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq.”
“The expanding link between antiquities looting and terrorist financing is raising political awareness. Governments should now work to ensure they are limiting this funding link to terrorism,” said Mark Vlasic, a Georgetown University law professor.
A few people in the area choose to fight back and save history. This group is known as Syria’s “Monuments Men.” The “graying academics” are not typical fighters, but travel through the country to preserve as many historic items as they can.
“It’s dangerous work. We have to get in and out of a site very quickly,” he claims. “The looting has become systematic, and we can’t keep up.”
The group formed in 2012 and immediately catalogued all damages to any important site. Another archeologist told The Wall Street Journal the men “knew each other before the war” broke out in 2011.
“We started this because we believe so strongly it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Over 200 people are within the group. The terrorists and the Syrian regime want to stop these Monuments Men, which forces the group to “rely on friends, informers and sympathetic rebel commanders.” Senior members pose as antique dealers to take back stolen items.