CNN’s List of Treasured Places on ‘Verge of Extinction’ Omits ISIS-Controlled UNESCO Sites

AP Photo/Antonio Castaneda
AP Photo/Antonio Castaneda

In a post urging to “go see them now, before it’s too late,” Jacopo Prisco at CNN catalogued 25 ancient and endangered locales in the modern world. Missing from the list is Palmyra, Syria, which is currently under destruction by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) and other UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Middle East that remain in danger due to groups like ISIS.

Officials removed as many artifacts as they could before ISIS moved in. Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, lamented that they could not take everything due to size and weight.

But ISIS captured the historic town on May 21. They released a video that showed the ancient ruins untouched, but terrorists announced only days later they planned to destroy anything that promoted idolatry.

“Concerning the historic city, we will preserve it and it will not be harmed, God willing,” said the commander. “What we will do is break the idols that the infidels used to worship. The historic buildings will not be touched and we will not bring bulldozers to destroy them like some people think.”

Pictures published the first week of July show terrorists taking sledgehammers to statues. Abdelkarim confirmed they destroyed the 2,000-year-old statue Lion of al-Lat.

“IS members on Saturday destroyed the Lion of al-Lat, which is a unique piece that is three metres [10ft] tall and weighs 15 tonnes,” he declared. “It’s the most serious crime they have committed against Palmyra’s heritage.”

The “god lion” statue dated back to the first century AD. The lion stood guard at the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, which was dedicated to the god Bel, who was worshiped with Aglibol and Yarhibol. The lion, however, was dedicated to Al-lāt, an Islamic goddess for “Springtime and Fertility, the Earth-Goddess who brings prosperity.” She is often identified with goddesses Al-Uzzā and Menāt, who are sometimes referred to as the daughters of Allah. Herodotus, a Greek historian, equated her with Aphrodite, while others placed her next to Athena. She is known as “the Mother of the Gods” or the “Greatest of All.”

Instead, CNN tops the list with the Dome of the Rock in Old City of Jerusalem. According to Prisco, “political tensions” between Israel and UNESCO are why there are no preservation plans. Honest Reporting, which devotes its time to slamming Israeli bias in the media, condemned CNN for picking Dome of the Rock over more endangered sites:

According to CNN, the Old City of Jerusalem is “on the verge of extinction.” That the Old City is on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger is no excuse for its inclusion on CNN’s slideshow. As with many UN bodies, that status can be attributed to anti-Israel politics rather than reality.

CNN was under no obligation to buy into this outrageous nonsense, particularly as the Old City is probably the most protected heritage site in the Middle East. All religious sites are protected by law and freedom of religion. Even the most disputed of those, the Temple Mount, is under the control of the Muslim Waqf under an agreement to maintain the status quo.

In fact, the biggest threat to the heritage of the Old City is from the Palestinians themselves who have carried out unsupervised excavations on the Temple Mount, destroying many priceless antiquities in the process.

The Times of Israelwhich cites the Honest Reporting analysis, notes also that the CNN list missed extremely endangered sites not within ISIS territory, and much easier to visit: Peru’s Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, which has been on UNESCO’s endangered list since 1986.

ISIS has also targeted Hatra in Iraq and Nimrud in Syria. UNESCO head Irina Bokova said these attacks are part of the “appalling strategy of cultural cleansing” in Iraq. Suzanne Bott, the heritage conservation project of director for Iraq and Afghanistan in the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture, Planning and Archaeology, said the entire area is “called the cradle of Western civilization” because the people practiced medicine, astrology, agriculture, trade and commerce, and had some of the earliest writings.”

Other items on the list include Victorian gas holders, fifth on the list, but only built in the 1960s. The Preston Bus Station in Lancashire, built in 1969, also made his list, as well as Berlin’s gas lamps and the Portland Public Services Building in Portland, Oregon.


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