Iraq’s Historical Sites Ravaged by Corruption, Neglect Following Islamic State Defeats

Part of a crumbling heritage: old buildings on the waterfront in the southern Iraqi city of Basra
AFP HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI

Corruption, mismanagement, and neglect have reportedly replaced Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists as the destroyers of historical heritage sites in Iraq such as the city of Basra’s “shanasheel,” finely crafted windows with intricate wooden latticework and stained glass that allows inhabitants to see outside without being seen.

Although the city of “shanasheel” is in the capital of Iraq’s richest oil province, local government officials are “struggling to provide the bare minimum of services to its inhabitants, as nepotism and corruption divert lucrative revenues from the black gold,” Rudaw reports.

Analysts once considered ISIS the richest terrorist group in modern history, noting that the jihadist group generated its revenue from the illegal sale of oil and stolen historical artifacts.

Now that the U.S.-led coalition and local forces have nearly annihilated the jihadist group, corrupt government officials are taking their place, abusing residents and neglecting historical sites.

“The city has been neglected, rubbish has been dumped into its waters,” 71-year-old Iraqi retiree Adnan Khalaf who used to marvel at the Iraqi city of “shanasheel” told the Kurdish outlet Rudaw, noting that region’s “golden age” was not that long ago. “No one cares about it anymore.”

Rudaw learned from Abdelhaq al-Moudhaffar, head of the city’s Palace of Culture and Arts, that the “shanasheel” windows, also known as mashrabiya, are ancient, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

“They spread to other cities in Iraq, including Baghdad, and across the Levant and to Egypt,” Rudaw notes, referring to the style of windows.

“When lights are turned on at night inside the traditional homes, inspired by a mix of Indian, Persian and Islamic influences, a patchwork of orange, green, red and blue light is cast from the stained glass windows onto the streets below,” added the news outlet.

At one time, inhabitants adorned all the houses in the ancient city with “shanasheel.”

However, the city has reportedly deteriorated with the fall of the Iraqi monarchy, Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, and the multiple wars that have ravaged Iraq.

ISIS left historical obliteration in its path, looting and destroying ancient sites across Iraq and Syria. The group even released propaganda videos showing its terrorist destroying historical places like the old Assyrian city of Nimrod in Iraq.

In April 2016, expert witnesses told a House panel that ISIS committed “cultural genocide” as it plundered and sold ancient artifacts to fund its terrorist activities.

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