ISIS destroying sites in Salah-ad-Din Province
In the past month the Iraqi Army and allied Shia militias have surprised many by re-taking most of Diyala Province, then lifting the siege of the Baiji oil refinery. At Baiji four hundred Special Forces soldiers had been surrounded and under siege for over four months, resupplied by air. Most of Diyala Province is now under Iraqi government control, and Iraqi forces have made strong inroads into ISIS-controlled Salah-ad-Din and Anbar provinces. In Syria, Kobane still holds against all odds, with ISIS forces sustaining increasingly heavy casualties in their numerous unsuccessful attempts to seize it.
Until the past week, there were few reports of the destruction of antiquities and cultural heritage sites, possibly because ISIS forces were hard pressed on multiple fronts. They are still hard-pressed, but a number of reports have filtered in over the past few days which need to be addressed.
Church Destruction in Mosul
Ever since ISIS captured Mosul in June there have been fears that they will demolish Christian churches. However, while they broke crosses and statues off the exteriors of the churches and flown the ISIS flag from their roofs, there has been no evidence of any structures being demolished.
In the past week reports have filtered in that ISIS has destroyed the Convent of the Sacred Heart, also known as the Convent of Al-Nasir, adjacent to the Monastery of St. George in the Al-Arabi neighborhood of northern Mosul. The building was used by Chaldean Catholic nuns to provide aid to the elderly poor and the mentally disabled.
The convent was allegedly being used as a base by ISIS fighters before they decided to destroy it.
A video has appeared purporting to show the demolition of the convent, although nothing clearly identifiable can be seen in the video.
Contrary to some reports, it seems the adjacent 17th century Monastery of St. George was undamaged.
Demolition of Islamic sites in Salah-ad-Din Province
Yesterday ISIS published an 11-minute video showing the destruction of a number of shrines in Salah-ad-Din province. The video is much more professionally produced than previous attempts at publicity, and features various members of ISIS discussing the destruction of the shrines before they blow them up.
The video also sheds light on the technical aspects of how ISIS demolishes shrines, showing fighters placing plastic jerricans filled with some sort of liquid explosives, possibly fertilizer-based, near support columns inside the structures and wired together with detonation cord to ensure a simultaneous explosion.
Tomb of Sayyid Hamad al-Naami
The first to be destroyed is a site which ISIS identifies as “Removal of the manifestations of polytheism and idolatry in the state of Salah al-Din” but which the sign above the door identifies as “The Tomb of Sayyid Hamad al-Naami.” It appears to contain three graves under a simple wooden structure. I have no further information but it seems to be a relatively recent structure, since a sign inside seems to indicate one of the graves dates to 1982 (1403 in the Islamic calendar).
A man going by the name of Abu Abd al-Naami has been serving as a media spokesman for the General Military Council of Iraqi Revolutionaries, a Sunni militant organization ostensibly allied with ISIS. But the MCIR has criticized ISIS’ imposition of Islamic law and has pledged to fight them and drive them from Mosul once they are finished fighting the Iraqi government. A move by ISIS against the graves of members of the al-Naami clan could be part of a general move to suppress dissent in the ranks amongst Sunni insurgents in western Iraq.
Imam Dur Mausoleum, Samarra
The Imam Dur Mausoleum was built in 1085 in Samarra to house the grave of Sharaf ad-Dawla Muslim, a Shia ruler of the Uqaylid dynasty. It contained the first example of a muqarnas dome built in Iraq. The interior featured ornate tiles and calligraphy.
The destruction of the Imam Dur tomb had been previously reported in late October but this video provides conclusive confirmation that it has been destroyed.
Next in the video is an unidentified site, apparently of more recent construction. Several videos show ISIS fighters smashing graves around and inside the shrine with sledgehammers before blowing it up.
(Any help in identifying this site is much appreciated)
Tomb of Sayyid Saleh Ibrahim al-Naami
The fourth site is identified by a sign over the gate as the tomb of Sayyid Saleh Ibrahim al-Naami (and his wife), and further evidence that ISIS fighters are specifically targeting graves of the al-Naami clan.
Unlike the other sites, this tomb was destroyed with a bulldozer.
Towards the end of the video the same bulldozer used to destroy the tomb of Sayyid Saleh Ibrahim al-Naami is show being used to destroy at least three more tombs. One is identified as belonging to a certain Sayyid Fadil, the other two are unidentified.
Tomb of Sayyid Fadil: