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Iraq Heritage Crisis News

News posts on this site documenting heritage destruction in Iraq during the conflict with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which began in the summer of 2014.

It should be noted that the list of historic sites and artifacts in these posts is not a comprehensive list of artifacts and sites destroyed by ISIS. For a more complete listing, see the ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative’s archive of reports.

Abd al-Nasser al-Qardash Speaks (6/6/2020)

  • New comments by the highest-ranking ISIS leader in custody shed light on the group’s efforts to traffic in antiquities.

The Great Damascus Antiquities Bust? (12/8/2018)

  • Allegations that Syrian pro-Assad militia leader Suhail al-Hassan has been trafficking in antiquities, and its relations to power struggles within Syria.

A Bookend to the Destruction of Mosul: The Great Mosque of Nur ad-Din destroyed by ISIS (6/23/2017)

  • Destruction of the Great Mosque of Nur ad-Din in Mosul.

Nimrud Damage Assessment (11/23/2016)

  • Assessing the damage to the Northwest Palace, ziggurat, temples of Ishtar and Nabu, Mar Behnam monastery and Khorsabad after those sites were liberated from ISIS in October and November of 2016.

House Homeland Security Committee Releases Report on ISIS Financing (10/14/2016)

ISIS destroys Temple of Nabu at Nimrud, Nergal Gate at Nineveh (6/8/2016)

  • Destruction of the lamassus at the Nergal Gate in Nineveh.
  • Destruction of the Fish Gate of the Temple of Nabu at Nimrud.

The Cleansing of Mosul (6/6/2016)

  • Destruction of the Southwest Palace of Sennacherib.
  • Destruction of the reconstructed Adad and Mashki gates at Nineveh and their associated walls.
  • Reports of destruction of the Clock Church in Mosul.
  • Destruction of the Commonwealth Mosul War Cemetery.
  • Destruction of Dair Mar Elia Monastery.

Palmyra Propaganda (4/7/2016)

  • Analyzing the narratives in official pronouncements and media coverage in the aftermath of Syrian government forces’ recapture of Palmyra on March 27, 2016.

Assessing the Damage at Palmyra (3/31/2016)

  • Assessing the damage done by ISIS to the site of Palmyra and its museum over the past year, following its recapture by Syrian government forces.

How Much Money is ISIS Making from Antiquities Looting? (1/12/2016)

  • An open source analysis to estimate the importance of looting archaeological sites to ISIS finances.

Is Media Coverage Encouraging Archaeological Looting in Syria? (12/28/2015)

  • Comparing patterns in media coverage to patterns in looting shows there is no real correlation.

Enter the Bear (10/2/2015)

  • Analyzing Russian intervention in the Syrian Civil War, and possible damage to the ruins of the Byzantine site of Shinshara in Syria from Russian airstrikes.

New Documents Prove ISIS Heavily Involved in Antiquities Trafficking (9/30/2015)

  • Documents captured in the Abu Sayyaf raid on May 15, 2015 and declassified on September 29 show ISIS made at least $1.25 million from the sale of looted antiquities.

ISIS Destroying Graves in Fallujah, Syria (8/14/2015)

  • Destruction of graves in Fallujah, Syria, and unidentified locations.

What We’ve Lost: Mar Behnam Monastery (5/12/2015)

  • Destruction of the Tomb of Mar Behnam and Mart Sarah near Nimrud, and a history of the legends surrounding the site.

What is ISIS’ Media Strategy? (4/22/2015)

  • Who is the intended audience for videos of antiquities being destroyed? And why the sudden turn towards destroying ancient sites?

Assessing the Damage at Hatra (4/7/2015)

  • Destruction of sculptures at the Great Iwans of Hatra.

Damage around Tikrit, Destruction in Mosul (3/17/2015)

  • Destruction of the al-Khidr Mosque in Mosul.
  • Battle damage to the Palace of Ashnas north of Samarra.
  • Destruction of Saddam Hussein’s tomb in al-Awja.
  • Damage to St. George’s monastery in Mosul.

Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum, Part 2: The Sculptures from Hatra (3/3/2015)

  • Destruction of statues of Hatran kings.
  • Destruction of Hatran life-sized sculpture.
  • Destruction of Greco-Roman style sculptures from Hatra.
  • Destruction of other Hatran sculptures.

Assessing the Damage at the Mosul Museum, Part 1: The Assyrian Artifacts (2/27/2015)

  • Destruction of the lamassu at the Nergal Gate of Nineveh.
  • Lion-lamassu in the Mosul Museum.
  • Possible threat to the Balawat Gates in the Mosul Museum.
  • The status of Assyrian relief sculptures in the Mosul Museum.
  • Destruction of an Assyrian statue in the Mosul Museum.

ISIS destroys several more sites in Mosul and Tal Afar (2/10/2015)

  • Unconfirmed reports of book burnings in Mosul libraries.
  • False reports of the destruction of the walls of Nineveh.
  • Unconfirmed reports of church demolitions.
  • Destruction of the citadel at Tal Afar.
  • Unconfirmed reports of the destruction of the al-Fatih and al-Ummawiya mosques in Mosul.
  • Video of the destruction of two unidentified mosques.
  • Destruction of a small mausoleum in Mosul.
  • Destruction of shrine of Imam al-Muhsin in Mosul.

Will “protected cultural zones” save heritage sites in Syria? (12/15/2014)

  • Analysis of UNESCO director Irina Bokova’s plan for creating a “protected cultural zone” as part of a regional cease-fire in Aleppo.

ISIS destroying sites in Salah-ad-Din Province (11/27/2014)

  • Destruction of the tomb of Sayyid Hamad al-Naami.
  • Destruction of the Imam Dur Mausoleum near Samarra.
  • Destruction of the tomb of Sayyid Saleh Ibrahim al-Naami.
  • Destruction of the tomb of Sayyid Fadil.
  • Destruction of three unidentified sites.

ISIS October News Roundup (10/8/2014)

  • The strategic situation since the beginning of foreign intervention.
  • Destruction of the Shrine of the Forty and the Green Church in Tikrit.
  • Summary of articles on antiquities looting and funding of ISIS.

“Heritage in Peril: Iraq and Syria” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 22) (9/23/2014)

August in Iraq: More Destruction, Humanitarian Catastrophes (8/14/2014)

  • The strategic situation on the Sinjar-Nineveh Plains-Erbil fronts.
  • Destruction of the Tomb of the Prophet Daniel, Mausoleum of Imam Yahya ibn al-Qasim, Tomb of Sheikh Qadeeb al-Ban al-Mosuli, Tomb of Ibrahim and the al-Faisaliyah Mosque by ISIS in Mosul. Bombing of the al-Mufti Mosque in Mosul by the Iraqi Air Force.

Even More Islamic Heritage Destruction in Iraq (7/29/2014)

  • Destruction of by ISIS of graves and shrines venerated by Sunnis in Mosul: Tomb of Jarjis, Tomb of Seth, Tomb of Imam Ibn Hassan Aoun al-Din.
  • Destruction of Shia Mosques by ISIS in Bashir, Kirkuk Province.
  • UNESCO plans to rescue artifacts.

And Now It’s Gone: Shrine of Jonah Destroyed by ISIS (7/24/2014)

  • Destruction of the Shrine of Jonah at Tell Nebi Yunus by ISIS in Mosul.

Blogging Heritage Destruction in Conflict Zones: An Addendum (7/6/2014)

  • Why do we care about artifacts and buildings when people are being massacred?

Mass Destruction of Islamic Heritage Sites in Iraq (7/5/2014)

  • Destruction of the Shrine of Sheikh Fathi and the Tomb of the Girl/Tomb of Ali Ibn al-Athir by ISIS in Mosul.
  • Destruction of the tomb of Sheikh Ibrahim and the tomb of Sufi philosopher Ahmad ar-Rifa’i by ISIS in Muhallabiyah.
  • Destruction of Shia mosques by ISIS in Mosul and Tal Afar.

Mosul Cultural Heritage Under Threat: News Roundup (6/12/2014)

  • Removal of the statues of Othman al-Mosuli and Abu Tammam by ISIS in Mosul.
  • Reports that medieval manuscripts, including an Abbasid Qur’an, are being looted from the Mosul library and sold in Turkey.
  • Destruction of a statue of Mary at al-Tahira Catholic Church in Mosul.
  • ISIS’ threats to destroy cultural heritage sites in Mosul.

Articles Published at Hyperallergic

What ISIS Destroys, Why, and Why We Must Document It (March 6, 2015)

In Battle Against ISIS, Saving Lives or Ancient Artifacts (April 17, 2015)

Another Treasure Lost in Iraq: The Story of Mar Behnam Monastery (June 23, 2015)

Articles Published at Apollo Online

The Centre of Learning Destroyed by ISIS in Iraq (June 17, 2016)

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Anthony Ailabouni permalink
    August 17, 2017 7:45 PM

    Not sure where we draw line and why.
    Here in the extensive article on ISIS and for the love of God, why do we go one legitimizing a TERRORIST NONE GOD FEARING GROUP OF PEOPLE by GIVING THEM the “S” in State. They destroyed yesteryear edifices from a horrific time of mankind where humans were enslaved
    tortured killed by the thousand. Yet we cry for the cultural loss. Maybe we realized that man’s history although unfortunately does repeat itself and we should learn from our mistakes but we don’t. If we used the basis of destroying articles of important cultural history by ISIS then we should use this basis world around. The new generation that don’t see man’s history of any kind because we chose to destroy some and leave others intact even get angry, will never know man’s history if we hate this and that representation for whatever reason. What if new generations who did not know or see history in its artifacts take it further and destroy books and all referance to man’s awful history… WOW, just think of that…Where doe the line stop. So if terrorist destroy the artifacts because they believe it to be evil we are no different than ISIS. Similarly ans based of same reasons of anger against the ancient history then the ancient Egyptians who enslaved the Israelites and other to build the pyramids which are standing now and represent oppression we should then go and destroy them. When man kills man and uses them as slave and many hate groups creep up we should fight them strongly. But where do we draw the LINE which we so quickly draw without follow up but what about the freedom of speech, freedom of this and that and OH YES! WOMEN FREEDOM TO TAKE OFF THEIR BRAS AND RUN NAKED IN PARKS….etc, etc. Where do we draw the line…that awful LINE. We are always quick to judge. The Lord Jesus said don’t judge lest you be judge. We have laws, rules and regulations and if people brake the laws of the land whereever it maybe there are tools to be implemented and enforce the law….
    Chew on this and be calm, think and use this as food for thought and further the discussion. Preach LOVE, HOPE AND FORGIVNESS.


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  5. Demolition of Famous Arch Adds to List of Ancient Sites Destroyed by ISIS | Ticworthy
  6. Ancient Assyria at the British Museum | Adventures Past and Present
  7. ¿Por qué ISIS está destruyendo patrimonios históricos de la humanidad? – United Explanations
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  10. News With Views | Destroying History: The Race Baiting Politically Correct Anarchists
  11. The Destruction of Art | Gone But Not Forgotten
  12. Isis in Iraq and Syria – Educate international

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