Ancient ruins destroyed by ISIS extremists in the Syrian city of Palmyra. So-called Islamic State militants have demolished the city’s Arch of Triumph, which had previously stood the test of time for almost two millennia.
The monument was erected in the second century CE to commemorate a Roman victory against Persian forces. Its design and ancient inscriptions made it stand out as a unique glimpse into an ancient past shared by so many civilizations.
The reasons behind its destruction remain unclear. The terror group has reiterated time and again its decision to “wage war” on historic and cultural icons deemed blasphemous or idolatrous under the strict guidelines of their extremist Wahhabi worldview. Yet, Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph was of no religious significance whatsoever.
It contained no spiritual inscriptions, nor was it ever mentioned as the site of any ancient religious rituals or ceremonies. Some have speculated that this is ISIS’ way of fighting back the remnants of ancient colonialism, but it fails to justify whatsoever the destruction of a rich cultural heritage.
This is just the recent case of ancient ruins destroyed by ISIS extremists. Islamic State militants have previously blown up the temples of Baalshamin and of Ba’al, which they had explicitly stated to contradict their Islamist guidelines against idolatry.
Earlier this year, in their occupied territorial strongholds in Iraq, ISIS militants have destroyed ancient artifacts, dating back to Sumerian and Assyrian times, which were exhibited at a museum in Mosul at the time. They have released a video showing masked militants with sledgehammers and chainsaws taking turns wrecking the priceless statues and exhibits.
International outrage soon followed, with many demanding further action to push back Islamic State militants from territory containing any valuable historical pieces from ancient times.
In Syria, ISIS is currently the target of an international coalition established to destroy the extremist group. All other parties involved in the Syrian Civil War have separately waged war on ISIS, from rebel groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, and Kurdish forces (YPG) to troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Most recently, Russia has also started an airstrike campaign which seeks to reclaim territory currently occupied by the Islamist group.
Palmyra has been one of the most tumultuous regions during the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Civilian populations are caught in the crossfire, having to deal with the threat posed by ISIS, as well as aerial bombardments carried out by the Damascus government. For the people of Palmyra, after tremendous human loss and suffering at the hands of Islamic State extremists, the recent destruction of their cultural inheritance only adds insult to injury.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia