ISIS militants have been destroying religious tombs and relics across Iraq without taking into account what religion the antiques belong to in the first place. While the barbaric attacks in the name of Allah initially led to the destruction of Christian monuments and artifacts, they eventually went on to destroy many Shiite shrines and mosques as well.
During the first week of July, the tombs of Jonah and Daniel in Mosul, which were revered by Christians and Muslims alike, were razed to the ground before militants went on to destroy a dozen other shrines in Tal Afar and to kill hundreds of innocent people. Over the next few days, at least four shrines of Sunni Arabs and Sufi leaders were bulldozed while six Shiite mosques were subjected to similar hatred.
“We were crying when they detonated it. We couldn’t believe that the history of Mosul has disappeared. I wanted to die,” said Abdulmalik Mustafa, a 32-year-old unemployed man who lived near the site believed to be the tomb of the biblical prophet Jonah.
ISIS leaders have unabashedly uploaded pictures of some of the desecration since they started using bulldozers and explosives to bring down notable historic structures across Iraq. Local residents have expressed anger and sadness at the loss of their heritage. They have also reported the few religious buildings that remain now mostly serve as shelter to
ISIS militants and are no longer considered places of worship.
“We feel very sad for the demolition of these shrines, which we inherited from our fathers and grandfathers. They are landmarks in the city,” said Ahmed, a 51-year-old resident of Mosul.
A maintenance worker at the Chaldean Cathedral in Mosul said that ISIS militants have taken refuge inside the building as well as a nearby Syrian Orthodox Cathedral, which is why these two structures have not been desecrated yet. Reportedly, they did away with the crosses from both buildings and replaced them with their own symbolic black flag before taking shelter there.
According to Sam Hardy, a professor at the American University of Rome, ISIS is out to destroy anything and everything that is mentioned in the Bible, even those things that have been mentioned in the Koran at a later point in time.
“It indicates they are going for total eradication not just of their enemies but even of the possibility of people living together under their rule,” he said of recent attacks.
A recent video that is yet to be confirmed as authentic footage of ISIS’ attacks in Iraq offers viewers a closer look at the kind of destruction that has been taking place in the region every single day.
Reportedly, informal gangs of local residents have been trying to resist the militants’ attempts to destroy any more buildings of historical significance. While some people have lost their lives in these clashes, others have been arrested and are most likely to be executed.
“There are unorganized groups fighting ISIS now... This is a huge disaster for Mosul and Iraq. It’s a crime against the city and its history. We have been crying since the first day they started destroying our religious and historical landmarks,” said Khalis Jumah, 32-year-old resident of Mosul.
Soon after ISIS captured several cities in Iraq, it imposed the strictest form of Islamic Law on its people. When banning smoking, forcing full-face veils and executing disloyal government employees arbitrarily did not seem to suffice any longer, they evidently turned to destroying mosques, tombs, shrines and statues across captured territories.
Mosul and surrounding areas have witnessed various conquerors over several centuries, including Persians, Turks and Arabs, each of whom have left their imprints behind. To make things worse, ISIS has not merely targeted religious monuments, but also demolished those that belonged to non-religious, famous personalities like one Arab poet and another 19th century musician. So much so, ISIS also attacked a statue that was built in honour of an ancient Mosul profession – that of a man selling licorice, a delicacy that the city is well known for even today.