Remarks of John Kerry Secretary of State at 'threats to cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria' Event at the opening of the exhibition “Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age” at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 22, 2014. Full text and video at http://m.state.gov/md231992.htm
We gather in the midst of one of the most tragic and one of the most outrageous assaults on our shared heritage that perhaps any of us have seen in a lifetime. Ancient treasures in Iraq and in Syria have now become the casualties of continuing warfare and looting. And no one group has done more to put our shared cultural heritage in the gun sights than ISIL. ISIL is not only beheading individuals; it is tearing at the fabric of whole civilizations. It has no respect for life. It has no respect for religion. And it has no respect for culture, which for millions is actually the foundation of life. Far from hiding their destruction of churches and mosques, they broadcast these, purposefully and with pride, for all the world to see their act of depravity and for all of us to be intimidated and to perhaps back off from our values. For the proud people of Iraq and Syria – ancient civilizations, civilizations of great beauty, great accomplishment, of extraordinary history and intellectual achievement – the destruction of their heritage is a purposeful final insult, and another example of ISIL’s implacable evil. ISIL is stealing lives, yes, but it’s also stealing the soul of millions. How shocking and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while the forces of chaos rob the very cradle of our civilization. So many different traditions trace their roots back to this part of the world, as we all know. This is the first thing many of us learned in school. The looting of Apamea and Dura Europos, the devastation caused by fighting in the ancient UNESCO heritage city of Aleppo, the destruction of the Tomb of Jonah – these appalling acts aren’t just a tragedy for the Syrian and the Iraqi people. These acts of vandalism are a tragedy for all civilized people, and the civilized world must take a stand.It is rather disturbing to see how the rhetoric of cultural preservation is being used here.