Thursday, 9 April 2015

Putting Mosul and Hatra into Perspective

seen in perspective
Jona Lendering has written a really good piece on Mosul and Hatra (8 April 2015), which is available here and here. It is well worth a read. The thesis is that however shocking the videos of the destruction of ancient stonework are we should not forget a number of important things. Lendering argues that while ISIL nasties are destroying statues, it keeps them away momentarily at least from destroying human lives. The timing is significant, ISIL is losing ground in Iraq at least:
Because the so-called Islamic State does not like that news, it shared a movie of the vandalism in Hatra. (Compare ISIS’ response to its defeat at Kobani: broadcasting the execution of Muath Al-Kassasbeh.) Because we are shocked – as we ought to be! – we start telling others and share the footage on social media. By doing so, we become unwitting allies of the so-called Islamic State, because we’re helping to distract from the fact that ISIS is suffering defeats and is forced to retreat.
Also, we only see what is shown.
Although it is terrible that ancient statues are destroyed, they are quite often well-documented. We know what is lost. The real problem is that there are illegal excavations and that the museums’ storerooms have been looted. The objects thus acquired are sold and we do not know what is lost. We don’t have footage of the clandestine trade - which funds ISIS - in ancient art. The footage shown to us, is a decoy. [...] If you feel outrage, the best thing to do is NOT share the news. If you want to do something, write a letter to a politician and call for legislation to stop the illicit trade of ancient artifacts.
As I recall, there was talk that the statues from Hatra in the Mosul museum were not as well-documented as they could have been.

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