Sunday, 12 July 2015

National Geographic on the Fall of Palmyra

As ISIS fighters invaded Palmyra, museum curators were packing artefacts and loading trucks for a last-minute escape.
Museum staff in Palmyra barricaded themselves inside the imposing building and began wrapping and crating Greco-Roman statuary, jewelry, ancient glass, and mosaics [...] After six days of fighting the tide turned decisively against the Syrian forces. The jihadists were on the verge of conquering Palmyra, and it was Abdulkarim’s last chance to spirit away the museum’s treasures. “We didn’t want to use the road to move the artifacts. It was full of bandits and rebels,” says Abdulkarim. “But finally we had no choice.” Two trucks were hired. Early on the morning of May 21, as the trucks pulled up outside the museum and the staff rushed to load the crated artifacts, the Syrian army’s last defenses crumbled. [...] Nearing the museum, the jihadists spotted the curators moving the crates into the trucks and opened fire. Three employees fell, wounded and bleeding. Their colleagues dragged the injured men into the trucks and sped out of the museum grounds just as the jihadists closed in, firing round after round at the fleeing vehicles. “Seconds longer, I don’t know what would have happened,” says Abdulkarim. The curators dropped off their wounded colleagues at the hospital in Homs, the nearest city, and continued on to Damascus. There, according to Abdulkarim, the antiquities were stashed in secure locations. “We managed to save 95 percent of the museum’s artifacts,” he says.
Tim McGirk, 'Syrians Race to Save Ancient City's Treasures from ISIS' National Geographic July 10, 2015.

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