Friday 26 November 2021

Destruction and Looting of Cultural Heritage Sites by ISIS in Manbij and its countryside

Manbij still unstable after ISIL   

Adnan Almohamad, 'The destruction and looting of cultural heritage sites by ISIS in Syria: The case of Manbij and its countryside' International Journal of Cultural Property , Volume 28 , Issue 2 , May 2021 , pp. 221 - 260

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) occupied the city of Manbij and its countryside from 23 January 2014 until 12 August 2016. During this period, the region suffered greatly as ISIS monopolized control and brutally imposed its ideology. Fierce battles were fought for the control of oil wells, bakeries, mills, dams, and power stations, all of which were sources of revenue. Antiquities were soon recognized as another potential income source. This article demonstrates the ways in which ISIS began to administer and facilitate the looting of antiquities through the Diwan Al-Rikaz. Within this diwan, ISIS established the Qasmu Al-Athar, which was specifically responsible for looting antiquities. Based on interviews conducted in 2015 and primary documents, this article studies the specific ways in which ISIS facilitated the quarrying and looting of antiquities in Manbij and the rich archaeological sites of its countryside. Further, by examining the damage at a previously undocumented archaeological site, Meshrefet Anz, the looting of antiquities under the direct supervision of the Diwan Al-Rikaz is studied. Using documentary evidence including ISIS’s internal documentation as well as photographs collected by the author between 2014 and 2016, the article demonstrates the methods used by ISIS, reveals its financial motivations, and bears witness to the damage done at specific Syrian heritage sites.

I've not seen it, but hope the ISIS internal documentation does not include the Abu Sayyaf raid material that I consider was, like some of the antiquities, planted.

Another issue is the texts that have appeared after August'16 referring to other looting:
US, France looting artifacts in northern Syria’ The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights Dec 12, 2018

'US-Backed SDF Forces Looting Historical Artifacts in Manbij' DEFA News 20 May 2018

'Artifacts and narcotics trafficking and looting of millions of US dollars among grand corruption cases in Manbi', The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights Jan 11, 2021

Are these just propaganda, or does something lie behind them? What do the satellite images say? Interestingly, we hear so little about them these days now the US-led war on ISIL has come to an end, suddenly looting threats to cultural heritage in Syria loses its cachet (and grant-attracting properties) in the US and UK archaeological communities. 

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