Isis militants have reportedly ransacked Mosul library, burning over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning.
Initial reports said approximately 8,000 books were destroyed by the extremist group.
However, AL RAI’s chief international correspondent Elijah J. Magnier told The Independent that a Mosul library official believes as many as 112,709 manuscripts and books, some of which were registered on a UNESCO rarities list, are among those lost.
Mosul Public Library’s director Ghanim al-Ta’an said Isis militants then demolished the building using explosive devices.
Elsewhere at an antiquities museum in Mosul:
The militants shoved [ancient Assyrian] stone statues off their plinths, shattering them on the floor, and one man applied an electric drill to a large winged bull. The video showed a large exhibition room strewn with dismembered statues, and Islamic songs played in the background.
Lamia al-Gailani, an Iraqi archaeologist and associate fellow at the London-based Institute of Archaeology, said the militants had wreaked untold damage. “It’s not only Iraq’s heritage: it’s the whole world’s,” she said.
“They are priceless, unique. It’s unbelievable. I don’t want to be Iraqi any more,” she said, comparing the episode to the dynamiting of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Afghan Taliban in 2001.
Why now? ISIS has been in charge in Mosul for the better part of a year. They could have wrecked the museums and burned the libraries months ago. Maybe they’re trying to stay ahead of the coming U.S./Iraqi offensive to retake the city. Soon they’ll be busy preparing their defenses; if they’re going to obliterate the world’s cultural heritage in Mesopotamia, there’s no time like the present.
This is their own propaganda, by the way, not something smuggled out by a dissident who wants to show what ISIS is capable of. Or at least, it’s supposed to be their propaganda: In practice it’s propaganda for Bashar Assad, who understands that the more the world recoils at ISIS, the likelier it is that he’ll hold onto power. There’s no one better positioned to take the fight to them in Syria, something he’s shrewdly held off on doing so far to let the group gain territory and menace the west. Eventually he’ll make a deal with the west to help them liquidate the jihadis in return for concessions to his own regime. Time magazine has a short but smart piece on that in its new issue, which is devoted to exploring the threat from ISIS from various angles. Exit quotation from a western diplomat: “They know that if it comes to choosing between the black flag [of ISIS] and Damascus, the international community will choose Damascus.”