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Destruction of Cultural Heritage and Education

There are numerous documentaries of militants demolishing ancient archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria. One of the documentary which I came across which had a lasting impact on me was 5 ancient sites ISIS has destroyed | In 90 seconds. The documentary shows the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq after the rise of the militant group. These cultural sites are considered by militant groups as a symbol of polytheism. The documentary also shows how the militants destroy historical cultural sites which archives thousands of years’ civilizations which existed in the ancient Babylon. These cultural heritages tell us about living style of the ancient civilizations that laid their foundation.


The documentary shows the most gruesome acts of destruction by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). In one of the heartbreaking scenes the revered sites are destroyed by huge dynamites including destruction of 2000-year-old temple in the historic ruins of Palmyra, stone sculptures and other centuries old artifacts in a Mosul Museum, Jonah’s tomb inside a Sunni mosque called the mosque of the prophet in Mosul and ancient city of Hatra as well as the ancient city of Nimrud. These sites with most rare cultural heritage and artefacts were destroyed within few seconds with dynamites. This lead to complete erasure of our precious history. Moreover, Mosul museums which is a symbol of protector of precious cultural heritage is destroyed through hammers and drills to smash ancient artifacts and destroy several large statues, including one depicting a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century BC. The broken artefacts are further broken further into smaller pieces by militants so that they are completely erased. Once these cultural heritages are erased, it cannot be subsequently showcased for education. In such a scenario, there will not be proper education on history of civilizations or the civilsations once these place represented. Such act of destruction of cultural heritage is a tactic to propagate violence and eradicate history.


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Great post - you've highlighted an important topic! Reading this immediately led me to think about indigenous communities. "Cultural genocide," as a term, has become part of international law in recent years and it talks about how indigenous communities have had their identity systematically erased. Despite the recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which acknowledges the rights to culture, diversity, and self-determination, claims of cultural genocide are often derided, and their indicators dismissed as benign effects of modernity and indigenous cultural diffusion. Your post really resonated with me in this context.

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To add on! The destruction and protection of cultural heritage in armed conflicts has been a feature of war for thousands of years and has received increasing international focus over the last two decades. While cultural heritage is threatened during peacetime, the severest damage takes place during social disorder and conflict, not only resulting in the loss of something unique and irreplaceable but also psychologically affecting the communities linked to it1and potentially causing increased violence.2Furthermore, it is linked to cultural cleansing—the removal of communities by eliminating their presence in the landscape, leaving them with no “home” to return to, should such an event become possible.

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This reminds me of our reading on Afghanistan, and how the curriculum is altered as a means to become a tool for certain propaganda. The erasure of historical sites from reality, and consequently, from education, is like the erasure of the other side of history - perhaps that of minorities. It creates a singular perspective of history, such as in this case, removing all traces of the power and majesty of other cultures and religions, and leaving behind only Islamic symbols of power (again, very similar to how our history books attempt to trace Pakistan's history to the spread of Islam, and refuse to acknowledge all other religions). This is incredibly heart-breaking, and I'm glad documentaries like this exist to…

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