Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Isis, Mosul, Ninevah and Your Museum Winter 2015

History  tells us that man has an unlimited capacity to act without reason or compassion like an animal. There are many examples where mankind has evolved and rejected irrational behavior. However, some like the Nazis or ISIS are propelled along their path by blind allegiance to an ideology that provides the simple choice of acceptance or death. The past few months have given us all a seemingly endless stream of atrocity after atrocity that follow competitively each attempting to be more horrendous than the previous. In a CNN piece  Sturt W. Manning,  director of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies and chair of the Department of Classics at Cornell University suggested the following: "What can we do in response to this assault on our heritage?..Providing educational opportunities and empowering communities to learn more about their cultures and histories, and those of others, is one of the best ways to eradicate
destructive hatred and violence."

 Really?  Muamar el-Gadhafi, Nicolae Ceausescu, Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong-Il, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Bashar Hafez al-Assad , and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi . When has education been a factor in changing course for these tyrants. Unfortunately, there is no middle ground -  either you impose your will on them or they impose their will on you. Many priceless archaeological sites will be destroyed before any forces at this time in world history will assume the responsibility of preserving the heritage of these countries. But the discussion is bigger than even the Middle East and ISIS. With the destruction of art the international community must re-engage  to consider cooperative efforts in strategic planning to save the heritage of  threatened sites around the world. Clearly the role of  institutional cooperative collecting must be reassessed as a custodial firewall to prevent the extinction of  cultural heritage.  In this effort territorial and nationalistic agendas are just no longer relevant in the world today.

1. NINEVAH - by Mary Chastain2 Jan 2015354
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) set their eyes on another historical site to demolish as they continue to establish their caliphate across Iraq. Residents near Mosul told Assyrian website Ankawa
the militants’ plan to blow up the walls of Nineveh, which date back to almost 700 B.C.
Unnamed sources said the Islamic State leaders told members to set booby traps along the walls. If the Iraqi army attempts to liberate the area, the militants must “complete the bombing of the
historic walls.” The walls are attributed to King Sennacherib, who rebuilt the city during his reign beginning in 704 B.C., and consist of a seven and a half mile barrier around the city—
presumably to protect it from attack when it served as the capital of ancient Assyria. Nineveh was so important and Sennacherib’s contributions so great that some archaeologists have gone as
far as to attribute to him the construction and maintenance of the ancient Hanging Gardens, long believed to be in Babylon.
The Islamic State moved to the Nineveh Plain in early August, “the last stronghold of Assyrians in Iraq.” Over 200,000 Assyrians fled to the Dohuk and Arbel areas.
When militants captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June, they proceeded to destroy shrines and tombs important to Christians and Muslims because they allegedly “distort Islam”
and encourage “worship of others besides God.” They destroyed a shrine to Jonah, the biblical prophet, and Yunus in the Koran. The shrine was built in the eighth century BC. Worshippers
believe that the prophet Jonah, most famous for surviving being swallowed by a whale in the Biblical legend, is buried there. Saddam Hussein renovated the shrine, and it remained a popular
site for pilgrims.
Jonah and Nineveh are connected in the Book of Jonah in the Hebrew Bible. God tells Jonah to walk to Nineveh to tell the Ninevites about their destruction. The people fasted and repented and
God allowed them to live, which upset Jonah. God provided Jonah a plant, but proceeded to destroy the plant. This also upset Jonah, but God turned it into a lesson to help Jonah understand
why he saved the Ninevites:
¹ºBut the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. ¹¹And should I not have concern for the
great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”
The story is so important that the Assyrian Christians started The Fast of Nineveh, later also adopted by other Oriental Orthodox religions. The three-day fast commemorates the three days it
took Jonah to travel to Nineveh and the three days he spent in the belly of the whale when he did not go to Nineveh as God asked him. It is also connected to a plague leashed upon northern
Iraq in the 9th century. The bishop used the Book of Jonah and “ordered a 3-day fast to ask for God’s forgiveness.” The plague went away after three days.
Islamic State jihadists have targeted a number of ancient structures in the region. The group attempted to destroy the Crooked Minaret, an 840-year old tower, but residents immediately
protected it and told the terrorists they would have to kill the people as well.
Turkey fears the terrorist group might destroy the Suleyman Shah tomb in Aleppo, Syria, built in Turkish territory under a treaty with France when the French ruled Syria. Suleyman Shah was
the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire, was founded in 1299. It expanded to southeast Europe, western Asia, Caucasus,
North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. It collapsed after World War I and evolved into modern-day Turkey. The government sent security to the tomb in April.
“We can’t leave that place, which is ours through agreements, unprotected,” said Turkish historian Ilber Ortayli. “Regardless of pride, this is important for our historical memory. This is
important for everyone, not just for Turks.”

 2. MOSUL -Kareem Shaheen in Beirut Thursday 26 February 2015 16.26 EST  Last modified on Friday 27 February 2015 08.55 EST 
Islamic State militants ransacked Mosul’s central museum, destroying priceless artefacts that are thousands of years old, in the group’s latest rampage which threatens to upend millennia of
coexistence in the Middle East.
The destruction of statues and artefacts that date from the Assyrian and Akkadian empires, revealed in a video published by Isis on Thursday, drew ire from the international community and
condemnation by activists and minorities that have been attacked by the group.
“The birthplace of human civilisation … is being destroyed”, said Kino Gabriel, one of the leaders of the Syriac Military Council – a Christian militia – in a telephone interview with the
Guardian from Hassakeh in north-eastern Syria. The destruction took place in Mosul, the Iraqi city that has been under the control of Isis since June when jihadi fighters advanced rapidly
across the country’s north.
“In front of something like this, we are speechless,” said Gabriel. “Murder of people and destruction is not enough, so even our civilisation and the culture of our people is being destroyed.”
Isis destroys thousands of books and manuscripts in Mosul libraries
The five-minute video, which was released by the “press office of the province of Nineveh [the region around Mosul]”, begins with a Qur’anic verse on idol worship. An Isis representative then
speaks to the camera, condemning Assyrians and Akkadians as polytheists, justifying the destruction of the artefacts and statues.
The man describes the prophet Muhammad’s destruction of idols in Mecca as an example.
“These statues and idols, these artifacts, if God has ordered its removal, they became worthless to us even if they are worth billions of dollars,” the man said.
Isis militants then smash the statues in the Mosul museum with hammers and push them to the ground, watching them break into tiny fragments. The footage also shows a man dressed in
black at a nearby archaeological site, inside Mosul, drilling through and destroying a winged bull, an Assyrian protective deity, that dates back to the 7th century BC
“When you watch the footage, you feel visceral pain and outrage, like you do when you see human beings hurt,” said Mardean Isaac, an Assyrian writer and member of A Demand for Action, an
organisation dedicated to protecting the rights of the Assyrians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.
A caption says the artefacts did not exist in the time of the prophet, and were put on display by “devil worshippers”, a term the militant group has used in the past to describe members of the
Yazidi minority.
A professor at the Archaeology College in Mosul confirmed to the Associated Press that the two sites depicted in the video are the city museum and Nirgal Gate, one of several gates to Nineveh,
the capital of the Assyrian empire.
“I’m totally shocked,” Amir al-Jumaili told the AP “It’s a catastrophe. With the destruction of these artefacts, we can no longer be proud of Mosul’s civilisation.”
Isis took control of Mosul last summer in a lightning advance that led to the eviction of thousands of Christians and other minorities from their ancestral homelands in the Nineveh plains,
amid reports of forced conversions.
“We cannot expect anything else from Daesh,” said Gabriel, using the Arabic acronym for Isis.
He said the international community must act to prevent the destruction and looting of the artifacts.
“The loss is the loss of the entire world,” he said.
Isaac said: “While the Islamic State is ethnically cleansing the contemporary Assyrian populations of Iraq and Syria, they are also conducting a simultaneous war on their ancient history and
the right of future generations of all ethnicities and religions to the material memory of their ancestors.”
The destruction of the priceless treasures comes days after Isis kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christian villagers in north-eastern Syria.
It is the latest assault in a campaign against coexistence in the region, especially in Iraq, which has seen the displacement of many of its Chaldean Christians, who have lived there with many
ethnic minorities since the religion’s dawn.
Isis has also attempted to starve and enslave members of the Yazidi minority in Iraq.
Irina Bokova, the director general of Unesco, the UN cultural agency, said she was deeply shocked at the footage showing the destruction and has asked the president of the UN security council
to convene an emergency meeting “on the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage as an integral element for the country’s security”.

3. The Secret Life of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi By Tracy Connor June 16th 2014
 The biggest threat to Middle East security is as much a mystery as a menace — a 42-year-old Iraqi who went from a U.S. detention camp to the top of the jihadist universe with a whisper of a
backstory and a $10 million bounty on his head.
He's known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the ruthless Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, and he oversees thousands of fighters in his quest to create a Sunni Islamic caliphate straddling the
border of Iraq and Syria. His biometrics may have been cataloged by the soldiers who kept him locked up at Camp Bucca in Iraq — where he was recalled as "savvy" but not particularly
"They know physically who this guy is, but his backstory is just myth," said Patrick Skinner of the Soufan Group, a security consulting firm.
Jihadist propaganda has painted him as an imam from a religious family descended from noble tribes, and a scholar and a poet with a Ph.D. from Baghdad's Islamic University, possibly in
Arabic. Skinner said it's known he was born in Samarra and it's believed that he was active in Fallujah in the early 2000s, probably as a commander in charge of 50 to 100 men.
He ended up at Camp Bucca in 2005, where the commander in charge of the U.S. detention facility could not have imagined he would one day be capturing city after city in Iraq.
"He didn't rack up to be one of the worst of the worst," said Col. Ken King, who oversaw Camp Bucca in 2008 and 2009.
Baghdadi may have tried to manipulate other detainees or instigate reactions from the guards, but he knew the rules well enough not to get in serious trouble.
"The best term I can give him is savvy," said King, who first spoke to the Daily Beast.
The colonel recalled that when Baghdadi was turned over to the Iraqi authorities in 2009, he remarked, "I'll see you guys in New York," an apparent reference to the hometown of many of the
guards. "But it wasn't menacing. It was like, 'I'll be out of custody in no time,'" King said.
"He's managed this secret persona extremely well and it's enhanced his group's prestige."
If that's what he meant, he was right. It wasn't long before Baghdadi was rising through the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al Qaeda in Iraq.
And when the organization's two leaders were killed in 2010, Baghdadi stepped into the void.
He kept a low profile compared to other militants, with their grandiose taped statements — one key to his survival, analysts said.
"When you start making videos and popping off, it increases the chance you're going to get caught or killed," Skinner said. "He's been around five years, and that's like cat years. It's a long
time." Another benefit to his mystique: recruitment of younger fighters. "He's managed this secret persona extremely well, and it's enhanced his group's prestige," said Patrick Johnston of the
RAND Corporation. "Young people are really attracted to that." Baghdadi — which is not his birth name — uses a host of aliases and is said to wear a bandana around his face to conceal his
identity from everyone except a very tight inner circle that is almost certainly comprised only of Iraqis. There are only two known photos of him, one put out by the Iraqi Interior Ministry and
one by the U.S. Rewards for Justice Program, which has offered $10 million for his capture — a bounty second only to the reward for Ayman al-Zawahiri, chief of al Qaeda's global network.
Skinner calls Baghdadi "hyper-paranoid," but Johnston notes that despite the shroud of secrecy, he is apparently closely involved in day-to-day operations.
When the fighting in Syria intensified in the summer of 2011, Baghdadi saw an opportunity and opened a branch there and changed the name of his group to ISIS. He took over oil fields, giving
him access to "riches beyond his wildest dreams," Skinner said.
ISIS reportedly controls tens of millions to $2 billion in total assets — built through criminal activities like smuggling and extortion, according to the State Department — but Baghdadi's
ambitions have more to do with borders than bank accounts.
In a June 2013 audio recording, he vowed to erase Iraq's "Western-imposed border with Syria" and called on his followers to "tear apart" the governments in both countries.
Now, as ISIS consolidates its hold on the areas it has seized in Iraq and has moved within 60 miles of Baghdad, the world is waiting for Baghdadi's next move.
Whatever happens, Skinner said he's likely to remain an enigma.
"No one knows anything about him," he said. "He can be a Robin Hood. He could be Dr. Evil. It's very hard to fight a myth."
Tracy Connor is a senior writer for NBC News. She started this role in December, 2012.

4. ISIS MASTER PLAN - In fact, the Islamic State is in control of significant territory and resources in Iraq and Syria, including major oil fields in the region. Recently, however, social media
sites have been flooded with images of what seems to be ISIS’ five year plan. “As well as plans to expand the caliphate throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and large parts of western Asia,
the map also marks out an expansion in parts of Europe,” such as Austria, the Balkans and Spain,
The translated version of the Islamic State’s planned regional expansion of the pan-Islamic ‘caliphate’ (Walid Shoebat)
Walid Shoebat, a self-proclaimed former Palestinian terrorist turned Palestinian-American Christian, describes ISIS’ self-declared pan-Islamic caliphate over the coming decade as the 10-state
solution, which we’ve been able to discern as follows:
1.Orobpa: Balkan states, Hungary, Austria, Moldova, Romania and Black Sea Ukraine (Crimea-Odessa);
2.Andalus: Portugal and Spain;
3.Sham-Iraq: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel;
4.Anathol: Western Turkey;
5.Khurasan: Russian Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia), Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Eastern Iran, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and
6.Hijaz: Arabian Gulf States, Southern Saudi Arabia and Northern Oman;
7.Al Kinana (Qinana): Egypt, Eastern Libya, Northeast Chad and Northern Sudan;
8.Maghreb: Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania;
9.Yaman: Yemen and Southern Oman;
10.Habasha (Land of): Ethopia and Somolia.

Is ISIS issuing empty threats so the West keeps busy trying to asses the danger while they execute people and have the world shiver at their brutality? Or are we truly witnessing the worst
terrorist threat in recent history?
This terrorist group has been talking about their plans to take back many parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, also making it clear that no one is to feel safe anywhere, while the quest for creating
their pan-Islamic caliphate is on.

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