Friday, May 29, 2015

Palmyra: has the destruction begun?

PALMYRA WATCH: Syria: Isis Palmyra demolition has begun with ancient God Lion statue destroyed (Nour al-Rafee, International Business Times).
However, it seems the strategy has now changed. On Wednesday (27 May), a Syrian radio station broadcast a declaration from an alleged IS commander in Palmyra claiming the group will "destroy statues" representing idols but preserve the historical monuments and the ruins.

In fact the process of obliterating the horde of ancient statues has already begun. It commenced almost as soon as the militants seized control of their quarry.

Two days after IS seized control of Palmyra, one citizen witnessed militants crushing statues in the city's museum. He says: "I heard a loud noise, so I went up to the roof to see what is going on. I saw Daash [Isis] crushing the "god lion" statue with construction machines. There were many other crushed statues but I could not recognise the rest of them because they were totally ruined."

The god lion, or to give it its full title, the Lion of Al-Lat, dated from the first century AD.

It stood at the entrance to the ancient Bel's Temple, and was built in homage to the goddess Al-Lat, a pre-Islamic Arabian goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca, and is mentioned in the Quran.
UN resolution on protecting Iraqi antiquities excludes Syria.
Despite its artifacts facing similar threat from Islamic State, diplomats wary of rushing to defense of Assad regime
(Cara Anna, AP). That's a difficult choice: oppose ISIS by supporting Assad's regime? And things like this don't make the decision easier: ISIS posts photos of appalling conditions in Syria's Palmyra Prison. The terror group releases photos of the infamous prison, site of the 1980 massacre by Rifaat Assad; ISIS executes 20 locals in the Roman amphitheater at Palmyra (Ynet News).

More on the history and antiquities of Palmyra:

When Palmyra rivaled the Roman Empire (Mike Duncan, Reuters);

Stones that speak. Syria’s famous ruined Roman city has meant many things to many people (The Economist).
So today Syrians worry about the threat of Palmyra being demolished, but less than outsiders might expect. That is not only because they are more concerned with the humanitarian toll that has left over 200,000 of their countrymen dead. “The Syrian memory of Tadmur is black,” says Omar al-Abdullah, a Syrian journalist who now lives in Turkey. He recites, as every Syrian can, the tale of the Tadmur prison massacre. ...
A How-To Guide To Buying Artifacts Looted by the Islamic State (David Francis, Foreign Policy). Don't do this; it's evil. Plus, as the article warns clearly, it is illegal. And also you would have to cozy up to the Turkish Mafia.

Background on Palmyra is here with many links.