Thursday, August 20, 2015

Khaled al-Asaad

PALMYRA WATCH: The murder of archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad (Asa'ad) by ISIS in Palmyra has been getting more media attention than I expected or even dared to hope. Many articles have come out in the last day. I will just flag these three:

ISIS Tortures, Beheads Chief Archaeologist of Palmyra. ISIS beheaded the chief archaeologist of the ancient city of Palmyra and hung his headless body there (Hana Levi Julian,
A Syrian source told Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, that Da’esh had interrogated Asa’ad about the located of the treasures from Palmyra. The terrorists murdered him when he refused to cooperate, the source told Doyle, according to a report by The Guardian.

The SANA news agency reported that Asa’ad had discovered several ancient cemeteries, caves and a Byzantine graveyard in the garden of the Palmyra museum. He was also a scholar of Aramaic, the local language before the rise of Islam in the seventh century.
Graphic images posted by IS affiliated social media accounts seem to show the decapitated body of 82-year-old Khaled Asaad, his trademark glasses still visible on his head on the ground.

The head of the Syrian department of antiquities said that the militants took Assad’s dead body from the square and hung it from a Roman column that the former antiquities chief had dedicated his life to restoring.

A sign attached to the pictures being circulated online states that Asaad was executed for overseeing “idols” in Palmyra, attending “infidel” conferences and for staying in touch with his brother and palace officials even after IS took over.

Asaad, it appears, had been taken captive by the militants who had been interrogating him for at least the past month. Media reports indicate that the militants tried to furnish information from Asaad about Palmyra’s hidden treasures, and his refusal to provide this information is what prompted his sudden execution.
This article continues with many photos of the ancient site of Palmyra.

Khaled al-Asaad profile: the Howard Carter of Palmyra. The historian beheaded by Isis was a key figure in Syrian archaeology and has been compared with the discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt (Caroline Davies and Kareem Shaheen, The Guardian).
Asaad was involved in early excavations of Palmyra and the restoration of parts of the ancient city. The 82-year-old played a role in evacuating the contents of the city museum ahead of Isis taking control, which, Azm said, meant he faced certain arrest when the militants arrived.


[Khalil] Hariri, who is married to Asaad’s daughter, Zenobia, said his father-in-law had been a member of Bashar al-Assad’s ruling Ba’ath party since 1954. He is survived by six sons and five daughters, he said.
In general I have no love for Baathists, but this one died with honor.

Background here and links.