The Islamic State militant group has continued its destruction of the Middle East's cultural heritage by blowing up a nearly 200-year-old mosque near Mosul, Iraq. The Maryam Khatoon Mosque was built in 1821 during the Ottoman Empire’s rule.
An unidentified source confirmed the building’s demolition Tuesday to the Kurdish news site Rudaw. “The [ISIS] fighters blew up Maryam Khatoon Mosque, which was a heritage site, located in Hawsh Khan neighborhood, in the west of Mosul.”
ISIS has made it a part of its campaign of terror to destroy buildings and artwork in the region, home to mankind's oldest civilizations. In March, its fighters completely razed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud and were accused by Unesco of stealing ancient artifacts from there before bulldozing the site. Before that the Islamic State ravaged the Mosul Museum, taking sledgehammers to the building’s interior, which housed stone sculptures, among other ancient artifacts. But the mosque attack represents an expansion of the vandalism campaign to Iraq's Islamic heritage.
Before they demolished the Maryam Khatoon Mosque Tuesday, ISIS fighters reportedly looted the contents of the historic building, as they have during previous attacks on historic structures throughout the areas they control in Iraq and Syria.
Qais Hussein Rashid, who leads Iraq’s state board for antiquities and heritage, said ISIS destroys these ancient sites to disguise robberies as demolitions. “According to our sources, the Islamic State started days before destroying this site by digging in this area, mainly the palace,” Rashid said, according to the Associated Press. “We think that they first started digging around these areas to get the artifacts, then they started demolishing them as a cover up.”
“We cannot remain silent. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime,” Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco, said in March, according to Al Arabiya. “I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”