The head of the United Nations’ cultural agency has demanded an emergency meeting of the world body’s Security Council following the mass destruction by jihadists of ancient artefacts in Iraq.
“This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy – this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq,” UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said in a statement on Thursday.
“This is why I have immediately seized the President of the Security Council to ask him to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage as an integral element for the country’s security,” she said.
The Islamic State jihadist group on Thursdday released a video in which its militants are seen smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum in Mosul, their biggest hub and Iraq’s second city.
They are also shown using a jackhammer to deface a large Assyrian winged bull at a huge archaeological site in Mosul.
Archaeologists and heritage experts have described the destruction as a catastrophe and compared the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
Bokova pointed out that some of the statues destroyed in the video were from the ancient city of Hatra, a UNESCO world heritage site which lies around 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Mosul.
She also said the destruction was a violation of the UN Security Council’s resolution 2199.
It was adopted earlier this month in a bid to curb trafficking of looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, which is considered a key source of funding for the IS group.