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Statement by the Antiquities Coalition on the Destruction of St. Elijah’s Monastery

January 21, 2016

Mapping Culture Under Threat: St. Elijah’s Monastery Joins a Growing List of Destroyed Heritage in the Middle East

Satellite images showing the site of St Elijah’s Monastery in March 2011 and September 2014, DigitalGlobe via AP

The Antiquities Coalition strongly condemns the newly discovered destruction of St. Elijah’s Monastery in Mosul, Iraq.

As the oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq, St. Elijah’s stood as a proud symbol of the Middle East’s richly diverse culture for over 1,400 years. Its demolition is part of the same horrific campaign that has destroyed numerous sites of world-historic importance, including Palmyra, Nimrud, the Mosul Museum, and the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus.

The Antiquities Coalition has been closely monitoring ISIL’s campaign of cultural cleansing. To provide a graphical representation of cultural crimes committed by ISIL and other violent extremist organizations in the region, the Antiquities Coalition has created the Culture Under Threat Map, which tracks instances of deliberate targeting of cultural heritage for destruction in the Middle East and North Africa.

The campaign of cultural cleansing by ISIL is aimed at destroying the collective memory and very fabric of coexistence in areas under its control. This brutal campaign represents an assault on humanity’s shared cultural and religious heritage. These crimes of war also damage the future foundations of peace, stability, and economic growth for Iraq and Syria, which rely on their rich cultural heritage for a shared sense of national identity and for job creation and investment.

In destroying sites like St. Elijah’s Monastery and the Mosque of the Prophet Younus, ISIL seeks to intimidate and erase the heritage of Iraq and Syria’s diverse communities– an effort that has targeted Muslims, Christians, and numerous ethnic minorities alike. They also traffic in stolen antiquities using illicit profits to fund their global terror campaign.

This Oct. 1, 2006, photo provided by the U.S. Army Col. Juanita Chang shows St. Elijah’s Monastery on the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq AP

The Antiquities Coalition’s interactive map only includes museums and sites designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) whose information is publicly available so as not to reveal to Daesh the details of other critical but lesser known locations of cultural, historical, and religious history. The destruction in the countries examined has revealed at least 231 sites that have been deliberately targeted or destroyed by ISIL and other violent extremist organizations. Destroyed heritage includes significant monuments from the ancient, Greco-Roman, Islamic, and modern periods alike.

The Antiquities Coalition will continuously update this interactive map on our website so that it can serve as a tool for all those concerned with the preservation of cultural heritage across the Middle East and North Africa.
In light of the horrific cultural crimes in Syria and Iraq, the Antiquities Coalition renews its call for comprehensive international action to protect our shared heritage.  Please join us in this fight.