UNESCO accuses ISIS of 'cultural cleansing'

17:55, 06 July 2015

Islamic State militants are looting ancient sites across Iraq and Syria on an industrial scale and selling on treasures to middlemen to raise cash, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bukova said on July 2, 2015.


"Safeguarding cultural heritage is a security imperative and a peace-building measure," she said, according to Voice of America.

Bukova said destroying evidence of their culture makes it more difficult for people caught in conflicts to recover, leaving them more vulnerable in the future.

"All of this, I believe, is part of the same strategy, which I call 'cultural cleansing.' Cultural cleansing is a violation of human rights for thousands, if not millions, of women and men, for the communities. But it also undermines the possibility for future dialogue, peace-building and reconciliation," she said.

"Daesh (IS) knows there's a financial upside of this activity and they are trying to gain from it. We know also that parties in the conflict are selling to certain dealers and to private collectors and to market end buyers," she said.

The head of the United Nations cultural organization says the loss of ancient artifacts destroyed by militants in Iraq and Syria has long-term implications for security and peace in the region.

Militants from the Islamic State group proudly distributed a video of its fighters destroying ancient artifacts at the museum in Mosul, Iraq, in February. The group considers the statues and sculptures blasphemous because they are not in keeping with Islamic tradition.

The resulting outcry by archeologists and other experts received some criticism from people who said the loss of plaster and stone cannot compare to the tens of thousands of deaths and injuries in the conflict.

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