Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The militias of the Islamic state in Syria and Iraq are engaged in "the most brutal and systematic" destruction of historical and cultural heritage in the region, including archaeological sites, ever recorded since the Second World War, according to Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General, the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes cooperation among States through education, science and culture.
The warning comes just hours after the last devastation at the hands of the Sunni jihadists, who destroyed the Catholic monastery of Mar Elian in Syria. The comes on the heels of the destruction of other archaeological sites (Palmira, with the decapitation of the chief archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad), Roman ruins and areas that date back to the Assyrian-Babylonian period, in an attempt to erase millennial cultures, religions and heritage.
So far, governments and international agencies have sought only to limit trafficking in antiquities and archaeological artifacts that have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State. In fact the sale of manufactured goods, along with the trade of oil, are a major source of income for the "Caliphate".
"We have not seen anything like this since the Second World War," said Irina Bokova, adding that we are in front "of the most serious attack, the most brutal and systematic destruction of world heritage". If you look at the pictures and current images of the sites taken by satellites, continues the expert, you can no longer recognize any site, only "hundreds of holes".
Stopping trafficking of artifacts, warns the head of UNESCO, should be a "priority" for everyone.