This week, Stand for Israel has been closely following the plight of Assyrian Christians taken captive by the Islamic State (ISIS). The New York Times reports that the terrorist group has now taken nearly 300 Christians, all the while destroying priceless, antiquated art and archaeology:
The reports are like something out of a distant era of ancient conquests: entire villages emptied, with hundreds taken prisoner, others kept as slaves; the destruction of irreplaceable works of art; a tax on religious minorities, payable in gold.
A rampage reminiscent of Tamerlane or Genghis Khan, perhaps, but in reality, according to reports by residents, activist groups and the assailants themselves, a description of the modus operandi of the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate this week. The militants have prosecuted a relentless campaign in Iraq and Syria against what have historically been religiously and ethnically diverse areas with traces of civilizations dating to ancient Mesopotamia.
The latest to face the militants’ onslaught are the Assyrian Christians of northeastern Syria, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, some speaking a modern version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
Assyrian leaders have counted 287 people taken captive, including 30 children and several dozen women, along with civilian men and fighters from Christian militias, said Dawoud Dawoud, an Assyrian political activist who had just toured the area, in the vicinity of the Syrian city of Qamishli. Thirty villages had been emptied, he said.
The Syriac Military Council, a local Assyrian militia, put the number of those taken at 350 …
The assault on the Assyrian communities comes amid battles for a key crossroads in the area. But to residents, it also seems to be part of the latest effort by the Islamic State militants to eradicate or subordinate anyone and anything that does not comport with their vision of Islamic rule — whether a minority sect that has survived centuries of conquerors and massacres or, as the world was reminded on Thursday, the archaeological traces of pre-Islamic antiquity.
An Islamic State video showed the militants smashing statues with sledgehammers inside the Mosul Museum, in northern Iraq, that showcases recent archaeological finds from the ancient Assyrian empire. The relics include items from the palace of King Sennacherib, who in the Byron poem “came down like the wolf on the fold” to destroy his enemies.
“A tragedy and catastrophic loss for Iraqi history and archaeology beyond comprehension,” Amr al-Azm, the Syrian anthropologist and historian, called the destruction on his Facebook page.“These are some of the most wonderful examples of Assyrian art, and they’re part of the great history of Iraq, and of Mesopotamia,” he said in an interview. “The whole world has lost this.”