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History and Culture Under Attack in Palmyra

Before and after pictures of Tetrapylon.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times

On Friday, January 20th, ISIS attacked again in Syria destroying the façade of a Roman theater.  This second-century monument was not the only one attacked and demolished in Palmyra, Syria.  The Syrian state-run news agency covered the story and claimed that ISIS-also called ISIL, was behind the destruction of the theater and also severely damaged a tetrapylon.  The tetrapylon, a square structure with four plinths, each with four columns was destroyed by the use of explosives. ISIS is known for more fatal attacks on countries, but this was a new attempt to impose their religion, saying the artifacts “do not conform to its strict interpretation of Islam.”

Before and after pictures of the ancient theater.
Photo courtesy of The New York Times

This was not their first attack on other countries’ artifacts and history; they have also attacked Iraq, Libya, other parts of Syria and many more.  One group monitoring the destruction in Palmyra believes these acts are done before the group retreats from the city, as an attack that they will see the destruction of forever, and leave a lasting mark. After Syria joined forces with Russia, they pushed out the radical group, unfortunately only to be overtaken again in December, just nine months later. The targeting of these cultural riches was a specific attack on their heritage and prewar unity and strength.  Syria’s director general of antiquities and museums had this statement Friday, “ISIS is destroying Palmyra, building after building.  In the past, their goal was ideological,” but he now calls it a matter of “revenge.”

Ever since the Islamic state took control over Palmyra in May of 2015, their cultural sites and soldiers were targeted and destroyed, one after the other.  Artifacts that were over 1,800 years old were destroyed, and the city was turned to rubble.  Irina Bokova, Unesco’s director general had a extremely accurate statement for all the attacks, saying how it “shows how extremists are terrified by history and culture.”  They do not take well when they are out of control and have to follow any history or cultural rules.  Ancient artifacts are being destroyed left and right and sadly, nothing seems to be stopping them now.

By Reagan Bossolina’17, Staff Writer

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