“Without the past, we cannot understand our present, and without understanding our present, we cannot plan for our future,” the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago said in a statement condemning Daesh’s destruction of Iraqi heritage in Mosul, Iraq.
The Oriental Institute partners with a range of groups in America and around the world to protect Iraqi and Syrian heritage from plundering and vandalism by terror groups like Daesh.
McGuire Gibson, an archaeologist specializing in Mesopotamia at the Oriental Institute, told the Voice of America that Daesh’s public destruction of heritage could be cover for the trafficking of smaller artifacts from Syria and Iraq.
“There are people in the world who know what this stuff is worth,” Gibson said, adding that dealers outside the region find networks to locate artifacts for illegal sale.
Edouard Planche, a program specialist with UNESCO, told Voice of America that his organization helps archeologists preserve heritage through education and awareness campaigns and artifact recovery efforts at border areas near Iraq and Syria.
“The objective is to have these surrounding countries with us, aware of the traffics, of the kinds of objects going out, able to seize the pieces and keep them in a safe place,” Planche said.
The United States is committed to preserving cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq with the Syrian Heritage Initiative. This initiative represents wider heritage-protection efforts seen in programs like the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
“This crude attempt to erase the heritage of an ancient civilization will ultimately fail,” Secretary of State John Kerry said of Daesh’s efforts to destroy and plunder Iraqi heritage. “No terrorist can rewrite history.”