Unite against cultural cleansing

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Unite against cultural cleansing

Adding to its growing list of barbaric practices, the Islamic State’s fighters have been relentlessly destroying historical, cultural and religious artifacts in Iraq, including bulldozing the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud. Nimrud, built around 1250 B.C. and mentioned in the Old Testament, became the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire four centuries later, a powerful state that extended to modern-day Egypt, Turkey and Iran.

A few days later, the group reportedly bombed the relatively well-preserved fortress of the city Hatra, which is more than 2,000 years old and a Unesco World Heritage site. Earlier this month, members of the same group smashed artifacts, looted antiquities and burned thousands of cultural valuables in a museum in the city Mosul. They released a video of soldiers toppling statutes with sledgehammers and drills. They are waging systematic and organized “cultural cleansing.”

The extremist group, which has increased its influence and now occupies a third of Iraq and Syria, has been condemned for its brutal killing of foreign hostages and rampant massacre of civilians from minority communities and religious sects. They have extended their assault on rich cultural heritages in Iraq, which was one of the birthplaces of civilization and is home to antiquities and cities mentioned in the Bible. The Islamic State follows the purist interpretation of Sunni Islam and calls Iraq’s majority Shite Muslims and Christians heretics. Their vandalism further paints the group as ruthless mobsters.

The destruction of cultural heritage is a grave insult to mankind. International society must take collective, resolute action to contain the group’s excesses. Unesco and the UN Security Council must map out an effective way to protect cultural heritage from the brutal hands of Islamic State militants. The rampage on cultural heritage could spark religious conflict on a global scale. Korea should also fully cooperate with an international-level coalition against terrorism. We still remember the Taliban’s assault and destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001. Once destroyed, cultural heritage cannot be restored. There is not much time left.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 9, Page 30

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