Islamic State decimates ancient Assyrian city

Mar 06, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
Assyrian winged bulls in the Iraqi Museum. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)
Assyrian winged bulls in the Iraqi Museum. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty)

Iraqi officials announced Thursday that the Islamic State has launched a campaign to flat-out demolish the ancient city of Nimrud, the BBC reports. The ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud was situated on the Tigris river, several miles south of ISIS-controlled Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The site is reportedly being leveled by bulldozers and armored vehicles, and was swiftly condemned as a war crime by the U.N. 

According to Reuters, ISIS is intent on destroying Assyrian heritage sites because it considers Iraq's past before the advent of Islam to constitute idolatry. The demolition of Nimrud comes a week after viral videos of ISIS members hacking away at artifacts in the Mosul Museum with sledgehammers and drills. These tactics have been described by many as acts of "cultural cleansing," geared toward the erasure of Iraq's rich multicultural identity.

As historian Tom Holland expressed to The Guardian, "It is a crime against Assyria, against Iraq, and against humanity. Destroy the past, and you control the future. The Nazis knew this, and the Khmer Rouge - and the Islamic State clearly understand it too."