Destroying culture to destroy a people: from the Taliban to ISIS

(To Roberto Colella)

After blowing up the tomb of Jonah and destroying the archaeological treasure of Nineveh, ISIS jihadists no longer stop and raze the site of Nimrud with bulldozers. "Our prophet has ordered us to remove these statues," explains the man who appears in the video.

"The works of art that are behind me - he continues - are idols and gods built in place of Allah by people who lived hundreds of years ago."

Nimrud was founded by King Shalmaneser (1274-1245 before Christ) and became the capital of the Assyrian empire under Assurbanipal II (883-859 before Christ) arriving to have 100.000 inhabitants.

The first excavations date back to the 1845 and continued until the 1873. They then resumed in the 1949 and went on until the mid-'70 bringing to light remains of the royal palace, bases, sculptures, statues. In excellent condition, a statue of Ashurbanipal II was then found and huge winged sculptures with the head of a man and the body of an animal over ivory objects.

But the Wahhabi fury of ISIS does not subside and even points its finger at the Egyptian pyramids. The Islam Web portal has launched a fatwa against the Pyramids and the Sphinx as idols contrary to the Islamic faith. Hence the appeal to all the Isis jiahists to blow them up. A terrifying threat from the Egyptian press.

But beware once again not to condemn true Islam. The real Muslims positioned these impressive works (some in older 3000 years ago) in museums and managed to keep them for about 1400 years.

In the past the memory goes to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban. In March 2001, according to the news agency France Press, a decree stated: “According to the verdict of the clergy and the decision of the Supreme Court of the Islamic Emirate, all the statues in Afghanistan must be destroyed. All the statues in the country must be destroyed because these statues were formerly used as idols by infidels. They are now honored and can go back to being idols in the future. Only Allah Almighty deserves to be worshiped, and nothing or anyone else ”.

The 19 April 2004, during an interview with a Pakistani newspaper, Mullah Mohammed Omar declared: "I did not want to destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Some foreigners came to me and said that they wanted to restore the statues that had been slightly damaged due to the rains. This shocked me. I thought these insensitive people have no regard for the thousands of starving human beings, but they are so worried about inanimate objects like the Buddhas. This was extremely regrettable, and this is the reason why I ordered its destruction. Had they come for humanitarian reasons, I would never have ordered their destruction ".

But by doing historical dietrology, during the Second World War they scandalized the violence and rapes committed by French (Moroccan) troops on Italian women. According to Ruth Seifert, professor of sociology at the Fachhoschule in Regensburg in Germany, the body of the woman was seen then, but also in some conflicts today, as the body of the nation that is being violated by enemy soldiers in war. The rape of a woman seen as something capable of symbolically erasing the language and culture of a people.

This thesis was also the subject of a project concerning women in Mozambique and Sri Lanka. The analysis indicates that women were the main objectives to strike a culture in the heart. Because of their cultural position and their position within the family structure, they represent a central objective in the strategies of attack by some groups in wartime.

But today ISIS uses an even more subtle weapon. He prefers to hit the archaeological treasure and the artistic heritage to definitively cancel the history of a people by hitting it in its historical roots.