A video posted online Feb. 26 by the Islamic State (IS) shows militants from the group destroying artifacts at Mosul's Ninevah Museum, the second most important museum in Iraq, after the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. According to archaeologists, it is one of the most important museums in the world, housing artifacts from the successive civilizations that inhabited the city over thousands of years. The worst might be yet to come, as IS-occupied Mosul hosts almost 2,000 archaeological sites and buildings, including the Hatra temple complex, which is on UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.
While some commentators described the museum’s ransacking as a cultural tragedy or disaster, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova issued a statement Feb. 26 asserting, “This attack is far more than a cultural tragedy. This is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq.” She called for “an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage as an integral element for the country’s security.”