By Olivia Snaije
Unique and rare manuscripts have been smuggled from Mosul, Iraq, to Turkey, following the takeover of the city by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) gunmen. In an article published Sunday in Asharq Al-Awsat, the London-based pan-Arab daily, the head of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, Qais Hussein, is quoted as saying: “There have been attempts to smuggle a number of rare Iraqi manuscripts from a number of libraries in Mosul to Turkey, including a rare Qur’an which dates back to the Abbasid era.”
The paper also reported that a statue of the Abbasid poet, Abu Tammam Al-Taei had been destroyed. According to Canadian classicist, David Meadows, (@rogueclassicist), who has been following the case it would seem that the manuscripts have indeed been removed from the Mosul libraries but that statue, in fact, has not been destroyed.
In any event Iraqi antiquities and heritage sites including churches and monasteries, like those in Syria are in serious danger of sabotage and smuggling. UNESCO, which in 2013 had launched an audacious program to conserve priceless books and manuscripts in Najaf, Iraq, a main center of Islamic and Arab religious and intellectual production, called on “all actors to refrain from any form of destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites. Their intentional destruction are war crimes and a blow against the Iraqi people’s identity and history.”