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Culture

Hollande condemns IS’s ‘barbaric’ destruction of ancient artefacts in Mosul

media IS members destroy a statue in Mosul museum Reuters/Social media Web site via Reuters TV

French President François Hollande on Friday condemned the “barbaric” destruction of ancient statues by the Islamic State (IS) armed group in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile, Hollande’s Socialist Party prepared to discipline an MP who went to Syria to meet members of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

"Barbarism affects people, history, memories, culture," Hollande told reporters in Manila at the end of a two-day trip to the Philippines. "What the terrorists want to do is destroy all of humanity. When you seek to destroy heritage, you intend to silence all those who carry a message of culture."

Video released by IS on Thursday showed its members taking sledgehammers and jackhammers to priceless artefacts from the Assyrian and Hellenistic periods in Mosul’s museum and defacing a granite Assyrian winged bull at the city’s Nergal Gate.

They claimed that the statues were “idols for people from ancient times who worshipped them instead of God".

Archaeologists compared the damage to the Taliban’s destruction of giant statues of Buddha in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, in 2001.

The UN’s cultural agency, Unesco, demanded an emergency meeting of the Security Council, arguing that heritage protection was an integral part of Iraq's security.

Paris's Louvre museum also condemned the destruction, claiming that it was making a target of "the entire memory of humanity".

Following a visit to Syria by four French parliamentarians that led to three of them meeting Assad, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius and Britain’s Phil Hammond reaffirmed their support for a boycott of the Syrian leader.

IS and al-Qaeda are fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments and the ministers argued that Assad was trying to exploit the situation to “rehabilitate himself”.

“Some people seem to appreciate this discourse,” a statement published in France’s Le Monde and the London-based Arabic paper Al Hayat said. “Faced with terror, they say, injustice and dictatorship are preferable to disorder. In reality, Bashar represents injustice, disorder and terror.”

Hollande, who claimed not to have been warned that the visit would take place, has called on the men’s political parties to discipline them and his Socialist Party summoned party member Gérard Bapt, who did not meet Assad, to its headquarters on Friday with a view to taking action against him.

The leader of the right-wing opposition UMP, former president Nicolas Sarkozy, seemed to rule out taking measures against the two members who did meet Assad, Jacques Myard and Jean-Pierre Vial, saying that “in a democracy” it was not possible to stop them doing what they wanted.

After this week’s kidnapping of 220 Christians by IS in Syria, French Catholic leaders called on the authorities to pay urgent attention to the fate of Christians in Iraq and Syria.

About 1,000 families of Assyrian Christians have fled their homes to Kurdish-held towns since the kidnapping, their leaders said.
 

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