According to the Iraqi government, ISIL has extended its destruction of Iraq's historical treasures to the ancient archeological site of Nimrud. "These depraved acts," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, "are an assault on the heritage of the Iraqi and Syrian people by an organization with a bankrupt and toxic ideology."
"ISIL's twisted goal is clear," said Secretary Kerry, "to eviscerate a culture and rewrite history in its own brutal image. This crude attempt to erase the heritage of an ancient civilization will ultimately fail. No terrorist can rewrite history. And just as the United States stands with the Iraqi and Syrian people in their fight against brutality, we also recognize the need to preserve national treasures - a critical component of a unified society."
Irina Bokova, the head of Unesco, also condemned the destruction of Nimrud in the strongest terms. “We cannot remain silent,” she said. “The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime. I call on all political and religious leaders in the region to stand up and remind everyone that there is absolutely no political or religious justification for the destruction of humanity’s cultural heritage.”
The city of Nimrud was founded more than 3,300 years ago and was one of the capitals of the Assyrian empire. Nimrud was first excavated in the 1840s by the British explorer Austen Henry Layard, who unearthed the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, the king of Assyria, with winged bull gatekeeper statues that were later sent to the British Museum and Metropolitan Museum. While many of the site’s relics are in museums, the Nimrud palace site itself still hosts large numbers of wall relief sculptures and winged bull statues left in their original locations. The palace was restored as a site museum by the Iraqi department of antiquities in the 1970s and 80s.
The United States urges all parties in Iraq and Syria and the international community to respect and protect archaeological, historic, religious, and cultural sites, including museums and archives, and to reaffirm that all those who destroy important cultural property must be held accountable. The United States is committed to defeating ISIL and to opposing the destruction of archeological treasures.