ISIS: Then, There and Now
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was born in a region known for its decades of strife, poverty and religious extremism. But was their creation inevitable? Was the Middle East always leading down the path to an era of beheadings and Islamic Caliphates? Or are outside reasons to blame for its creation? And what hope is there for the future?
May 11, 2004. The World is stunned to see a horrific video posted on a militant group’s propaganda website that shows the beheading of Nick Berg, a American freelance radio-tower repairman who went to Iraq and went missing in March. The group responsible was named “Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad” (Group of Monotheism and Jihad) and there path of destruction would become known to the world and the soldiers fighting in Iraq. This group would later come to be known as “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” after declaring allegiance to Osama Bin Laden a couple months later, and it would grow later into ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Its leader, Abu Musab Al-Zargawi, will become known as a leader of death and blood.
The Islamic State’s (ISIS) Destruction of Shrines in Historical Perspective
Over the past several months, people around the world have watched with horror as the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has seized large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, murdering thousands (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/iraqi-civilian-death-toll-5500-2014-isis ) and displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the process (http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/19/world/meast/iraq-refugee-statistics/ ). One of the most disturbing aspects of ISIS political control of conquered regions—aside from the obvious policy of mass murder, forced exile and the instituting of a terrifying version of Islamic law—has been the group’s systematic destruction of the cultural and religious heritage of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. In the past few weeks alone, numerous Alid shrines, the tomb of the great Muslim mystic Ahmad al-Rifa’i (d. 1182), and the shrines of the Prophet Yunus (Jonas) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/25/isis-jonah-tomb_n_5620520.html), the Prophet Seth (http://conflictantiquities.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/iraq-mosul-islamic-state-destruction-shrine-seth/ ) and Nabi Jirjis (St. George) (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/28/islamic-state-destroys-ancient-mosul-mosque) have been reduced to rubble. In the past few days, Yezidi shrines have been destroyed as well: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=3e8_1407121523
(Tomb of Nabi Jirjis in ruins after ISIS destroys it)
Who Owns The Archives Of A Vanishing Iraqi Jewish World?
When U.S. troops entered the basement of Saddam Hussein’s secret police building in Baghdad a decade ago, they were looking for weapons of mass destruction. They didn’t find any.
But they did discover a trove of documents from what was once a thriving Jewish community in Baghdad. Those documents go on display beginning Friday in Washington at the National Archives.
This colorfully illustrated French and Hebrew Passover Haggadah was published in Vienna in 1930. Caption on the image: “Eating Matzah.” This restored document is part of an exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., that opens Nov. 8.
The big question now is who owns the documents: the U.S., the government of Iraq, or Iraqi Jewish exiles?