"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ISIS Beheads Syrian Antiquities Scholar in Palmyra

Khalid al-Asaad, the retired chief archaeologist of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra
Khalid al-Asaad, retired chief archaeologist
of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra.
BEIRUT, Lebanon — For decades, he was the bespectacled caretaker of some of Syria’s greatest archaeological treasures. He explored the sprawling ruins in his hometown, named a daughter Zenobia after its ancient queen, and became so intertwined with its development that one historian called him “Mr. Palmyra.”

Now, months after his home fell to the jihadists of the Islamic State, Khalid al-Asaad, the retired chief of antiquities for Palmyra, has fallen, too.

After detaining him for weeks, the jihadists dragged him on Tuesday to a public square where a masked swordsman cut off his head in front of a crowd, Mr. Asaad’s relatives said.

His blood-soaked body was then suspended with red twine by its wrists from a traffic light, his head resting on the ground between his feet, his glasses still on, according to a photo distributed on social media by Islamic State supporters.

Before his death, the jihadists had interrogated him in vain about where to find the city’s hidden treasures, Syrian state news media reported, suggesting that the elderly caretaker may have died protecting the same history he had dedicated his life to exploring.

The public killing of Mr. Asaad, who had retired a decade before and had recently turned 83, his son said, highlighted the Islamic State’s brutality as it seeks to replace the government of President Bashar al-Assad with a punishing interpretation of Islam across its self-declared caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.

Before the jihadists entered the city, museum workers moved many of its most precious artifacts to safer parts of the country. Some larger pieces left behind have been destroyed, as have a number of tombs in the area.

The jihadists are not believed to have significantly damaged the city’s ruins, and some think they are using them for protection, assuming that the United States-led military coalition that is bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will not bomb a Unesco heritage site.

Source: The New York Times, Ben Hubbard, August 19, 2015

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