AFWH WK15: Dr Khaled al-Assad
Another Five Years of Hell!
Week Fifteen (Dr Khaled al-Assad!)
(ISIS, just murderous thieves, nothing more!)
15 (WC Thurs 13/08/2015) of 260 Weeks
I wanted to cry at what I was watching, I felt so sad that such acts of human, mindless, depravity could be unleashed on an elderly man who spent his whole life increasing our knowledge of the ancient civilisation, and in particular Palmyra, an ancient city in present Homs, in Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic, and it was first documented in the early second millennium BC as a caravan stop for travelers crossing the Syrian Desert. Palmyra was incorporated into the Roman Empire in the first century, which brought prosperity. The city’s wealth enabled the construction of monumental architectural projects. By the third century AD, the city was a prosperous metropolis and regional center. Before 273, it enjoyed autonomy for much of its existence, the city being governed by a Greek style senate, which was responsible for public works and the military. In the third century the city was absorbed into the Roman province of Syria, and incorporated Roman governing structures. The city received its wealth from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes, renowned merchants, established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire. As its wealth grew, so did its sites of worship, its public buildings and decorative stone work, forming one of the most impressive cultural centres in what is now Syria. In 273 the Roman Emperor Aurelian put down the continued rebellion of Palmyrene and made an example to surrounding city kingdoms under Roman rule by destroying the city. This damaged many of the Roman, Greek, Christian, Byzantine, Palmyrene, etc., religious sites across the now sprawling city. After this very few people lived in the ruins, which were partially covered over by encroaching desert and sand. The Palmyrenes converted to Christianity during the fourth century and to Islam in the second half of the first millennium. In 1929, the French began moving villagers into the new village and was completed by 1932, with the site abandoned and available for excavations.
One of the leading figures for the study of Palmyrene was Dr. Khaled al-Assad who spent over 50 years studying the site, the languages, the religions. With his team he personally excavated, studied and wrote about the culture of the Palmyrenes, and was respected as one of the world’s authority on Palmyrene. Even as the danger of ISIS advanced he was not deterred from what he saw as his duty to protect as many of the artifacts as he could. He and other Archaeologists watched with horror as the world saw ISIS destroying ancient monuments and unique ancient cultures, announcing to the world it would wipe clean all cultures as they were blasphemous. However, it quickly became apparent that what ISIS was really up to, they were destroying with explosives the larger ancient structures but only after they stripped out everything they could sell to collectors on a black market, generating money for their continued war against, well, ummm, everyone. So the crap they give out about eradicating infidels and their ideologies are utter rubbish, they are sites that ISIS use to make hundreds of millions. So rather than run away Dr. al-Assad stood his ground and shipped out to the relative safety of the Syrian Governments protection several hundred pieces of ancient sculptures and artifacts. He refused to leave until he had saved as much of his beloved city as possible and ended up being trapped in the city that had grown up near too since the end of World War 1, he was now in territory under the ruthless rule of ISIS.
They are like some sort of virus, poisoning every organism they touch & come into contact with, deceiving, fooling, attracting the unwary to a so called ‘holy war’, like it’s some form of Islamic ‘must-do’ for every young Muslim’s bucket-list. But it is a virus, a soul eating, flesh eating evil that corrupts, infects the minds of the young, utterly distorts their reality so they see as a positive act of worship inhumanity, extreme brutality and crimes against humanity. The rapes, the murders, tortures, burning people alive, destroying the homes and lives of the innocent, are transformed by this perverse cancer called ISIS, as the acts of true believers and offerings to their prophet, acts that would please their prophet. Even as I write this I am aware of how totally absurd it sounds, a twisted, perverse, distorting sickness that takes impressionable minds and fundamentally corrupts every cell until they only see acts of worship from their barbaric unholy behavior with a gun in one hand and a machete in the other. These converts to ISIS become capable of any act against anyone that does not fit exactly their form of extreme Islamist. These insane marauders cannot see that their evil brings shame on Muslims worldwide; tainting all Muslims with the blood they are spilling from unarmed men, women and even children in the name of their Holy Prophet. How does it forward the positive image of Islam or Muslims to kill children, rape and murder women, sell women into slavery, a trade that most in the ‘West’ and Europe don’t even think exists – but it does and thanks to ISIS it is thriving.
Behind the scenes of horror, carnage, brutality beyond the imagination of any reasonable person, the mass executions, the beheadings, the burning people alive, filming what they do and polluting social media with their evil; behind all this there is a business machine running. This business is an embedded solid element of their bloody slaughter, a slaughter that is the cover up for the business making a select few very, very wealthy. The business element is efficient, well connected with a vast array of products and a vast market more than willing to do business with the ISIS. The war, if that is what you want to call it, is just a front for some of the higher level commanders of this army, and they use their forces to rape and ravage the nations they are attacking:
- capturing oil fields
- capturing museums
- capturing fine art galleries
- capturing galleries of antiquities
- capturing private art based collections
- capturing retailers of art
- capturing banks with safe deposit facilities
- capturing excavated sites of historic value
- capturing statues and artifacts thousands of years old
- capturing buildings that have stood the test of time
- capturing cities that the desert swallowed thousands of years ago
- capturing all their ancient artefacts
Yet you never hear what happens to the above, only the video images released of the larger ancient structures being destroyed! So what happens to the contents, the millions of pieces of art and artefacts?
From the 18th Century the lands of Persia, and the kingdoms such as Egypt, were the focus of rich Europeans who, in many instances, played at being Archeologists with some success. Cities were rediscovered, Tombs were found, buildings of ancient worship (of Gods in many cases now forgotten) were uncovered. By the end of World War Two thousands of acres of ancient cities and complexes were being recorded, studied, having books written about them, being delivered to the people as part of their cultural heritage, the very DNA of who they were and the path they travelled through time to the present. These places and all their carvings, etchings, artifacts and monuments, were the only records of their ancestors in a culture where writing was limited and primitive, and those that could read were even fewer in number. These monuments told the stories of the gods by images painted, carved, hammered out of stone, by jewelry, wall paintings, vases, and thousands of other artifacts all of which delivered their history and their rites and rituals in a visual format for the masses to understand.
These were the targets of ISIS, as there was no one protecting them post Iraq War One & Two and the collapse of the economies of most of the countries in the vast area South and East of Turkey, such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and let’s not forget those delivered into chaos following the ‘Arab-Spring’. When ISIS turned on America and Europe (the very countries that were equipping ISIS to fight against the regime in Syria), they had one ambition in mind, to take as much land for themselves as possible, and everything that laid within the land they would seize. ISIS were swift and utterly ruthless, taking key resources such as oil refineries, armories, mechanized weapons such as tanks and artillery pieces, many of which were left behind when the Iraqi army fled in panic on their first engagement with ISIS. They literally dropped their weapons, climbed out of their tanks, left their artillery equipment and millions of tonnes of munitions behind as they ran. ISIS swept through the region, bursting out of Syria until it had even reach Egypt. The only thing that stopped them was the Iranians joining forces with the RAF and the American bombing, to damage the over stretched lines of ISIS, Iran providing the ground forces whilst the Iraq beefed up their own armies to stand and fight. Air superiority was the main reason for ISIS stopping, but they were so well funded and equipped they were (and still are) fighting major battles and maintaining their gains in Syria, against Egypt, in Iraq, against Turkey, against Iran, displacing millions upon millions of people. As the ‘fronts’ of war remain fairly static, ISIS turned to their economic aims.
When they had control over an area, they would showcase to the world through modern and social media the destruction of any buildings, ancient sites, anything that did not celebrate their view of Islam and their Prophet. Literally they destroyed anything that was not Islamic and of their particular blend of blood soaked fanaticism. They don’t just want to commit genocide, rape, murder, pillage, they don’t just want to kill anyone of a different faith no matter what that faith may be, they actually want to scrub the earth clean of anyone else’s history, of any culture, of any views other than their own murderous, satanic views. This is no different to what the German’s did to the Jews, what happened under Stalin, what has happened in Africa on occasions, they haven’t just strived to kill people but actually wipe them out from ever having existed, so there is not a single stone that marks them ever having been part of this world, taking genocide to a higher intensity of malicious evil than one thought was possible. But that isn’t all that is happening, whilst the ISIS forces on the ground are murdering without restraint, their higher echelon are using this unprecedented barbarity and destruction of ancient sites as a cover for making millions on the antiquities black market for their own individual gain. Oil is sold and traded for arms and munitions but art, historic artifacts are sold in secret, smuggled out of these war zones, and money goes into their individual accounts, with the artifacts lost forever.
But it was within this context of ancient artifacts of Palmyra being looted and what remained being blown up till there was nothing left of this once great city, that Dr. Khaled al-Assad, who had studied the site for over fifty years (becoming the world leading authority on the city), made his mind up not to run. As ISIS got ever closer, Dr. Khaled al-Assad worked with the Syrian Government to put politics aside and save the heritage contained within the walls of Palmyra. Hundreds of artifacts were removed to safe keeping in the south of Syria, truckload after truckload was shipped out of harm’s way and out of the hands of these murderous thieves. But Dr. Khaled al-Assad refused to leave his beloved city, his home, deciding instead to monitor what was going on and what was to occur to Palmyra once ISIS took control. He didn’t have long to wait as on the 18th August 2015 Palmyra came under the control of the extremist militant group representing ISIS. Dr. Khaled al-Assad was arrested before he could hide and was tortured to find out what had happened to the artifacts worth millions on the black market. This poor but brave man, this hero, this giant of a man in my eyes was convicted by ISIS of being:
- “an apostate”
- representing Syria at “infidel conferences”
- serving as “the director of idolatry” in Palmyra
- visiting Iran and “communicating with a brother in the Syrian security services”
- And several more crimes which were of course nonsense
Dr. Khaled al-Assad, may his soul find peace, was then beheaded in the street and his corpse hung from a street light, with a placard outlining his so called crimes. In reality he was responsible for saving a culture, a swathe of history that is priceless to the people of Syria and the region in its broader sense. It is these individual acts of heroism and selflessness that makes me think that even with the evil that is ISIS bearing down; one person can make a difference. Long after ISIS is resigned to history, Dr. Khaled al-Assad will be forever known as the man that stood up to evil and saved a city worth of history and heritage for generations to learn from. They will also learn from the example Dr. Khaled al-Assad set, a true martyr of and for Islam, an example to us all not to give in to evil no matter what the cost.
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