The destruction and looting of cultural heritage sites by ISIS in Syria: The case of Manbij and its countryside. (English)
The ISIS occupation of Manbij City and its countryside lasted from 23rd January 2014 to 12th August 2016, a period during which the region suffered greatly as ISIS monopolized control and brutally imposed its ideology. Fierce battles were fought over oil wells, bakeries, mills, dams and power stations, all of which were sources of revenue, with antiquities soon recognized as another potential source. This article demonstrates the ways in which ISIS began to administer and facilitate the looting of antiquities through its Diwan Al-Rikaz and Qasmu Al-Athar which held specific responsibility for the looting. Drawing on interviews conducted in 2015 and primary documents, this article studies the specific ways in which ISIS facilitated the quarrying and looting of antiquities in Manbij and from the rich archaeological sites in its countryside. Examination of the damage done to Meshrefet Anz, a previously undocumented archaeological site, coupled with documentary evidence including internal ISIS documentation, and photographs collected by the author between 2014-2016, the article establishes the looting methods used under the direct supervision of the Diwan Al-Rikaz, reveals its financial motivations, and bears witness to the damage done at specific Syrian heritage sites.