Islamic State
Looting Antiquities. Destroying Ancient Cultures

I have spent several decades of my life engaged in the fine arts. ISIS’s systematic looting of antiquities and destruction of ancient cultures has hit a nerve.

Islamic State militants have been destroying cultural heritage sites for over a year. The famed ancient Assyrian capital of Khorsabad, which had survived for 2,700 years, was reportedly ransacked and razed this month. This March, IS reportedly bulldozed the ancient city of Nimrud and leveled the 2000-year-old town of Hatra. They smashed artifacts in the Mosul Museum and the list of destroyed or looted treasures grow.

IS believes religious shrines heretical and consider their destruction its duty.

There is abundance evidence that monuments and artifacts are being looted on an unprecedented scale. Some believe these looted antiquities are part of a multi-million dollar smuggling industry that funds Islamic State extremists.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art expressed outrage and condemnation through various media outlets.


Gil Stein, the director of The Oriental Institute of Chicago said, “The damage is irreversible; the historical information destroyed by looting is gone forever. “Cultural heritage is a non-renewable resource.”


It seems to me that, in addition to formal condemnations, it is critical to embark on an effective social media plan of action. Many of us professionally engage in digital, web, social, mobile, video, apps, data, and geo-location. Our considerable skills could be galvanized to counter ISIS’s destructive aggressions and curtailing its outsized social media influence.

Why not create a focused communications strategy for those already engaged in the arts and culture, religion, foreign policy, counter-terrorism, NGO’s, social media companies, and the broader public?

Surely, together, we can find answers for the intractable problems facing those of us who care about culture. Let us make a commitment to affect the social, political and economic dynamics in Muslim countries, promote human understanding, and stem the Islamic State’s actions.

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