Historical Iraqi monastery razed by ISIS

The monastery of St Elijah before its destruction. It had stood for more than 1,400 years near the Iraqi city of Mosul.
The monastery of St Elijah before its destruction. It had stood for more than 1,400 years near the Iraqi city of Mosul.PHOTO: NEWYORK TIMES

COLORADO • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has destroyed one of the oldest Christian sites in Iraq as part of its campaign against ancient sites in the country.

The monastery of St Elijah, or Dair Mar Elia, had stood for more than 1,400 years above a riverbed south of the city of Mosul, which ISIS militants seized from Iraqi forces in June 2014.

According to satellite photographs published by the Associated Press on Wednesday and confirmed by Iraqi officials and historians, the monastery was razed in late August or September 2014, including the site's square complex of partly ruined rooms and a largely intact sanctuary that dated from the 11th century.

The satellite photographs were taken by DigitalGlobe, a private company with headquarters in Westminster, Colorado.

Mr Yonadam Kanna, a Christian Member of Parliament, said the destruction was further evidence of ISIS' goal of destroying Iraq's Christian identity, calling the site "one of the most historical" in the country.

"Nothing can compensate for the loss of such heritage," he said.

ISIS has destroyed scores of historical sites and monuments as part of a nihilistic campaign to eradicate remnants of cultures it considers anathema to its extremist vision of Islam.

They include ancient ruins such as Nineveh, Nimrud and the tomb of Jonah in Iraq; Palmyra in Syria; and mediaeval Islamic sites such as the tombs of Yahya ibn al-Qasim and Ibn Hassan Aoun al-Din in Mosul. St Elijah's was near Mosul airport on land that during Saddam Hussein's rule was part of a military base.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2016, with the headline 'Historical Iraqi monastery razed by ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe