Saturday, 29 August 2015

Target Palmyra

Soham Mitra analyses the intent and objective behind destruction of Palmyra. Intriguing insight into the ruination.

Most probably, IS has already managed a place in your drawing room and on your Facebook wall. Isn’t it? The destruction of Palmyra, the historic city, is a major viral international event of the recent past. It took place only a few days after the beheading of Khaled al-Asaad, a Syrian archaeologist. Why Palmyra was the target? Like school children IS, too, dislike history?  Jokes apart, there is a lot behind the curtains. Palmyra was not desolated for crazy pastimes. More than madness, I would rather call it a master stroke. A serious attempt to change the equations of the battle. 
 
Obviously the primary reason was Palmyra's historic importance. Palmyra contains of monumental ruins of a great city that was considered as one of the most important cultural centers of the neo-classical age. The historic site of Palmyra is a blend of Graeco-Roman techniques mixed with local tradition and Persian influence. It grew steadily in importance as a city located on the hub of the silk route linking Persia, India and China with the great Roman Empire, an Empire that was situated at the crossroads of several ancient civilizations. Palmyra also indicates the depth of the pre-Islamic history of Syria. For its universal value, Palmyra came under the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Middle East. 

Palmyra untouched
It may be recalled that due to recent heavy military invasions, IS had to back off and desperately needed an immediate global attention to keep its confidence level high, to keep its supremacy unperturbed. The Baalshamin temple was their game changer for that.
 
The religious aspect was another key factor. The architecture of Palmyra was created by non-Islamic people, and IS at present is at the helm of orthodox religious vandalism. The destruction was an attempt to erase all the signs of other cultures and religions and establish the new Islamic “caliphate” in place. The global media also referred to a footage showcasing the destruction where a screen text said- "Those statues and idols weren't there at the time of the Prophet nor his companions. They have been excavated by Satanists."  What good do you expect from such elements?
 
But it was not the end, there were something more clever, more ripened. IS needs huge fund to run their ‘jihad’. The precious artifacts and the treasures of the site of Palmyra could meet their need. In fact, they have already smuggled many precious artifacts with self-imposed revenue. They have been making huge money out of it. However, smuggling of artifacts is nothing new to them. IS had done that “trade” in an intelligent way in the past also. Many people opined that that IS does not know what the hell they are doing. But it seems that they are totally aware of what they are actually up to—they cleverly using the heritage as a resource.  UNESCO, in a recent observation, revealed that the looting in ISIL areas being carried out on an industrial scale. 

Destruction of the ancient city
The IS needs regular supply of trained manpower to form an unbuttoned state. They need doctors, engineers, cooks and continuous supply of militants. The destruction of the Baalshamin temple was recorded in high definition video format which confirmed that it was intended to be aired to a larger audience for better reach out. Actually, they have been trying to allure the young talents across the world by showcasing their power. The capture of Palmyra destruction worked well to advertise them and to threaten the globe. And significantly, their campaign to catch a greater audience has not gone in vain. The growing statistics of migration to the IS dominated countries is itself an indicator of that. 
 
The IS is dreaming of building a new world of Islam. They are working hard to delete the history, the identity of the Syrians and the people of Iraq to put their yoke. Palmyra is not the first victim, but surely the most precious one. “The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history. One week after the killing of Professor Khaled al-Asaad, the archaeologist who had looked after Palmyra's ruins for four decades, this destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity,” condemned Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO.
 
So, why was Palmyra the prey? Because Palmyra was an oasis in a desert. 

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The writer is a student of literature. Comments personal