ISIS leaves historical sites in Palmyra unscathed; Assyrian Christian recounts experience after the ISIS storm

  • Written by:

Christian Deguit
(REUTERS/OMAR SANADIKI/FILES)Tourists take pictures at the ancient Palmyra theater in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria in this file photo.
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was expelled from the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, majority of the artistic treasures were destroyed but a few historical sites were left intact.

Meanwhile, Assyrian Christians are still obviously distraught a year after the onslaught they experienced when they were captured and imprisoned by the Islamic State.

Last Sunday, militants of the Islamic State were driven out of Palmyra after their 10-month sovereignty over the city.

The retreat of the Islamic State was brought about by a three-week campaign led by the Syrian army, which was supported by Russian airstrikes.

It was pretty clear that the Islamic State intentionally destroyed many artifacts and works of art when they controlled the city. The Palmyra museum contained multiple statues that were destroyed along with display cases that were smashed into pieces. Iconic monuments, for which Palmyra is world-renowned for, such as the Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph, were unfortunately reduced to rubble. However, some historical sites were left unscathed.

Syrian forces were relieved to see that the Agora and the celebrated Roman theatre were still standing when they entered the city.

“We were expecting the worst. But the landscape, in general, is in good shape,” Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria’s Antiquities Chief, told AFP.

In another update on ISIS, Assyrian Christians in Tell Tamer in northeastern Syria mark the first year after the onslaught of the Islamic State, in which militants sieged and looted the town. The Islamic State destroyed the church and abducted about 300 people. The kidnapped individuals were then moved and imprisoned in the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa.

Georgette Melki, an Assyrian Christian woman, spoke in a memorial mass on March 27 for the victims of the ISIS attack. Her son was among the three people who were killed by ISIS militants.

“I don’t know why they treated us like this … We didn’t do anything. We were in our village, in our houses,” she told Parallels.

The violence surrounding the town of Tell Tamer caused an exodus of Assyrian Christians. About 450 Christian families were originally living in the town. Today, that number has been reduced to 100 families only.