[JURIST] The Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [official website], Irina Bokova [professional profile] on Tuesday condemned the destruction [press release] of the Temple of Bel by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, calling it an “intolerable crime against civilization.” The temples of Palmyra are considered to be the most important first-century religious monuments in the Middle East, embodying “the dignity of the entire Syrian people and humanity’s loftiest aspirations.” In light of the temple’s destruction on August 30, UNESCO is determined to continue protecting everything that is capable of being saved. Bokova reinforced that “[t]he power of culture is greater than that of all forms of extremism and nothing can stop it.”
This is the second destruction of one of Palmyra’s temples within a few weeks. The first was the bombing of Baalshamin [JURIST report] in late August. IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has caused increasing international alarm over its human rights abuses [JURIST report] since its insurgence into Syria and Iraq in 2013. In March the UN released a report saying that other actions by IS may be war crimes [JURIST report]. In February the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights jointly released a report [JURIST report] detailing violations against Iraqi civilians under the spread of IS. Also in February IS led suicide bombings in eastern Libya, killing at least 40 people [JURIST report] and injuring 70 more. IS said this was the group’s way of retaliating against Egyptian airstrikes protesting the IS presence in Northern Africa. In December the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [official website] reported that the IS executed [JURIST report] 1,878 people in Syria between June and December. February’s suicide bombings indicate that the number of executions continues to increase. That month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned [JURIST report] the groups beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Syria.