UNESCO condemns ISIS beheading of Palmyra archeologist, Italian museums fly flags at half-mast

Paris/ Washington, SANA – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) condemned the killing of former Director of Palmyra branch of the the Antiquities and Museums Department Khaled al-Asaad by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“They killed him because he would not betray his deep commitment to Palmyra. Here is where he dedicated his life,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

She added that the 80-year-old al-Asaad, who was beheaded and crucified by ISIS on colonnade in Palmyra last Tuesday, contributed to “revealing Palmyra’s precious history and interpreting it so that we could learn from this great city that was a crossroads of the ancient world. His work will live on far beyond the reach of these extremists.”

“They murdered a great man, but they will never silence history,” she said.

Bokova also expressed sorrow over the death of Assistant Director of Laboratories at the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, Qasem Abdullah Yehiya, saying “The untimely deaths of Mr. Assad and Mr. Yehiya are a terrible loss to the cultural heritage community in Syria and globally”.

In turn, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. “condemns in the strongest possible terms this murder of a man who dedicated his life to preserving Syria’s cultural treasures.”

“Asaad’s life and extraordinary work stand in stark contrast to that of his barbaric killers. These attempts to erase Syria’s rich history will ultimately fail,” Kirby said.

For his part, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said al-Asaad had worked with numerous French archaeological missions over the years, calling for those responsible for his murder to be brought to justice.

Earlier, Director of the General Department of Antiquities and Museums Maamoun Abdul-Karim said ISIS had repeatedly interrogated al- Asaad to try to force him to give information about the places of specific archeological treasures in Palmyra but to no avail, and then they killed him.

Italian museums fly their flags at half-mast to honor archeologist al-Asaad

In a relevant context, Italy’s museums and cultural centers will fly their flags at half-mast in tribute to archeologist al-Asaad, Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceshini announced in a tweet.

For his part, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called for not surrendering to barbarism, noting that all celebrations of unity which will be organized by his Democratic Party this evening will be held in honor of the Syrian archeologist Khaled al-Asaad.

M. Nassr/H. Said

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