Westerners are rightly horrified by the destruction of priceless antiquities in Syria and Iraq – such as the 2,000 year old Palmyra temple – by the ISIS terrorists.
But did you know that priceless antiquities are also being destroyed in Yemen by the Saudis and their allies?
The Economist reported last week:
The roster of antiquities damaged in the war in Yemen runs long. Missiles fired from the coalition’s planes have obliterated a museum (where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored), historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th century citadels and minarets and other places whose importance to humanity’s heritage has been recognised by the UN. The Great Dam of Marib, a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago, has been struck four times, most recently on August 18th. Antiquities experts fear for the oldest surviving fragment of the Koran, in a six-month war which has killed over 4,000 and injured 20,000.
But apparently out of deference to their Saudi and Gulf friends, Western powers have yet to make much comment on the destruction in Yemen, whether humanitarian or cultural. They have expressed justified horror over cultural losses in Syria, such as Islamic State’s demolition of the Bel temple in Palmyra. They willingly subscribe to the general principle of protecting religious and cultural objects from war.
Yet Western officialdom has been tongue-tied about Yemen …
Mohannad al-Sayani, director of Yemen’s General Organisation of Antiquities and Museums, laments that his country is suffering cultural vandalism whose ideological purpose resembles the campaign against Syrian and Iraqi antiquities. In all cases, people are bent on wiping out what they consider to be “idolatry”—in other words, any object that in their view signals deviation from the strict path laid down by the Prophet Muhammad and his immediate successors. In addition to the strikes from the air, he says, ruthless local branches of Islamic State and al-Qaeda are making ground attacks on Yemen’s cultural sites.
Lamya Khalidi, a France-based archaeologist who worked for many years in Yemen, says the Saudi-led coalition must surely know what it is bombing; its munitions are high-precision, and it has received a list of sensitive heritage sites, drawn up in the vain hope that would be spared.
The West isn’t just playing down the destruction of priceless antiquities “out of deference to their Saudi and Gulf friends”. Rather, the U.S. is itself a major backer and supporter of the Saudi-led war against Yemen. See this, this, this, this, this and this,.
See this for background on the Yemen war.