World The Week : ISIS blows up Palmyra’s Baal Shamin Temple
Islamic State militants blew up the ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, the latest in a series of cultural relics to be destroyed by this group.
The temple was built in 17 AD and was extended under the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian in 130 AD. Famous for well-preserved Greco-Roman ruins, Palmyra was seized from government forces in May 2015, fuelling fears the IS jihadists might destroy its priceless heritage as it had done in other parts of Syria and Iraq. Palmyra, known as the “pearl of the desert”, before the arrival of Islamic State was a well-preserved open-air museum only some 210km away from the Syrian capital Damascus.
IS attacks on historical sites and artefacts in 2015
January: IS ransacked the central library in the Iraqi city of Mosul, burning thousands of books
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group confirmed the destruction of the temple. The world heritage site was captured by the Islamic State on May 21. The IS jihadists also beheaded the 82-year-old retired chief archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad of Palmyra. IS has also executed hundreds of people in the city and nearby area. Many of them were government employees. It is reported that prior to the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, more than 150,000 tourists visited Palmyra every year, admiring its beautiful statues, over 1,000 columns, and formidable necropolis of over 500 tombs.
Earlier ISIS had destroyed antiquities and heritage sites in territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.
Simmering protests over Nepal’s new constitution turned violent claiming eight policemen killed in clashes between protesters and security forces. It is reported that one police officer was burned alive and others were hacked to death with axes and scythes by protesters. Earlier this month, at least three demonstrators were killed by the police.
The demonstrations have turned violent in recent days, as Nepalese police have arrested dozens of protesters. Protesters are mostly from Nepal’s federation of indigenous nationalities, which has called a nationwide strike against the proposed borders of new provinces. The proposed Constitution, which would see the country carved into seven states, has sparked anger from those who say the new borders would fail to ensure political representation for marginalised communities. Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in recent days. Work on a new national constitution began in 2008, after a decade long Maoist insurgency that resulted in the deaths of some 16,000 people.
Despite amid protests, Nepal’s constitution-drafting process is already in its final stage with final draft of the statute handed over to the constituent assembly. Opponents of the draft constitution have pushed for provinces to be carved around historic communities, but other lawmakers have argued such a move would disturb national unity. Nepal’s eight-year-old constitution drafting process has entered final phase with deals on contentious issues among major parties.
—Nishant Kr Azad
with inputs from agencies