In a diplomatic overture the government of Iran has offered to house and protect Iraq's artifacts and antiquities from the Islamic State group, Reshet Bet reported on Sunday.
For the first time in 12 years Iraq's national museum in Baghdad will open its doors, ending a period during which it was shuttered by widespread conflict and instability. But recent footage of Islamic State fighters destroying historic artifacts in a museum in Mosul has raised fears that a similar fate might befall those in Baghdad.
The video shows members of the self-styled caliphate, which rejects pre-Islamic history as blasphemous and has a very narrow view of what is not, toppling 7th century statues and defacing pre-Islamic artifacts, including large winged bulls and other non-Islamic reliefs, using a hammer and power-tools.
“The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,” one of the fighters is heard saying.
Emboldened by the callousness of the jihadists, the video has actually been cited by Iraq's Tourism and Antiquities Ministry as a reason for the museum's reopening.
"The events in Mosul led us to speed up our work and we wanted to open it today as a response to what the gangs of Daesh did," Deputy Tourism and Antiquities Minister Qais Hussein Rashid told AFP
Iraq's cultural heritage, which includes antiquities dating from the Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian period, has indirectly suffered from the more than a decade of war ravaging the country. Only in recent years have Iraq's antiquity officials successfully returned at least a third of 15,000 pieces stolen during the chaos that followed the American invasion in 2003.