ISIS and the interaction between the destruction of cultural property and genocide

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


ISIS’ continuous, specific and systematic targeting of non-Islamic cultural property in areas it controls demonstrates that ISIS is a terrorist organisation/self-proclaimed state with a carefully considered ideology of cultural and religious purity. The destruction of ancient cities of Palmyra, Hatra, Nineveh, Nimrud and Khorsabad are among the recent examples of what has been described as a ‘tactic of war’ and ISIS’ attempt to subjugate and eradicate the ‘other’, annihilate the past and control the future – ‘a genocidal assault on the core of a civilization’.
These and similar attacks on cultural property highlight the question of whether the current interpretation of the crime of genocide adequately protects the preservation of a group. Although it has been recognised that the destruction of cultural property may be seen as proof of genocidal intent to physically destroy a group, the destruction of cultural property itself cannot constitute genocide. Under the current reading of the legal definition of the crime of genocide, only physical, biological destruction of a group can amount to this crime. Yet a group cannot function properly without its culture. Without its culture, a group becomes ‘disillusioned’ and only biologically vegetates. The contemporary method of warfare that involves deliberate and systematic targeting of group’s culture needs to be recognized and the definition of genocide needs to be read more expansively so that it encompasses not only biological but also cultural destruction of a group.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2017
EventThe Thirteenth Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars - The University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD, Australia
Duration: 9 Jul 201713 Jul 2017
Conference number: 13


ConferenceThe Thirteenth Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars
Abbreviated titleIAGS 2017
CityBrisbane QLD
Internet address

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