According to reports, a renowned Syrian scholar was decapitated and his body hung from a Roman column in the ancient ruins of Palmyra, reportedly because he refused to lead ISIS militants to the valuable artifacts he had been charged with looking after.
Khaled al-Asaad, 82, spent more than 50 years as the head of antiquities in Palmyra, home to famous Syrian ruins like, according to the New York Times, the Temple of Ba’al, an ancient theater and a famous 2,000-year-old colonnade.
The militants were apparently searching for antiques which the Syrian government had moved to a “safe place” shortly before ISIS captured the city. Al-Asaad apparently refused to reveal the location during repeated interrogations.
Instead, he was reportedly held captive for a month and summarily executed Tuesday in front of the museum where he worked, according to the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, Chris Doyle. Then ISIS militants reportedly hung his body from an ancient Roman column in the center of a square with a poster listing his alleged crimes. Via the Guardian:
Palmyra-based activists circulated an unverified, gruesome image on social media of Asaad’s beheaded body, tied to a pole on a street in the city.
A board in front of the body set out the charges against him, which accused him of loyalty to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, maintaining contact with senior regime intelligence and security officials and managing Palmyra’s collection of “idols.”
Isis, which follows a puritanical interpretation of Islam, considers maintaining such ancient statues to be apostasy.
“It was hard for him to see his city under the control of these people, so he insisted on staying there,” Abdalrazzaq Moaz, co-director of cultural heritage initiatives at the American Schools of Oriental Research told the BBC. “I’m sure that he was trying to convince them to not really do damage to the antiquities and the site. So for that he was killed.”