Manbij-Special for Horrya Press
Local sources inside the city of Manbij, east of Aleppo, revealed archaeological excavations carried out by the militia of Syrian Democratic Forces “QSD”, in a number of key points, supported by US Forces in the area, amid people’s concern duo to the violations against the ruins of the city.
The same sources told Horrya Press: “Manbij is the richest cities with archeological sites located in all the city sides, like the city wall, the gates, the castle of Manbij, observation towers, the temples, and many archaeological hills as well”. The sources spoke of 25 areas in the city of Manbij, containing historical monuments and tombs.
French and German Excavations Equipment
People of the city of Manbij strive to stop the attacks on the important monuments in the city, which dates back to more than 4 thousand years, according to sources working secretly inside the city to document the violations.
Activist Abdulmonim Al-Manbajawi (an alias for security reasons), told Horrya Press that ” Archaeological excavations continue in the city center, the municipal stadium, Al-Serb District north of the city, Attabe District in the middle of the city, and in the eastern, northern, western and southern countryside”.
“These Excavations are public and done with the acquiescence of the archaeologists of the region, so it can be legitimate. They are also supported by modern and sophisticated mechanisms for gold and valuable monuments detection, by French and German equipment. These equipment have been brought by the French Forces in corporation with US Forces, and are being continuously smuggled into Iraq.
Among the smuggled monuments, there are mosaic paintings dating from the ancient Roman era, in addition to many pieces and sculptures belong to the art school of the city of Palmyra, not to mention that pieces of them are exhibited in the central park in different sizes and forms,” added Al-Manbajawi.
Archaeological sites are not limited to the city, ancient monuments have been spotted and excavated in rural areas earlier this year, where several archeological caves have been found in the West Bank area of the Euphrates River, Sayyada Village in the west of the city, Najm Castle east of the city on the west bank of the Euphrates, and at the old wall of Manbij. Furthermore, the Roman Canals have not been spared from violations; as they were dug up too, while these actions are going on unanswered.
A Funding Resource for “QSD” Militia
Political activist, Qahtan Abduljabbar, stated to Horrya Press, that archaeological excavations in the city of Manbij is not recent. It a continuation of the previous campaign carried out by ISIS, the organization left no site suspected to contain monuments without being excavated.
He added: “In continuation of the policy, the militia of Syrian Kurdish PYD also dug archaeological sites and damaged them significantly; duo to lack of experience and supplies to protect the archaeological finds.
Among the most prominent archaeological sites that were excavated, according to Abuljabbar, is Jabal Umm Sarj Mountain, south of the city of Manbij. It is a well-known archaeological hill with ancient monuments, of which perhaps only a small part was discovered, in addition to Jabal Al-Hammam Mountain overlooking the Euphrates River east of Manbij, and close to tomb of Suleyman Shah, and the area of Kara Kuzak Bridge. These areas were excavated with equipment and bulldozers, where gold coins and monuments have been found.
Moreover, he referred to news about a big site in the commercial center of the city, where excavations take place with American help. It worth mentioning also that the United States plays a significant role in these subversive activities, in his words.
“Besides, there are other sites in the heart of the city of Manbij, part of which has been detected; whether around or within the city, and all these sites are excavated for monuments and gold. There is, for instance, Al-Hazawna Neighborhood, which has been dug under the pretext of constructing military tunnels. Contrary to the truth, in recent weeks they have entered Roman Canals, and tampered with their assets,” He added.
These monuments are sold by leaders of the militia of Syrian Kurdish PYD to traders connected with the European markets and the black market of the Syrian Monuments for self-financing of the militias or their leaders, according to Abuljabbar.
He sees that this policy has been followed since PYD took the city over in August, 2016, and is continuing so far, referring to other sites that have not been detected yet, and suggesting that there is another city lying under Manbij, that witnessed the Roman, Greek, and Islamic Civilizations.
He added, as an example, “wherever the land is dug up to 10 meters, you will, out of question, find ruins of previous civilizations. Some of the sites have been previously revealed when the city was controlled by the regime, and were tampered with, violated, and stolen, and some of which have been revealed when the city was controlled by ISIS, where tunnels have been dug to access new sites. Now PYD continue with the same policy.”
Attempts to Obliterate the Historical Identity of the City
Earlier in the Syrian revolution, the United Nations and UNESCO called for protecting the Syrian monuments, demanding all parties of the conflict to put an immediate end to the destruction of heritage. They also condemned the use of sites on the World Heritage List as military targets.
Engineer Abu Kadro (an alias for security reasons), a resident of the city of Manbij, and one of the persons interested in documenting violations against the monuments in the city, said to Horrya Press that “there are attempts to obliterate the identity of the city and steal its history. These attempts have begun first when ISIS entered the city, and continued with “QSD” militias when they took over the city. “QSD” militias are still working to plunder these monuments, continuing with ISIS destructive approach.
“There are two kinds of monuments, golden items, icons or mats, and certain artifacts dating back to a certain historical period,” added the engineer.
Besides, Abu Kadro revealed that ISIS used to systemically rob monuments, claiming that they have been destructed, but they actually destroyed fake versions, while the real versions have been sold through black market traders.
“This continued when “QSD” controlled the city. They declared fighting all forms of trafficking in monuments, and formed a body of 12 people as the only entity authorized to take action; in order to monopolize excavations in coordination with several mafias. Moreover, there are parties who are not controlled by “QSD”, support trafficking in monuments in the name of supporting museums and excavations, only to have their own portion. In addition, dates if archeological monuments are falsified, and they are attributed to different era and civilization,” according to Abu Kadro.
“This used to be done by persons working for the regime, and now they continue their jobs with “QSD”, who expressed their need for staff in this regard.”
Claims for Accountability of Persons Involved in Looting of Monuments
In 2015, Director-General of UNESCO said that ” Satellite images are of high enough resolution to show illegal activity around sensitive sites. There is so much illicit excavation going on”.
The Syrian journalist, Omar Al-Bunya, said in a comment to Horrya Press: “This is a public robbery, and a breach of international laws. These militia should be prosecuted for illegal excavations, and held accountable by the forces supporting them”.
He also stated that the US-led Coalition should be responsible, and must put an end to the actions of these militias, especially in regard to the monuments, as there is a Security Council Resolution on the necessity of protecting archeology, and prosecute anyone who destroys or trades with Syrian and Iraqi archeology.
” Unfortunately, the Syrian Antiquities market has become a popular market. These antiquities are smuggled across three border crossings: one smuggling zone towards Lebanon, one towards Turkey, and one towards Jordan, and there is one towards Iraq as well. Someone must put an end to this illegal trade, and it is the responsibility of INTERPOL, UNESCO and neighboring countries,” Added Al-Bunya.
* Translated by: Sura Alloush