Twenty years ago, the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan shocked the world. Preserved for millennia, these statues disappeared in an instant, victims of the purifying madness of the Taliban.
It was to be the start of a new trend: the deliberate destruction of historical artifacts. With Islamist groups in the Sahel, then the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, world heritage has paid a heavy price. The ancient sites of Palmyra and Hatra, the museums of Mosul and Raqqa and various religious monuments have been reduced to rubble.
Since 2016, these acts have been recognised as war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Under the banner of UNESCO and ALIPH, the international community is now attempting to restore and reconstruct these witnesses of time and past civilizations.
In Mosul, Iraq, the city museum and its collection of Assyrian art is slowly being restored with the help of the Louvre. The old minaret of the Al-Nouri mosque, a national emblem, is also being restored. Thirty kilometres away, at the Syrian Catholic monastery of Mar Behnam, the mausoleum of a saint that was destroyed by ISIS has been rebuilt. Today, through this rediscovered heritage, the entire population of the region is finding its roots.
In this unprecedented investigation we shadow specialist police units and investigative archaeologists to reveal a vast black market for priceless stolen antiquities.More info