The body of Khaled al-Asaad has been found in Syria.
Allow me to tell you this story please…
He was the custodian and lead archaeologist of famed Palmyra, the spectacular UNESCO world heritage site that was taken by ISIS in May of 2015. As the terrorists were approaching, al-Asaad helped evacuate the invaluable artifacts in the site’s museum but tragically he was captured by ISIS. The terrorists tortured him for about a month, trying to get him to reveal the locations of the treasures. They beheaded him on August 18, 2015. He was 83.
From the New York Times:
“After detaining him for weeks, the jihadists dragged him on Tuesday to a public square where a masked swordsman cut off his head in front of a crowd, Mr. Asaad’s relatives said. His blood-soaked body was then suspended with red twine by its wrists from a traffic light, his head resting on the ground between his feet, his glasses still on, according to a photo distributed on social media by Islamic State supporters.” (Hubbard, Ben – 19 August 2015. “Shielding Syrian Antiquities, to a Grisly Death at ISIS’ Hands”)
I have the horrifying photo but will not share it.
He lived and breathed Palmyra for decades and wrote many books on the topic. Before the war, Palmyra happily received hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from all over the world and Syria including archaeologists, historians, musicians and artists, students, children on school trips, and tourists. One Syrian friend of mine as a very young boy of eight left home one day to go by himself! His parents must have been frantic. He returned home safe and sound late that night filled with the joy of his adventure.
I want you to really hear me about this next part.
When ISIS took over Palmyra, it was the perfect opportunity for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons. The site is way out in the desert, it was occupied solely by ISIS fighters, they could have saved the precious archaeological wonders, and saved the lives of many Syrian and allied soldiers as well.
But they defeated ISIS there by conventional warfare, with battles that had often catastrophic casualties, and it gave ISIS time to destroy many of the most iconic structures – but the government refused to use chemicals weapons.
The constant allegations by the US accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons are lies – similar to the lies of Saddam having a nuclear weapons program or the hoax of the “incubator babies” in Kuwait. They are deliberately falsified narratives created solely for the purpose of selling America’s unjustified aggression against Syria which has never threatened the US nor ever been any threat.
When the Syrian Army and its Russian and Iranian allies defeated ISIS at Palmyra, the US was in an awkward position. Officials announced the news but with long faces as if their dog had died even while having to put on a pretense of wanting ISIS defeated.
The US has been on the same side as al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in spite of using the “fighting ISIS” propaganda campaign to justify the illegal occupation of Syria’s lands by the US led coalition. In fact, ISIS gangs only continue to remain strong where the US coalition is occupying in the northeast and south.
The Syrians and Russians held a music concert in the Roman Theater after their first victory – the same theater where ISIS had executed dozens of captured Syrian soldiers. ISIS recaptured the site briefly during which time they blew up many of the most important structures but shortly afterwards the Syrians and their allies retook it for good.
I’ve been twice to Palmyra since it was liberated from the ISIS horde. It is still spectacular – breathtaking – even with all the damage. Syrian, Russian and Iranian soldiers guard it. It receives only a handful of visitors now but restoration work has begun, restoration work that is made much more difficult and slow thanks to US and European sanctions.
Rest in peace Khaled al-Asaad.