Several countries around the world combined to raise more than $75 million to protect cultural heritage sites from being pillaged by the Islamic State group in the Middle East. The global terror group more commonly known as ISIS has already laid waste to several archeological treasures in Syria and Iraq, including ruins within the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra that date back to the Roman Empire. It's fighters consider the monuments as idolatry that act against the traditional teachings of Islam.
France contributed more than any other country to the heritage fund by pledging $30 million, followed by Saudi Arabia's $20 million and the United Arab Emirates' promised of $15 million. The individual who gave the most money to the fund was the American art collector and billionaire Thomas Kaplan, who donated one million dollars.
The heritage fund's ultimate goal was to raise $100 million to limit ISIS' destruction of historical sites, Time Magazine reported Monday. The money would not only go towards efforts to restore archeological sites raided by the terror group, but also the creation of several museums around the world to house artifacts at risk of being destroyed. Italy said it would do its part by deploying members of its military to protect historical sites from ISIS militants and sending conservation experts to staff these museums.
In addition to intentionally reducing the façade of a Roman theater in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palmyra to piles of rubble since taking control of the city in 2015, ISIS fighters similarly destroyed the ruins of the 13th-century Assyrian capital city of Nimrud and stole priceless ancient artifacts from the Mosul museum, both in Northern Iraq. The armed forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad retook Palmyra after a bloody campaign earlier this month. The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said that the terror group's vandalization of the ruins in Palmyra was a “war crime.”