WATCH: Turkish shelling destroys iconic Iron Age temple in Syrian Kurdistan
AFRIN, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish bombardment of Syria’s northwest Kurdish-held region of Afrin has severely damaged a 3,000-year-old temple, Kurdish authorities there and the Syrian government said on Saturday.
The Ain Dara hill and temple, south of Afrin, dating back to 700 BC, was targeted by Turkish aerial strikes, the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Afrin told Kurdistan 24.
“The [Turkish] warplanes bombarded the site with two shells, one targeted the top of the hill where the center of the temple stood, the other shell targeted down the hill,” Adham Hassan, a staff member at the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums, said.
“There were a lot of monuments, like statues of lions and deer engraved with stones, but the Turkish warplanes struck it and destroyed it,” he said.
Zardasht Isso, another staff member at the Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Afrin, spoke to Kurdistan 24 about the significance of the bombarded site.
“The temple dates back to a very significant era in the history of the region, and it is related to ancient Kurdish history, namely the Mitanni and Hurrian civilizations,” he said.
Isso pointed out that Turkey had targeted the temple because it held such historic importance. “It was not destroyed by mistake, but the Turkish air force intended to destroy it for its significance,” he said.
“The aerial raid was not targeting a military point, for there is nothing military in the temple’s area,” Isso added.
Before shelling by the Turkish military, the Ain Dara hill and temple contained a lot of precious ancient statues and tablets.
The temple was built based on the Mitanni and Hurrian styles. Only a statue of a lion remains.
Additionally, the Syrian government’s antiquities department called for international pressure on Turkey “to prevent the targeting of archaeological and cultural sites.”
“This attack reflects the hatred and barbarism of the Turkish regime against the Syrian identity and the past, present, and future of the Syrian people,” the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums said in an online statement.
Turkey’s operation against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin began a week ago and has included heavy bombardment but limited advances by its army or allied Syrian rebel groups.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad has condemned the Turkish assault, but it also opposes the YPG and Kurdish aspirations for autonomy in northern parts of the country.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Kurdistan 24 correspondent Akram Salih conducted the interviews in Afrin)