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Yousef Sakat, a young Iraqi priest, who was among those expelled from the monastery by the Islamic State, sensing the danger of an invasion and occupation of the monastery, took the clever decision to hide all the manuscripts.
He placed the manuscripts in large tin containers inside a long narrow storeroom, built a wall intersecting the middle, leaving the containers behind, and in the accessible space placed brooms and shovels to eliminate suspicion about the whole space.
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During the Islamic State’s more than two-year occupation of Mār-Behnam, there was great concern about the fate of these precious documents.
The Islamic State is renowned for their fanatical destruction of churches, shrines, and at times even mosques, and so when the Iraqi army liberated the Plain of Nineveh, a surprise came concerning the Mār-Behnam manuscripts.
Such historical details, in most cases local, cannot be found elsewhere, and thus the colophons, collectively, constitute rare sources of information even within obscure periods in which records are usually not attested.
Manuscripts belonging to ethnic and religious communities are tenaciously protected since they reflect their identities: religious and linguistic.
The 1970's United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organizations Convention considers it illegal to import, export, or transfer ownership of cultural property.
By Amir Harrak The so-called Islamic State invaded Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh in the north of Iraq in August 2014, destroying people, especially minorities, centuries-old religious and civil buildings, and cultural heritages, including collections of manuscripts owned privately or by institutions.
The octagonal martyrion of Mār-Behnam built during the 6 century to commemorate this Christian man martyred at the hands of Zoroastrian Sassanians was dynamited, along with its lapidary art and Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, and Uighur inscriptions.
The CNMO works in partnership with the Hill Museum & Manuscripts Library, presided by Fr.
Columba Steward, OSB, which provides equipment, technical support, financing, but also digital archiving online and placing in the v HMML Reading Room.In the nearby monastery which was renovated during the 13 century with the best late Abbasside art, all Christian symbols, along with human and animal sculptures, were defaced.