“I just had my blood drawn for the DNA test and we must wait at least 72 hours for the results. Our heart aches after five years of waiting and we trust that the body found is that of our father, the martyr, ”said Tarek, son of Khaled Al-Asad, who was director of archeology at Palmyra, in the desert of Syria, and whom the jihadist group Islamic State assassinated on August 18, 2015 in the square in front of the museum.
The Syrian media reported on Monday the appearance of three bodies in Kahloul, east of the oasis considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and pointed out that one of them could be that of the one nicknamed as ‘Palmyra’s father’, who was the in charge of running this place between 1963 and 2003.
Palmyra was conquered twice by Islamists during the Caliphate years. After the first shot, most of the population fled, but Professor Asad decided to stay to defend the museum and the citadel. Tarek and the rest of the family escaped in one of the trucks sent by the Ministry of Antiquities to save pieces from the museum. His father refused to come out and that was the last time he saw him alive.
The jihadists did not take long to arrest him and interrogated him “to show them the place where the Government kept a treasure of two tons of gold, someone told them this hoax and they believed it,” Tarek told this medium in a meeting in Damascus after the murder. He suffered 28 days of mistreatment before beheading him in front of his neighbors. “He refused to kneel and asked to have his head cut off standing, like the columns and palm trees of Palmira,” he said with tears in his eyes. Since then he has been tormented by not being able to bury his father.
His favorite place was the museum. That is why he asked his executioners to let him take a last walk through their galleries before he was beheaded and now, if it is confirmed that they are his remains, we would like to bury him in the gardens that surround this building, “says Tarek.
The first occupation of Palmyra lasted less than a year and the jihadists used the Roman amphitheater to carry out mass killings, turned the museum into their prison and applied their agenda of “cultural cleansing” to justify the blowing up of the graves of Mohammad Ben Ali and Nizar Abu Bahaedin, destroy the Lion of Al Lat, three and a half meters high, fifteen tons in weight and more than 2,000 years old, and dynamite the temple of Bal, erected in 32 AD in honor of the rain god, thunder and fertility.
Five years later “the place is abandoned and that worries us. It is necessary that the world community, led by Unesco, intervenes to do at least maintenance since abandonment would eventually cause more damage, “laments Mamun Abdulkarim, former director of Antiquities of Syria during the toughest years of the war, in those who had to make an emergency plan to save pieces from all the museums. Abdulkarim has words of memory for Asad, “a great man who did not hesitate to give his life for Palmyra”, and hopes that he can rest once and for all in the land for which he fought so hard.