Iraqi Christian Teen Recreating Ancient Assyrian Art Destroyed by ISIS

Nenous Thabit
Nenous Thabit |

A displaced Iraqi Christian teenager has taken it upon himself to recreate historic Assyrian artifacts destroyed during the Islamic State's rampage through ancient Assyrian villages and settlements in the last two years.

Nenous Thabit, a 17-year-old Assyrian Christian who is now living in Erbil after fleeing his home in Mosul, told CNN that he has recreated at least 18 Assyrian sculptures and one mural over the last year to help restore the ancient Assyrian history destroyed by IS, which is also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

Nenous Thabit
Nenous Thabit |

Thabit said it was in 2015, after IS ravaged the 3,300-year-old settlement of Nimrud — also known as the biblical settlement of Calah — that he decided to fight back against IS' war on his cultural heritage.

IS militants attempted to destroy all traces of Christian heritage and history they came across as they took over the Nineveh Plains, and used sledgehammers, jackhammers, power tools, bulldozers and explosives to callously destroy ancient monestaries, churches and cultural artifacts that Thabit considers to be his ancestors' works of art.

"They waged a war on art and culture," Thabit told CNN. "So, I decided to fight them with art."

"In Iraq, there are people who are killed because they are sculptors; because they are artists. ISIS view them as apostate," he added. "So, continuing to sculpt is a message that we will not be intimidated by those devils."

One of Thabit's favorite sculptures is the protective Assyrian deity Lamassu, which has a human head, the body of an ox or lion, and wings like a vulture. He explained that it took him about 15 days to complete the Lamassu statue.

CNN reports that a website run by Christopher Jones, a Ph.D. student in ancient Near Eastern history at Columbia University, states that three Lamassu statues have been destroyed by IS in Iraq, one of which was in Nimrud. The other two destroyed Lamassu statues were in the Nergal Gate of Nineveh and Mosul Museum.

"Lamassu is my favorite statue," Thabit explained. "It is the strongest creature in the Assyrian heritage."

Additionally, CNN reports that Thabit also recreated the pillars where the Babylonian law code of Mesopotamia, Code of Hammurabi, one of the world's oldest deciphered writings, was composed.

Thabit's father is a sculptor and trained his son by taking him to his workshop and allowing him to work with clay at the young age of 7.

"Nenous is an incredibly fast learner," his father, Thabit Michael, told CNN. "I see huge potentials in him."

Prior to IS' war on his Assyrian heritage, Thabit admitted that he only viewed sculpting as a pastime. But now that he's focused on replacing the invaluable artifacts tossed in the dumpster of history by IS, he takes his craft much more seriously. In addition to his own art, he has also held workshops to teach children how to sculpt.

CNN reports that Thabit will begin artschool in the Kurdish town of Duhok next year.

"My dream is to become a prominent artist in Iraq to make my country proud and show the world that we in Iraq love life and cherish our heritage," he said.

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