The culture of power versus the power of culture. How the paradigm of cultural protection is deteriorated by the Islamic State’s social media propaganda

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Bauwens, Hélène
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The destruction of cultural heritage is not just about bricks and stones; it is about an important message and the way we see human civilization evolving and developing. Centuries and millennia-old monuments that have survived natural disasters, the ravages of men are destroyed through combat, looting or wanton destruction. While cultural heritage has always been at risk during times of war, the Islamic State’s recent attacks included the intentional destruction of cultural heritage as part of a larger strategy. The Islamic State is using cultural property to advance their extremist and fundamentalist agenda, to destroy local communities and as propaganda to disseminate their worldview. Regarding the latter, the Islamic State’s actions did not only include the wanton destruction of cultural heritage all over Iraq and Syria. It also included the dissemination of their acts on social media as a propaganda tool. On the one hand, to shock the international community with their worldview and, on the other hand, to recruit fighters from all over the world. The protection of cultural heritage has been the subject of several international instruments, which have formed different paradigms of cultural protection. Unfortunately, these paradigms are not adapted to the wanton destruction of cultural heritage by ISIS and the accompanying dissemination on social media. As the title of this master thesis reveals, these recent destructions even deteriorate the existing paradigm of cultural protection. In the past decade, there has been a war against culture. How can we save the story of who we are?
Second semester University: Panteion University, Athens
culture, cultural rights, cultural heritage, Islamic society, Islamic countries, Iraq, Syria, media, social network, propaganda