On February 26, ISIS released a video of its militants smashing ancient Assyrian artifacts in the central museum in Mosul, Iraq. In a matter of minutes, they jackhammered the face of a famous 1,400-year-old Assyrian winged bull and broke apart four 2,000-year-old statues of the kings of Hatra. That same week, insurgents from the so-called Islamic State burned thousands of rare books and manuscripts from Mosul’s library.
A week later, Ahmed Salem, a 28-year-old former archaeology graduate student, crossed into Syria and entered ISIS-held territory armed with nothing more than a notepad, a camera, and a phone, the contents of which, if he were discovered, could get him killed. His task: to photograph evidence of cultural heritage crimes in his home country.