In April 2014, after the fall of the city of Raqqa in the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS), the terrorist group’s militants destroyed the two archaeological statues which were decorating the front of al-Rasheed Park in Raqqa, in front of the public’s attention on the pretext that they were idols, without realization by these people that these statues of lions were made mainly to guard palaces, cities, and temples of deities thousands of years ago.
These two lions, known as "Sheran lions", were transferred along with some "broken parts" of other lions from the town of Sheran (Arslan Tash), in the northern part of Suruj plain, some 7 km to the east of Kobani, to the city of Raqqa since 1983, at the demand of its governor at the time. They later were installed in front of al-Rasheed Park, in the center of Raqqa, before they were badly repaired, while the fractures of the other lions were transferred into Raqqa Museum to be kept there.
The historical town of Sheran or what the Ottomans called "Arslan Tash" after its stony lions, was known during the first millennium BC as "Hadātu", it has undergone different families and civilizations and emerged as an important city during the modern Assyrian period next to Tal Barseeb (Tal Ahmar on the left bank of the Euphrates River, 25km away from Sheran). The city had enjoyed distinguished relations with the cities of northern Syria and southern Anatolia like Harran and Diyarbakir.
Sheran site underwent systematic excavations during the French Mandate rule, specifically in 1927 and 1928 by a French mission dispatched by Louvre Museum, managed by Toro Danjan, with Maurice Dunant and the linguist George Dossin. During the excavations on the site, palaces, temples, gates, sculptures, and ivories were found, including a group of huge lions guarding the gates of this historic city and its temples, the mission had published the results of its work in 1931.
During the years 1883-1889, the Ottoman authorities sent a Turkish expedition to discover and excavate the mentioned site, along with which it had transferred a number of discoveries with it, such as sculptures, basalt and decorative paintings, and some ivories belonging to Sheran site, to Istanbul Museum in Turkey at the time.
The lions of Sheran, which were made from the black basalt stone with a height of 2,60m and a length of 3,60m, one of which was bearing inscriptions written in three languages, namely Hittite, Aramaic, and Assyrian. The Ottomans didn't manage to steal it as it remained in place, perhaps because of its size and difficulty in transporting it. However, these lions were exposed to the bulldozers of ISIS, whose militants did not hesitate to destroy them, ignoring all the historical, symbolic and civilized value which one could find in these monuments that are part of human history.
The lion of Ein-Dara, who was standing tall on the archaeological hill next to the historical temple that dates back to the end of the second millennium BC, and which was targeted by the Turkish aerial bombardment since the first day of its invasion of Afrin in the northern countryside of Aleppo, was not better than Sheran lions, as it has vanished without knowing anything about that, after the aforementioned site was exposed to violations and abuses such as secret excavation and bulldozing by Turkish affiliated military armed groups.
Turkey and its affiliated armed groups bear the responsibility for the disappearance of the huge lion made of basalt, of which its length reached 3,3m and its height reached 2,70m, and its weight was about 12 tons, which was discovered during excavations in 1954 by the Syrian mission.
Destroying the lions of Sheran by ISIS, the stealing of Ein-Dara lion by the Turkish military and the affiliated radical Islamic groups, was not only motivated by religious belief and the destruction of idols as it appears, as they were the ones who benefited from the trafficking of antiquities, rather, this work comes to undermine the historical and cultural symbolism of these landmarks which were symbolizing two Kurdish areas, the majority of which are Kurds.
If the name of Sheran would be mentioned within an Arab area such as Raqqa, or the Kurdish site of Ein-Dara, which is converted now into an Arab area after the displacement of its indigenous people by the Turkish military, it may threaten these terrorist armed groups, even if these monuments mainly symbolize the history of the ancient peoples who lived In northern Syria, thousands of years ago.