Middle East

Khalid al-Asaad Slaughtered by ISIS

The killing of Cecil the lion—in which a Minnesota dentist, Walter J. Palmer, lured him out of a Zimbabwe sanctuary, and then beheaded him—has incensed people all over the world. Well, now it's time for people all over the world to be outraged over ISIS slaughtering and beheading Khalid al-Asaad, the 83-year-old caretaker of antiquities in Palmyra, which is home to some of Syria's greatest archaeological treasures.

After detaining the Syrian scholar for weeks, jihadists dragged him to a public square on Tuesday and cut off his head in front of a crowd. His blood-soaked body was then suspended with red twine by his wrists and hung from a traffic light. The jihadists placed Asaad's head on the ground between his feet, his glasses still resting on his face. His body was then taken to Palmyra's archaeological site and strapped from one of the ancient Roman columns. A white placard with red writing was affixed to Assad's waist, listing his alleged crimes, calling him an "apostate" and "the director of idolatry." His corpse was left fastened to the Roman column, rotting in the sun.

Known as Mr. Palmyra by many who knew him, he had been interrogated unsuccessfully by militants for over a month regarding the location of the city's hidden treasures. Asaad refused to give up the information, and died a grisly death protecting the same history he had dedicated his life to exploring for more than 50 years.

Syrian state antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim had this to say about the bespectacled caretaker: "Just imagine that such a scholar who gave such memorable services to the place and to history would be beheaded … and his corpse still hanging from one of the ancient columns in the center of a square in Palmyra. The continued presence of these criminals in this city is a curse and bad omen on Palmyra and every column and every archaeological piece in it."

Before ISIS entered Palmyra, one of the Middle East's most spectacular archaeological sites, museum workers hurriedly moved many of its most precious artifacts to safer parts of Syria. Some of the larger pieces left behind were destroyed by ISIS. In June, they blew up two ancient shrines in Palmyra that were not part of its Roman-era structures but which the militants regarded as pagan and sacrilegious.

The militants have not yet significantly damaged Palmyra's ruins. It is believed that ISIS is using the 2,000-year-old Roman-era city at the town's edge, for protection, assuming that the U.S.-led military coalition will not bomb a UNESCO heritage site.

The world wept for Cecil the lion. Who will weep for Asaad the man?

Ms. Teri Schure is the founder of Worldpress.org, lectures on issues pertaining to publishing, and is a consultant in the magazine, web development and marketing industries. Check out her blog, The Teri Tome.