Civilization in Syria is one of the most ancient in the world. From prehistory up to current times, the country has developed and acquired a unique heritage.
Recent political instability and crisis have had a devastating impact on its population as well as on its cultural places and monuments. 7 years ago, the civil war started and spread all over the country, destroying at the same time one of the most unique heritage sites as classified by UNESCO.
In Syria, 6 cultural sites are listed as cultural world heritage:
- The Ancient City of Aleppo
- The Ancient City of Bosra
- The Ancient City of Damascus
- Ancient Villages of northern Syria
- Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din
- Site of Palmyra
All the 6 sites are considered in danger by UNESCO, they are either completely destroyed or badly damaged according to the last assessment made by their experts in 2017.
In 2016 a commission for UNESCO gathered both international and Syrian experts to discuss the preservation of this heritage as a matter of utmost urgency. They agreed on several measures to preserve the current sites as well as on future plans to restore them. Another organisation, The World Monuments Funds, is also engaged in the preservation of these sites by raising funds to help protect the area from further destruction or theft (Abdulkarim, 2014). Syrian archeologists from the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums are also currently working on a project ensuring the creation of 3D maps of all sites.
This shows to what a great extent both international and national communities are implicated in the safeguarding of Syria. Unfortunately, these conflicts cost a lot money to the country and it will be complicated to invest in such reconstruction without the help of international organizations and private companies.
Moreover, these sites attracted tourism and generated revenue before the civil war. Since the beginning of the conflict, the country has lost £275 billions in terms of growth according to economists (Henderson, 2016). Of course, this amount will never be recovered. What is even worse, however, is the everlasting harm caused to the population’s psyche: “Causing damage to the heritage of any country is harmful to the spirit and identity of its people” (Abdulkarim, 2014).
Unfortunately, other countries across the world are witnessing damage to their heritage or even its destruction. This is the case for Colombia, Palestine, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Iran and more. Luckily, thanks to the dedication of volunteers, population and organisations such as the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), we can all together help to protect our heritage and raise awareness.
Abdulkarim, M. (2014). The Impact of War on Syria’s Archaeological Sites and Damage Prevention Efforts. [online] World Monuments Fund. Available at: https://www.wmf.org/blog/impact-war-syrias-archaeological-sites-and-damage-prevention-efforts [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
Cbsnews.com. (2018). Aleppo: Before and after. [online] Available at: https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/aleppo-before-and-after-syria-civil-war/19/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
Henderson, E. (2016). Syria had six Unesco World Heritage Sites. Here’s what they look like now. [online] The Independent. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syrias-six-unesco-world-heritage-sites-all-damaged-or-destroyed-during-civil-war-a6934026.html [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
ICCROM (2018). ICCROM [online] Available at: https://www.iccrom.org/about/overview/what-iccrom [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
Journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de. (2016). The Impact of the Civil war on the Cultural Heritage. [online] Available at: https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/heritage/article/viewFile/20046/13838 [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
National Geographic. (2018). Ancient city of Damascus. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/ancient-city-damascus/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
The Independent. (2016). Full extent of Isis destruction of Palmyra revealed in devastating before and after photos. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palmyra-syria-photos-new-palmyra-photos-show-devastation-of-artefacts-ruined-by-isis-a6964766.html [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].
UNESCO. (2018). Syrian Arab Republic – UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [online] Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/sy/ [Accessed 6 Oct. 2018].