Damage to Syria’s heritage – 14 June 2016


Damage to Syria’s Heritage

14 June 2016 

This newsletter provides a summary of the most recent reports on the damage to Syria’s heritage.  It should be stressed that much of this data cannot be verified, but it is hoped that it will assist in the documentation of the damage occurring, and help raise awareness. Heritage for Peace have released a statement concerning their stance on data recording, availbale here.

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Main Contents

New from Heritage for Peace | Updates on Damage | Updates on Looting | Intangible Heritage | Syrian Activity | Policy Changes and Updates from Syria | International Activity | News Updates


New from Heritage for Peace

Photo: Chair of H4P Isber Sabreen with UNESCO DG Irina Bokova
  • H4P’s Secretary Bastien Varoutsikos, and our Chair, Isber Sabreen, were invited to attend the UNESCO Young Expert Forum on the Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage at the beginning of June, and attended the main Safeguarding meeting.

    (1-2 June – Unite for Syrian Heritage Young Experts Forum on the Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage
    2-4 June – International expert meeting on preservation of cultural heritage in Syria.)

    (See International Actions for more on this meeting)

  • This week, our Secretary is with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to discuss “The intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a violation of human rights: Experts’ meeting organized by the United Nations Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Karima Bennoune”.

    This is part of her work to “to assess the intentional destruction of cultural heritage as a violation of human rights and its impact on the exercise of the rights to enjoy and access cultural heritage, to access, contribute to and enjoy the arts and to participate in cultural life”, as outlined here.

    In addition to participating in the experts meeting, Heritage for Peace have submitted a contribution, highlighting the work of Syria’s cultural heritage defenders.

Updates on Damage

Photograph of damage to Mosque. Photo courtesy of Mustafa Abu al-Zahraa.

Damage to Maarat Misrin in Idlib

Syria Direct reported on June 2 that the Maarat Misrin Great Mosque in Idlib province has been heavily damaged by an air strike here. The mosque is apparently Syria’s third oldest mosque

Da’esh claim attack on Holy Shrine of Sayidda Zeinab

At least 12 people have been killed in suicide bomb attacks on a suburb of Damascus which is home to Syria’s holiest Shia shrine, state media say. At least 55 other people were wounded.

Islamic State group said three militants – two carrying explosives belts and one with a car bomb – carried out the attacks in Sayyida Zeinab, 10km (six miles) south of the centre.

See the BBC report here.

Photograph of damage to Mosque. Photo courtesy of Ahrar Mazzeh Coordinatoor

Damage to Daria Mosque

According to Ahrar Mazzeh Coordinatoor, a mosque in Daria / Daraaya was hit in  airstrikes.  See the post here.

ASOR publishes weekly report 93/94

ASOR’s Cultural Heritage Initiatives has posted its weekly report 93/4 (May 11 – May 24 2016) here.

Key points from this report:

  • Aerial bombardment shows ongoing airstrikes in the vicinity of al-Kabir Mosque in the village of Deir al-Asafir, Damascus Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0009 UPDATE).
  • New footage reveals the extent of damage to the Church of the Virgin Mary in the village of Tel Nasri, Hasakah Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0032).
  • A Russian military base has been constructed within the Northern Necropolis at Palmyra, Homs Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0065).
  • Airstrikes damage UNESCO World Heritage Site Deir Semaan in Deir Semaan, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0066). The Day After Heritage Protection Initiative has produced a report on the damage.
  • Ongoing airstrikes damage Al Kabir Mosque in the town of As-Sukhna, Homs Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0067).
  • Mortar shells struck and damaged the St. George Church in the city of Hasakah, Hasakah Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0068).
  • Alleged SARG barrel bombs damage Abi bin Abi Talib Mosque in the village of Burj al Qa’ei, Homs Governorate, Syria (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0069).
  • Airstrikes struck and damaged the fence of the Idlib Museum in the city of Idlib, Idlib Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0070).
  • Suspected Russian airstrikes damage Al Bara bin Malek Mosque, Ammar Bin Yasser Mosque, Salah ad Din Mosque, and Khalid Ibn Al-Walid Mosque in and around the city of Aleppo, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0071).
  • New ISIL propaganda photographs show the destruction of the Mashki and Adad Gates at the ancient city of Nineveh, Ninawa Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0010 UPDATE).
  • Alleged US-led coalition airstrikes struck and damaged Al-Raqib Mosque in the city of Fallujah, Al Anbar Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0014).

Updates on Looting

“New” reports of looting at Palmyra 

Reports are circulating about “new” looting at Palmyra by the soldiers who have recaptured it. See coverage from CTV News here and the Guardian here.

However, we advise caution, as the original quote actually says the soldiers “plundered the ruins of Palmyra before the Isis takeover” (our emphasis); it is not new looting.

Report on extent of Looting at Maaloula

An official report issued by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) for the Rif Damascus governorate revealed the destruction inflicted upon the city of Maaloula and its historical Christian sites (a Tentative World Heritage site). This report was issued after a visit made by a specialized mission of the Directorate to probe the level of losses incurred by the city.

The report was published on the Syria Steps website (in Arabic), and discussed in Al-Monitor here.

Art and antiquities crime research publicly available

Dr Donna Yates makes her research available online to create a database of art and antiquities crime news. More information can be found here.

Auctions can be avenue for sale of looted items

Neil Brodie considers issues of provenance in the auctioning of antiquities from Syria and Iraq on May 30 at Markets of Mass Destruction blog here.

Intangible Heritage

  • None

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

DGAM attends Experts Meeting in Berlin 

The DGAM attended the June 2-4 meeting in Berlin (see below).

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

Higher Education Scholarships for refugees / people in conflict areas

“Starting from the academic year 2017/2018, scholarships will be available at the University of Oxford for students whose education has been disrupted because of conflict or natural disaster. Applications open in September 2016.
There is no geographical restriction for the scholarships. There are no restrictions on the current country of residence of applicants. Applicants with a refugee status are encouraged to apply, but the scholarships are equally open to those still living in war-torn countries. Applicants need to be accepted for a program (undergraduate or graduate, including Master, MPhil, PhD) at the University of Oxford to be considered for funding.

The scholarships have been created by a students-led campaign (Oxford Students Refugee Campaign) that started last October as a response to what was perceived as unsatisfactory response to global humanitarian crises from the Univeristy. The initial funding for the scholarships is made of students’ termly contributions (so far 11.000 students have joined the campaign). We are also reaching out to potential donors to increase the available funds.

According to the University, previous attempts of creating scholarships for (especially) Syrian students have failed because of the lack of applicants. We would like to ask you to please share details with your friends and contacts who might help us in reaching out to potential applicants. Also, if you know someone who could be interested in applying, please encourage them to do so.

We believe that if we can show that there is interest in these scholarships and need for them, this will convince the University to allocate more funds for displaced students.”

International meeting of experts takes place in Berlin

Between June 2 and 4 an international experts meeting was held in Berlin for about 230 international experts to discuss damage to Syria’s heritage. Among other measures, the meeting “called for a comprehensive list of looted objects from Syria to complement the International Council of Museum’s existing Red List and appealed on all governments to implement United Nations Security Council Resolutions banning the trade in cultural heritage from the country.”

(1-2 June – Unite for Syrian Heritage Young Experts Forum on the Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage
2-4 June – International expert meeting on preservation of cultural heritage in Syria.)

See details of the meeting at UNESCO here,  the DGAM here, or the Apollo Magazine here.

Meeting discusses the challenge of international cooperation in heritage protection 

On June 8 a meeting was held in Washington DC, “Safeguarding our Cultural Heritage: The Challenges of International Cooperation in a Global World” here.

ASOR collects new partners in monitoring endangered sites

ASOR is partnering with TerraWatchers, and the Center for Cyber-Archaeology and Sustainability to monitor endangered archaeological sites. See full details, and how you can help,  here.

What level of crime is the destruction of cultural heritage?

The John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law 336 (2016) publishes “The Destruction of Cultural Heritage: A Crime Against Property or a Crime Against People?” by Prof. Patty Gerstenblith, leading expert on law and cultural heritage destruction – it can be downloaded here.

(Note: a log in is required, but it’s free, and a good website)

Academic articles freely available online

JSTOR, one of the biggest online repositories on academic articles, has a program offering free, read-online access to individual scholars and researchers. Details here.

Scholars work to preserve Syrian heritage 

  • At a lecture in Cyprus, the UN Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune argued that protecting heritage is not a “luxury”. Read the report from the Cyprus Mail here and Greek Reporter here.
  • Fiona Rose-Greenland of the University of Chicago discusses the work of MANTIS (Modeling the Antiquities Trade in Iraq and Syria) for The Conversation on May 30 here.

ISESCO Calls on International Community to Save Aleppo form Destruction

“The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) issued a statement calling on the international community to take immediate action to save Aleppo from deliberate and complete destruction by the Assad regime and its allies.

According to the statement, Aleppo is the capital of Islamic culture, because of its historical value, as well as because of the city’s scientific, cultural and archaeological heritage, adding that Aleppo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.”

See a summary here.

Germany and Russia may cooperate in aiding Palmyra restoration

On June 3 Sputnik reports that Germany and Russia are considering joint action for conservation/restoration at Palmyra. See here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • Vocativ on May 25 enters the debate over concern for ruins rather than lives here.
  • In an article for The Huffington Post Irina Bokova writes about what the world should do for the Syrian people. Read the article here.
  • UNESCO in a piece for DW here asserts that Palmyra will not be “Disneyfied”. This article is in response to another piece for DW by Sarte-Fauriat expressing this concern, which can be found here.
  • The Guardian profiles the DG of UNESCO Irina Bokova on June 3 here.
  • One June 2 Hyperallergic asks “Why Do We Care About Palmyra So Much?” here.
  • James Cuno, President of the Getty Trust, discusses the need for intervention to protect cultural heritage when nations fail to do so on May 31 here.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2016 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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