Damage to Syria’s Heritage – 19 December 2018

Damage occurring to Syria's heritage 19 December 2018
Damage to Syria’s Heritage

19 December 2018
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, available 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
Lecture by Isber Sabrine on heritage in times of crisis

Isber Sabrine, the Chair from Heritage for Peace, will be giving a lecture at the University of Barcelona on December 19th, 2018 titled ‘Protecting and using Heritage in Times of Crisis’. The lecture will address protecting and using cultural heritage in three crises: the Syrian war; the refugee crisis in Europe; and the violence crisis in Mexico, El Salvador, and Colombia. Learn more about the event see on Facebook.
Updates on Damage
Photo of damage to the Ancient Mosque in Al-Riqqa
Source: ATPA.
Damage recorded in Al-Raqqa

Photographs have been released by the Association for Tourism and the Protection and Antiquities (ATPA) in al-Jazira Province, showing damage to the Ancient Mosque in Al-Raqqa, which dates back to the Abbasid period. As well as damage in the south-west and south-east corner, the organization also used the outer courtyard of the mosque as a cemetery to bury their dead during the war. The bodies were recently removed by the Municipalities Authority at the Raqqa Civilian Council. Learn more on the ATPA website.

ATPA have released photographs showing the existence of several excavations near the Palace Al-Banat in Raqqa, as well as tunnels under the palace that were used by ISIS. Also included are pictures showing the exposure of Tell Al-byaa archaeological site from the east and west and bulldozing. you can read more on this on the ATPA website.
Illegal excavation and looting at Tell Zidan

ATPA have documented damage to the archaeological site of Tell Zidan which has suffered illegal excavation and bulldozing. More information is available on their website.
Destruction at sites in Membij
  • ATPA have documented and restored the damage to the Al-Aadeyat in Membij, which dates back to the Roman period . It was vandalized and robbed by looters whilst under the control of the ISIS, and then became a place for rubbish. ATPA are working to restore it now – read more on their website.
  • They have also documented the destruction and looting of the antiquities in the Membij public park, while it was under the control of ISIS. With the liberation of the city, the Directorate of Antiquities of the Civil Council have transferred the pieces to await restoration. (Full report and photos on ATPA’s website).
Extensive damage documented in Aleppo

UNOSAT satellite imagery analysts, together with UNESCO’s experts on cultural heritage in Syria, have documented a detailed list of damage at 518 buildings within the World Heritage site and the National Museum. More than 1,400 locations were assessed, with almost 1,000 individual damage points recorded. Among these 518 buildings, the following damage was identified: 56 destroyed, 82 severely damaged, 270 moderately damaged, 20 possibly damaged, and just 8 with no visible damage.
Read the full report on the UNITAR UNOSAT website.
Updates on Looting
Contested Allegations of looting against Coalition Forces

The DGAM has alleged that illegal excavation for antiquities has been escalated in the Syrian areas controlled by the American, French, and Turkish forces, specifically looting by US and French forces in Um al-Sarj Mount. Read more on this in The Syrian Times and Xinhua

At least some of this looting was refuted by ATPA, who have stated the the mosaic of the Syrian Church in Membij has not been looted, despite allegations against Coalition Forces.
More than 100 objects recovered

Syrian authorities have recovered more than a hundred stolen historical pieces, including antiquities removed from the Bosra Museum, according to Prensa Latina.
Illegal excavation and looting at Palace Al-Banat

ATPA have released photographs showing the existence of several excavations near the Palace Al-Banat in Raqqa, as well as tunnels under the palace that were used by ISIS. Read more on the ATPA website.
Intangible Heritage
Syria and Turkey share culinary heritage

Haaretz explored the relationship between Turkey and Syria in regards to their culinary heritage.
Reports and Updates from the Syrian People
Syrian sites reopen to tourists
  • A group of Syrianand foreign tourists visited Palmyra, the first such trip since the ancient Syrian city was retaken last year. Read more on the Nation website.
  • The main cultural heritage sites in the Syrian town of Busra al-Sham are already welcoming tourists. You can read more on TASS.
Last shadow puppeteer hopes for traditional Syrian art
Shadi al-Hallaq, the only shadow puppeteer left in Damascus, hopes that international recognition from the UN will revive the art of traditional Syrian shadow puppets. You can read more on the BBC and US News.
Damascene glassmakers preserving traditional craft
SANA reports that Damascus is the first city which gave birth to the art of glass blowing, and glassmakers in modern Damascus are working to maintain their traditional craft. Read more on SANA.
Free article on the Role of the Local community and Museums in Syrian Heritage
JOURNAL ARTICLE: The Role of the Local Community and Museums in the Renaissance of Syrian Cultural Heritage
Youssef Kanjou
Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology & Heritage Studies
Vol. 6, No. 4 (2018), pp. 375-391
Available open access for 3 months through JSTOR.
Policy Changes and Updates from Syria
  • None
International Activity
New EU legislation to protect cultural heritage of Syria and other countries

The European Parliament and Member States reached an agreement protecting cultural heritage with new rules on the import of cultural goods from non-EU countries, filling a gap in legislation; only two specific measures for Iraq and Syria have been in place. You can read more on European Interest.
Call for Participation: The Lemkin Reunion, 5th Annual Meeting

The Shattuck Center invites experts and young scholars to present papers and articles at the 5th annual Lemkin Reunion, “Reconstruction in Syria: compensating the victims or consolidating genocide?” From March 19-20, 2019. 
Violinist aims to connect European decisions makers to Syrian sites

Latvian violinist and soloist Ilze Kirsanova takes part in an international program of cultural diplomacy for the safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage. As part of a cross-disciplinary cultural diplomacy program that combines both classical music and heritage conservation damaged by armed conflict (tangible and intangible heritage), the Latvian violinist visited Syria from 21 November to 01 December. The approach aims to be consensual, and keeps itself away from all political and diplomatic considerations – it proposes to sensitise European decision-makers on the situation of Syrian heritage, to allow them to consider the allocation of targeted budgets for its safeguarding. In this perspective, Latvian soloist Kirsanova developed a classical solo repertoire (Biber’s Passacaglia, Adagio and Andante of 2 of Bach’s sonatas for solo violin, etc.) which she performed on several major Syrian heritage sites included in the prestigious World Heritage List of UNESCO that were damaged by armed conflicts.
Learn more and watch the stunning, heart-rending video on You-Tube.
Project to connect Syrian children with their heritage

The Lego Foundation and Sesame Workshop are working on a 5 year program to connect Syrian children abroad with their traditional culture through play-based learning. Read more in the New York Times.
Call for Intern with the Aleppo NGO

The Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization (Aleppo-NGO) is a humanitarian, non governmental, non-profit organization operating in Armenia since 2013 to support persons displaced from Syria. The Aleppo-NGO serves to protect, support, and empower refugees in Armenia; develops and implements sustainable programs that contribute to resettlement and integration; and ensures the protection of refugee rights in the social, cultural, and educational spheres. More than 6,200 Syrians have been supported by the Aleppo-NGO since 2013. The organization implements a variety of programs and initiatives to provide humanitarian, social, financial and psychological support to vulnerable refugee families.

Job Description: The Aleppo Compatriotic Charitable Organization (Aleppo-NGO) is seeking a Project Assistant Intern to assist in the implementation of ongoing and future projects at the organization. The Project Assistant Intern will provide administrative and programmatic support to the Project Manager and will report directly to the Project Manager and Executive Director of the organization.

This internship will require a 3-month commitment, with the possibility of an extension if both sides are interested in an extension. Please note that there will be no financial remuneration for this internship.

Read more about the internship on their website.
Interpreting ISIS’s heritage destruction
  • Benjamin Iskhan of Deakin University wrote about the destruction of cultural heritage by ISIS in Syria and Iraq for the new issue of Current History Magazine. To read the full article go to Current History.
  • Emma Cunliffe and Luigi Curini wrote about their research into support for destruction of Palmyra by the Arabic-speaking public on Twitter. The research found that a fifth of tweets that expressed an opinion about this heritage damage actually supported it. Read more on The Conversation.
Italian exhibition features reconstruction in Syria

“Reconstruction: Architecture, city and landscape in the age of destruction (translated) at Palazzo della Triennale di Milano features a close-up look at the case of Syria. Learn more on Floor Nature.
New exhibition called Byzantine Syria in photographic documentation from the twentieth century to today

At the Museum of Classical Art at Sapienza University of Rome you can visit a photographic exhibition on Byzantine Syria which is open from November 30th, 2018 to January 31, 2019. Learn more on this here.
News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)
  • Xinhua reports on the Syrian restorers at the National Museum of Damascus, who are working to restore hundreds of damaged antiquities, a process that is expected to take between five and eight years.
  • Archaeology Soup published a YouTube video about the Pitt Rivers Museum hiring Syrians as museum guides.
  • Tufts Daily wrote about the work of US associate professor of art crime Erin Thompson, who used examples from Syria to discuss the ethical challenges of digital preservation.
  • Using historical data, 3D-Printed pieces, and architectural software, archaeologists are recreating historic sites through both virtual reconstruction and physical printing: their technique is expected to be useful for reconstructing destroyed parts of Palmyra. Read more on Gizmodo.
  • Middle East Eye wrote about the conflict between international and domestic conservationists and developers. 
  • Middle East Eye reported on the return of residents to Aleppo and the old city. 
  • Aleppo: Between Unfinished Monuments and “Reconstruction” Unsatisfactory Result. Arabic article 
This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2018 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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