Damage to Syria’s heritage – 28 September 2019



Damage to Syria’s Heritage

28 September 2019

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

Building Peace through Heritage – World Forum to Change through Dialogue

Heritage for Peace will be participating at the XXII General Assembly and Symposium “Building Peace through Heritage – World Forum to Change through Dialogue”, organized by Fondazione Romualdo Del Bianco and the International Institute Life Beyond Tourism, in Florence next March 2020. The Forum aims to highlight the power of heritage as a crucial tool to build up a peaceful and sustainable coexistence between societies.

Updates on Damage

  • None

Updates on Looting

Cultural Piracy: Mapping Antiquity Seizures Around the Globe, The Antiquities Coalition

New interactive map shows cultural property looting

The Antiquities Coalition released an interactive map, “Cultural Piracy: Mapping Antiquities Seizures Around the Globe”. The map demonstrates the vastness of the problem by plotting seizures of antiquities sourced to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including data in Syria. Although the largest art markets in the world are the final destination of this antiquities, there are numerous steps they must take to reach the final destination, showing that illicit trade is a cross-border issue that requires a multinational solution.

Europe moves to curb ISIS antiquity trafficking   

Atlantic Council reported on changes in Europe to curb antiquities trafficking, including rules taking effect in 2020 of transparency on galleries and auction houses regarding their transactions and imposing sanctions if the operators do not comply.

New research into looting available   

The International Journal of Cultural Property published a special volume on looting and cultural property protection, with cutting edge research into the problem. The articles are behind an academic paywall, but authors are often happy to share articles if contacted directly.

Intangible Heritage

Syrian women connect through shared heritage and traditional cuisines

Al Monitor wrote about a new initiative titled “A Dish and A Tale” , which seeks to integrate displaced Syrians through sharing stories of their heritage and culinary histories.

Musicians protect traditional Syrian music and dance

Arab News wrote about how Syrian musicians are sharing their traditional music and heritage, in addition to maintaining connections to their home regions, by preserving traditional music.

Traditional Arabian horse racing is revived in Raqqa  

VOA reported that traditional Arabian horse racing is returning to Raqqa. The tradition was once providing a way for disparate communities to connect through annual competitions.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

New report on places of worship, shrines and religious symbols in Syria    

AC Syria published a report of photographs of places of worship, shrines and religious symbols in Northern and Eastern Syria including historical sites that testify to their ethnic and cultural diversity for centuries. The full report is available here in pdf.

Seminars hosted to raise awareness

Dr. Mahmoud Hammoud, Director General of Antiquities and Museums, gave a lecture entitled: “The reality of Syrian antiquities in the light of war”, in which he discussed the situation of archaeological sites and museums and the disaster that befell the Syrian cultural heritage as a result of the war.  The talks also dealt with the restoration and maintenance work carried out by the state to protect the Syrian heritage, in which some local and international institutions, including the Syrian Secretariat for Development and the Aga Khan Cultural Foundation, participating. Details are available on the DGAM website.

On 19 Sept 2019, the Cultural authority of Self-Management of Northern and Eastern Syria in coordination with the culture committee in Al Raqqa held a scientific seminar about the reality of Syrian cultural heritage during the crisis under the title: Together to protect the Syrian heritage. The aim of the seminar was to find an appropriate mechanism to curb the ongoing abuses against cultural property in Syria, in addition to directing local and international public opinion to cooperate with the concerned authorities and support them to preserving the human heritage in Syria. More information about the seminar is available on their website.
A video of the seminar (in Arabic) is also available on Facebook.

Syrian efforts to revive historic Aramaic language 

The Syria Times wrote about the history of the Aramaic language and modern efforts within Syria to protect the language, noting that the first institute to teach Aramaic was inaugurated in Maaloula.

Tourists visit historic sites in Syria  

SANA and The Syria Times reported that for the first time after conflict and in the context of the gradual return of tourist movement  to the Syrian archaeological sites, a group of tourists from the People’s Republic of China visited Palmyra on Friday.

The Syria Times and MENA FN also wrote about the increase in tourists visiting the historic Crac des Chevaliers, and wrote about the Syrian-Hungarian Joint Mission’s restoration and reconstruction work at the site.

Restoration ongoing 

  • The Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums recently completed the project of restoration and consolidation of the archaeological bell tower in Qanawat area in As-Suwayda Governorate. The works included documenting the current status of the tower as well as reinforcing structural studies to implement the supportive solution accompanying the dismantling and re-installation of the cracked parts of the tower. Read more about the reconstruction on the DGAM website.
  • The DGAM also started the first phase of the rehabilitation and maintenance of the mausoleum building of the Mujahid Sultan Pasha al-Atrash in the town of Al-Qarya in Sweida countryside (more information on the DGAM website).
  • The Facebook group Syrian Art Treasures shared a video report by BBC Arabic about the destruction and reconstruction of the house of Al-Mutanabi in Aleppo, who was an important poet from the Abbasid period. You can find the video about Al-Muntanbi’s house restoration on Facebook.
  • This video (available via Facebook) gives an overview of the reconstruction at the Great Mosque of Aleppo. Another video, available via You-Tube gives a wider overview of the reconstruction in Aleppo.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

International exhibition on Syrian heritage and historic sites 

SANA reported that the Moscow Government Department of National Policy and Interregional Relations inaugurated a photographic documentary exhibition titled “Syria-Donbas” with Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) and RT.

The Aleppo Project also posted on Facebook about a new German Archaeological Institute exhibition in Istanbul curated by Syrian specialists, including some from Aleppo. The exhibition contains new commentary from locals on places from their cities and is organized within the Stewards of Cultural Heritage program (SoCH) run by the Istanbul Department of DAI. The exhibition is running from September 18th till October 26th, 2019 in Khas Galerisi, Kadir Has Üniversitesi, Cibali – 34083, İstanbul, Turkey.

UK organization teaches artisan skills to empower displayed Syrian women 

The Financial Times reported on Turquoise Mountain, a UK-based organization reviving traditional crafts by training and supporting a new generation of Syrians jewellers in Jordan (behind a paywall).

Smithsonian Heritage Emergency and Response Training (HEART) application opens    

Smithsonian applications for HEART have opened. This year’s HEART program builds upon the DC program launched in 2017 and further refined through state and territorial programs in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Maine. HEART 2019 seeks applications from US cultural heritage professionals and first responder/emergency management professionals from all states, territories, and Indian Country. The application deadline is October 8, 2019. You can find more information here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • The Sydney Morning Herald published an article about damage to Palmyra and nearby antiquities, plus ongoing work to rebuild Aleppo’s Great Mosque.
  • Middle East Monitor reported on the challenges of protecting archaeological sites in Syria.
  • MENA FN wrote about the damage and ongoing recovery in Palmyra.
  • The Media Line reported on the politics and challenges of rebuilding Palmyra.
  • SANA wrote about and published photos of Safita Tower in Tartous Province.
  • The Cairo Review wrote about Syrian reconstruction as a political issue, arguing that there can be no meaningful separation between state-building, peace-building, and revival.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
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