Damage to Syria’s heritage – 01 November 2019


Damage to Syria’s Heritage

1 November 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

Isber Sabrine speaks at the Museo del Prado, October 2019.

H4P Presents at the Museo del Prado

Between 9 and 11 October, Heritage for Peace in collaboration with the Institut Mila i Fontanals of the Spanish Research Council presented on The protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts: what have we learned in recent years? at the international conference Museum, war and post-war protecting heritage in armed conflicts. The conference was a great opportunity to meet people from different countries and exchange experiences on the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts. Read more about this program on Museo del Prado’s website.

During the conference Isber Sabrine (Chair of Heritage for Peace / Institut Mila i Fontanals of CSIC) was interviewed by the Spanish Newspaper La Razon. He talked about the destruction of cultural heritage during  conflicts and the need to support the countries in conflicts to help them in the protection of their cultural heritage.

H4P in Cinema Cycle discussion

On 12 October, H4P participated in a round table discussion on the destruction of heritage, between Sandro Machetti (Professor of Cinema and Audiovisual arts at the University of Lleida ) and Isber Sabrine (Chair H4P/Instituto Milà i Fontanals of CSIC). In his talk Isber Sabrine discussed the destruction of cultural heritage by the Turkish army in northern Syria, and demonstrated the efforts of Syrian Kurdish Civil Society to protect the heritage sites in Northern Syria.

In this Cinema Cycle, the Museum of Lleida showed several films and documentaries which focused the protection of cultural heritage during conflicts. These included: the Destruction of Memory ,Ojos de Ariane, The Diplomat, Cajas Españolas and many others.

H4P co-organises workshop

In collaboration with the University of Bologna (Italy), H4P co-organized an international workshop on 24 October at the University. This initiative demonstrated how cultural heritage can act as a tool for social integration and how it has already served this purpose in the past. H4P presented the project Abuab proposed by the Milà Institution of the Fontanels of the CSIC and Heritage For Peace. The project aims developed the uses of cultural heritage as a tool for social integration for refugees. Other contributions included Multaka: Museum as Meeting Point – Refugees as Guides in Berlin Museums, and the Foundation Romaldo del Bianco presented their project Life Beyond Tourism, for the awareness of the cultural identity of the territories. There were also presentations from Centro di Documentazione della Benedicta, Regione Piemonte and the NGO WATCH (World Association for the Protection of Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage in times of armed conflicts). More information is available on the University of Bologna’s website.

Updates on Damage

National Museum of Aleppo Reopens. Photo copyright: E Cunliffe 2010

DGAM denounces destruction of cultural heritage

The DGAM denounced damage to several archaeological sites dating back thousands of years that were destroyed by recent bombardments. The eastern region of the Euphrates River, has more than 3.000 ancient sites, 1.000 of which are included on the national heritage list. Their statement was also reported Prensa Latina and Urdu Point.

Online warnings of heritage at risk in Syria

Bruno Deslandes reported on his Facebook page warning of 22 heritage at risk with the recent conflict.

New documentation on al-ʿAdiliyya mosque in Aleppo

The Aleppo Heritage Catalogue has published a new documentation file on the al-ʿAdiliyya mosque in Aleppo.The file includes:

  • Damage Assessment of al-ʿAdiliyya mosque.
  • Urban and Social Historical Background.
  • Art and Architectural History.
  • Historical and Architectural Importance.
  • Memory Statement.

Read all the articles about this here and download the full Damage Assessment on request.

Updates on Looting

Syrians lead ATHAR project to protect cultural sites and antiquities

Facebook has become a sprawling digital black market, facilitating illicit trade in antiquities from across the Middle East and North Africa. The ATHAR Project 2019 report takes an in-depth look antiquities trafficking on the world’s largest social media platform.Read the ATHAR Report on illicit trafficking on their website.

Ancient mosaic returns to Syria

SANA reported that a Syrian mosaic from the 5th or 6th century CE has returned from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to the National Museum in Damascus. The mosaic consists of two parts which had been smuggled to Canada at the end of the 20th century.

Intangible Heritage

Upcoming documentary about Syria musical heritage

Soo Today wrote about George Al Khoury’s upcoming documentary, Songs of the Departed, about traditional Syrian music and musicians in the refugee camps in Lebanon.

Syrian youth revive traditional shadow puppets

SANA wrote that young Syrian men and women participated in a workshop to revive the traditional craft of shadow puppets, a Syria original heritage. The workshop was launched by the Syrian Trust for development within the program of “the heritage of Karakouz and Iwaz”.

British prize celebrates Syrian author’s book for children on cultural heritage

The National reported that the Arab British Centre honored Syrian author Nadine Kaadan with an Award for Culture. Kaadan’s winning book draws on her upbringing in Damascus to chronicle the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Lecture on Damascene Traditional Handicrafts

The Syria Times reported on a recent lecture, “Damascene Heritage Industries” delivered at the Cultural Center in Abu Rumana, which highlighted the importance of preserving handicrafts through training programs

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

National Museum of Aleppo reopens  

The DGAM reported that the National Museum of Aleppo was opened to the public for the first time on 24th October since its closure in 2013. Aleppo National Museum, with its human and cultural treasures and its archaeological value, represents a unique witness on the progress of the Syrian cultures and civilisations.

The restoration of the museum was done with the support of the United Nations Development Program and generous funding from the Government of Japan.

We owe the museum staff a great debt for all their hard work protecting this collection during the conflict.

The reopening was accompanied by a 2-day international symposium entitled ” Aleppo City: Past, present and the future. more information on the symposium is available on the DGAM website.

The UNDP have shared a video, and there are several more on the Aleppo Archaeology Facebook page.

Program for training a cadre specialized in archaeological buildings in Homs

The Syria Times reported that academic engineers representing the Heritage Committee of Homs Engineers Union are working to train a cadre to document and conduct damage assessments of archaeological buildings.

Events in Aleppo celebrate Syrian culture

The Syria Times wrote that the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Damascus held an artistic cultural evening of Cuban and Syrian musical and dance folklore performances at the Opera House Theater in Damascus.

Prensa Latina reported also about the agreement between Syria and Cuba to strengthen cultural exchange.

The Syria Times also reported that the Syrian Secretariat for Development, the Ministry of Culture and the National Commission for UNESCO organised Aleppo, the capital of Syrian culture event in commemoration of the 850th anniversary of the departure of the Sufi philosopher Shehab Eddin al- Sahrawardi.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

Oman and Russian to support Syria in protecting heritage

The Syria Times reported that the Russian Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Syrian government are planning to sign an agreement in November on restoring the museum of the ancient city of Palmyra and on training Syrian restoration artists.

Xinhua Net  and reported that Omani Director General of the National Museum Jamal al-Musawi and Syrian DGAM Mahmoud Hammoud signed a memorandum of understanding on preserving Syrian monuments and antiquities.

The Times of Oman also reported that the Minister of Heritage and Culture,  Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said met with Mohammed Munir Al Ahmed, Minister of Culture of the Syrian Arab Republic, to discuss topics related to culture and heritage.

US legislation to help combat antiquities trafficking   

The Antiquities Coalition reported that the US Congress has moved forward with proposed legislation to help combat art and antiquities trafficking.

Visitors to Palmyra and Homs

The Syria Times reported that a delegation of Italian politicians visited Palmyra and Homs. The Syria Times also wrote about a group of America tourists visiting Palmyra, as well as tourist from France and Portugal, also reported in SANA.

Heritage Fair in Paris shows new tech to protect heritage

RFi reported that the annual International Heritage Fair at the Louvre (October 24 – 27), showcased new techniques helping protect cultural heritage in Syria and worldwide.

Insurance guidelines to protect UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The International Travel and Health Insurance Journal reported that in an industry first, a guide for insurers has been launched to protect UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Protecting our World Heritage, insuring a sustainable future provides practical guidance on how insurers can prevent or reduce the risk of insuring and investing in companies or projects whose activities could damage World Heritage Sites.

New Paper – Conflict and Cultural Heritage: A Moral Analysis of the Challenges of Heritage Protection

In a New Getty Occasional Paper, philosophers Helen Frowe and Derek Matravers (of the AHRC Heritage in war project) discussed the appropriate response to attacks on cultural heritage – “Conflict and Cultural Heritage: A Moral Analysis of the Challenges of Heritage Protection”.

New Paper – Conflict and Cultural Heritage: A Moral Analysis of the Challenges of Heritage Protection

Anna Beth Corson, U.S. Department of State: Virtual Student Federal Service Intern, with the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative wrote about The Cultural Resiliency of Idlib, Syria, and shared some of her research on Facebook.

German Archaeological Institute exhibition focuses on Syrian cultural heritage

Daily Sabah wrote about the exhibition One Place, One Story: Human Memory in Syrian Archival Photographs, organised by the Istanbul Branch of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), which opened at the Rezan Has Museum on Sept. 18 as part of the Stewards of Cultural Heritage (SoCH) project. The exhibition aims to reflect Syria with what the Syrians remember, and focuses on human memory and humans’ relationship with cultural heritage sites.

Lectures on Syrian antiquities  

ICOM hosted a lecture, “Circulating Artefacts: An online platform against the looting and sale of illicit antiquities”, on 17 October 2019 about Palmyra and Syrian artifacts.

Also the “Freunde des Museums für Islamische Kunst im Pergamonmuseum e.V.” posted on Facebook about a lecture by Ross Burns, former Australian Ambassador in Syria. “Two Patterns of Destruction—Aleppo and Palmyra in the Syrian Conflict,” at Brugsch-Pascha-Saal, Geschwister-Scholl-Str. 6, 10117 Berlin. 30 October 2019, 18:00 – 20:30.

Russian archeologists return from another expedition to document Palmyra

Tass reported that a group of Russian archeologists and architects has returned from Palmyra, where they examined the condition of the ancient monuments to continue work on a 3D model.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • Enab Baladi (English) wrote about the recent history and current status of Russian protection for Palmyra.
  • Scene Arabia wrote about the ATHAR (“Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research”) Project, a group led by anthropologists and heritage experts who are working to reveal online antiquities trafficking through platforms such as Facebook, and their June 2019 report.
  • The Jakarta Post reported that UNESCO Director for Culture and Emergencies Lazare Eloundou Assomo recently warned that cultural heritage is increasingly targeted in times of conflict.
  • The Syria Times wrote that Soukatiya souk opened in the old city of Aleppo after the completion of restoration works and repair to damages. The souk is considered the main center of the markets of the old city of Aleppo.
  • SANA reported on the reopening of the Aleppo Museum

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2019 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.
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