Damage to Syria’s heritage – 14 November 2016





Damage to Syria’s Heritage

14 November 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, 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

On October 24th, 20167, the United States Institute of Peace and the Smithsonian hosted a conference entitled Cultural Heritage: A Target in War, an Engine of Peace. Revolving mostly around the work of the organisation “Turquoise Mountain” in Kabul and its impact on local communities through the revival of traditional Afghan craftsmanship, the conference also addressed various cultural initiatives around the world, such as Factum Arte (training local groups to scientifically replicate objects of cultural importance), the Portal Project (connecting people through virtual portals around the world), Bond Street (creating Theatre troupes in Afghanistan).

HfP’s Secretary attended to present the SHELTr project, along with its potential for peace-building.

The conference insisted on two points:
1- the positive impact a country’s cultural heritage can have on the western countries’ public (the impact of Afghan cultural heritage on the USA was the example), changing perceptions and fostering empathy, and
2-  the necessity to implement a bottom-up approach that listens to the needs of the community that often has stewardship of cultural heritage instead of imposing at all cost external organisation’s heritage agendas.

Updates on Damage

Historic building at Dura Europos. Source: DGAM

Damage to Dura Europos 

The DGAM reports that looting and destruction continues at Dura Europos in eastern Syria. See the report here.

Footage shows damage to Aleppo 

The Wall Street Journal examines the state of damage in Aleppo, eliciting scenes similar to Dresden or London in WWII.  Included is a 5.21 minute video with footage of the human and material cost here.

Updates on Looting

Looting continues in rural Aleppo

The DGAM reports that looting continues at sites in the countryside around Aleppo, including the famous church of Simeon the Stylite. For details, see here.

Intangible Heritage

  • None

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

DGAM participates in UNESCO conference 

The DGAM participated in the World Heritage Sites and Museums Conference on November 2nd and 3rd in Paris. See details here.

DGAM helps evaluate app to aid heritage crises 

DGAM participated in a meeting in association with the Global Heritage Fund in Manama 23-25 October, evaluating an app designed to help respond to heritage crises. See more information here.

New exhibitions profile Syrian heritage

A number of new exhibitions profile Syrian heritage:

  • From Homeland’s Memory” exhibition held at Damascus Citadel provided a precious opportunity to bring Syria’s oldest traditional handicrafts into the spotlight (here).
  • A photo exhibition by the Syrian artist and photographer Hagop Wanisian was opened Wednesday at the Moscow State Museum of the East, in cooperation with the Syrian Embassy in Moscow and the presence of Arab and foreign diplomats, Russian officials and visitors (here).
  • Stories about the homeland – Syria, the suffering and steadfastness of its people over six years of war, the return of human values of love, family and home, and hopes of revival and restoration were among others highlighted by the artworks of the Syrian Sculptor Nizar Ali Badr (here).
  •  “Aleppo is Our Destination” exhibition, currently held at Alef Noon Gallery in Damascus, features some 20 artworks by 15 young and pioneering plastic artists from Aleppo (here).
  • Photos of damaged archaeological sites in Syria to be shown in Prague (here).
  • Aga Khan Museum in Canada hosts exhibition entitled ‘Syria is a Live History’ (here).

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

US government: safeguarding the heritage of the Near East initiative collaborative services award 

From the release: “The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy (NEA/PPD) and Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Cultural Heritage Center (ECA/CHC) announces an open competition for the FY 2017 Safeguarding the Heritage of the Near East Initiative Collaborative Services Award”. Value: up to $900,000 Deadline: December 14, 2016. See details here.

Cultural heritage is a human rights issue  

UN Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune argues that cultural heritage and its destruction is a human rights issue here. She presented her report to the UN General Assembly at the end of October, which was very well received.

The report presentation was accompanied by a side eventTime to End Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage: a Human Rights call to action. The webcast from the event is available here.

Conferences on cultural heritage held  

An international conference entitled “Cultural Heritage: Prevention, Response, and Recovery from Disasters” was held in Lisbon on November 3 and 4. For more information, see here.

University of Tübingen hosted a 3 day workshop “Tangible and Intangible Heritage of Maaloula” to discuss the tangible and intangible heritage of Maaloula, to review the damage and loss of cultural and immaterial heritage and to explore possibilities of Arab-German cooperation to work together in post-conflict recovery efforts. The workshop took place on 7-9 November (more info here.)

NGO updates   

Learn more about the work of the NGO Shirin to protect cultural heritage in Syria by watching their TEDx talk – Preparing for a Time After War, by Cynthia Dunning, Mohamad Fakhro and Mohamed Alkhalidm, available here.

Read an interview with the director of the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology in Syria Untold, here.

Al-Monitor looks at the work of NGOs in helping to protect Syria’s heritage here.

Switzerland preparing for further involvement  

Swiss archaeologists are preparing for post-war Syria. See here for further details.

Antiquities Coalition records new video series   

The Antiquities Coalition provides a video update from the Amman installation of #cultureunderthreat video series, filmed in Amman, on September 8 2016 here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • The BBC profiles the history of Aleppo against the current backdrop of war here.
  • Curbed.com profiles Syrian architect Marwa al-Sabouni and her ideas about how to rebuilt Syria’s cities in a responsible fashion here.
  • The Brown Political Review profiles cultural destruction here.
  • The Irish Times calls for an end to the ‘tide of cultural cleansing’ here.
  • The LA Times on October 25 looks at the reasons why Daesh destroys artefacts here.
  • The Telegraph interviews Mamoun AbdulKarim on his work to protect Syria’s cultural heritage here.
  • Al Quds discusses smuggling of Syrian objects (in Arabic) here (reprinted by Medmak).
  • La Croix discusses preparing for the reconstruction of Syria here (in French).

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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