Damage to Syria’s heritage – 22 August 2016


Damage to Syria’s Heritage

22 August 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

  • None

Updates on Damage

Photo copyright: Yahia al-Rajou

Most of Aleppo Old City square is destroyed

Syria Direct on August 4 reports that 80% of the Old City’s Bezze Square is in ruins here.

In further damage to Aleppo, the Waraqa cultural centre meant to preserve Aleppo’s heritage was apparently destroyed – photos here.

Photo source: DGAM

Severe damage from Daesh in Hasakah region

  • The Washington Post reports on August 9, citing Agence France-Presse sources, that following the defeat of Daesh near Hasakah, it has been discovered that “more than 40 percent of Tal Ajaja was destroyed or ravaged” by Daesh’s fighters. See the full article here, and a summary from Gulf News here
  • The DGAM reports on a field mission to the Hasakeh region on August 11, assessing damage to numerous sites in the area here.

ASOR weekly report July 6 – 19

ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives has released its weekly report 101-2 (July 6-July 19, 2016) here. Key points from this report:

  • New photographs from Fallujah, al-Anbar Governorate reveal damage to three mosques (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0019 UPDATE).

  • Members of the Popular Mobilization Forces are accused of damaging at least six mosques in Fallujah following the recapture of the city from ISIL militants (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0022).

  • ISIL militants allegedly attacked the Mausoleum of Sayyid Muhammad bin Ali al-Hadi in Balad, Salah ad Din Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report IHI 16-0023).

  • Unknown attackers firebombed and vandalized Mar Sharbel Syrian Orthodox Church in al-Hasakah Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0010).

  • New video footage shows damage to al-Bara bin Malek Mosque in Hreitan, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0071 UPDATE).

  • New video footage shows damage to Abu Bakr al-Sideiq Mosque in Hreitan, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0082 UPDATE).

  • New video footage has emerged of damage to Khaled bin al-Walid Mosque in Hreitan, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0092 UPDATE).

  • New videos and photographs of damage to four mosques in Hreitan have been published on Youtube and Instagram (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0102).

  • Alleged SARG airstrikes damaged al-Musafir Mosque in Ghernata, Homs Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0103).

  • At least eight mosques in Manbij were damaged between January 2014 and July 2016, allegedly by ISIL militants, Syrian Democratic Forces, and US-led coalition airstrikes (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0104).

  • The National Museum of Aleppo was severely damaged by shelling (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0105).

  • Alleged SARG airstrikes damaged Omar bin al-Khattab Mosque in Deir ez Zor Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0106).

  • The DGAM discovered several large looting tunnels at Tell Taban in al-Hasakah Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0107).

  • Alleged Russian airstrikes damaged a cemetery and Abu Bakr al-Sidiq Mosque in Kafr Hamra, Aleppo Governorate (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0108).

  • Alleged SARG and Russian shelling damaged four mosques in the city of Aleppo (ASOR CHI Incident Report SHI 16-0109).

Updates on Looting

Policy Reports on Syrian looting

  • The International Affairs Review published an article by John Pipkins entitled “ISIL and the Illicit Antiquities Trade”, which can be found here.
  • The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre has looked at revenue for Opposition groups in Syria, including a section on looting, here. However, they admit there is little evidence for their figures. (NB – not a new report, but one we’ve only just come across, May 2015)

Intangible Heritage

  • None

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

DGAM gives update on World Heritage Site conservation

The DGAM has issued an upbeat and detailed update on conservation efforts at Syria’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites here, and a summary of the UNESCO decision regarding the World Heritage Sites from the recent 2016 World Heritage Committee meeting (see International actions).

Syrians work to rebuild

Franklin Lamb examines efforts by Syrians to rebuild their damaged heritage in CounterPunch on August 15 2016 here.

DGAM gives honors to scholars

  • The DGAM has honoured Professor Dr. Balaz Major of the Syro-Hungarian mission at al-Marqab with the DGAM Shield in recognition of his efforts and those of the combined research team on August 9 2016. See the brief here.
  • The DGAM has honoured the French engineer Yves Ubelmann with the DGAM shield, in recognition of his support of the DGAM’s mission. The ceremony took place in July. See the report here.

DGAM cooperates with Hungary in heritage preservation 

  • The DGAM reports the end of the 2016 Syro-Hungarian season at al-Marqab here.
  • The DGAM took part in an international conference in Hungary, beginning on August 7, addressing cultural heritage protection and 3D documentation methods. See more information here.

DGAM working to protect heritage in Damascus

  • The DGAM reports on August 10 that the heavily damaged statue of Al-Lat from Palmyra has been moved to the Damascus Museum. See more here.
  • The DGAM has begun a project to document the old city of Damascus using drones. See details here.

DGAM working to protect heritage in Aleppo

The Antiquities Directorate of Aleppo inspected the damage at both Beit Ghazaleh & Beit Ashiqbash, reported here.

DGAM working to protect heritage in Idlib

The Antiquities Directorate of Idlib have issued a report on the current status of archaeological sites in the region here.

Qamishli museum keeps its doors open

Report on the Kurdish museum in Qamishli/Qamishlo, created during the current conflict, here.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

UNESCO declaration concerning World Heritage Sites in Syria

The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has published a declaration concerning the World Heritage sites in Syria. Among other things, it commends the efforts of heritage workers in Syria to protect these sites, calls for comprehensive recording of damage incurred, and appeals for funds to help safeguard these sites. See a summary here.

US Government posits new initiatives to protect heritage

  • On August 17 2016 the US Department of State announced that it had imposed emergency restrictions on the import of “archaeological and ethnological” material from Syria. These “restrictions are intended to reduce the incentive for pillage to better preserve Syria’s cultural heritage and to combat profiting from the sale of these artifacts by terrorists and criminal organizations.” For details, see here.
  • The US Department of State and its partners have opened a competition for the “Safeguarding the Heritage of the Near East Initiative Collaborative Services Award.” **DEADLINE IS SEPT 2** See more information here.

ASOR CHI is aiding the restoration of Bosra

ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiatives is now working with Syrians on restoration at Bosra. See the report here.

The Smithsonian fights to protect Syrian heritage 

On August 19 the Washington Post reports on recent activities by the Smithsonian and others in protecting Syrian and Iraqi artifacts. See the full article here.

CyArk continues training for digital heritage preservation

CyArk provides an update on training conducted for digital preservation of cultural heritage in Syria. See more information on their website here.

Free handbook on Law, Cultural Heritage and International Trade

Free Download Handbook on the Law of Cultural Heritage and International Trade here

Tribute to Khalad al-Assad, one year on

ICOMOS pays tribute to murdered archaeologist  Khalad al-Assad one year on here.

Photos of Roman Syria made available to the public

Professor Nigel Pollard has made his photographs of Roman Syria available for non-commercial use, with appropriate credit. See them here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • The British Council’s Stephen Stenning discusses the importance of protecting cultural heritage on August 1, 2016, here.
  • Analysis of the role and shortcomings of UNESCO World Heritage in Iraq and Syria in The International Scope, here.
  • Al-Monitor reports on ” ‘Un-Islamic’ cultural heritage in jihadists’ crosshairs” on 22 August, here.

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