Damage to Syria’s Heritage – 26 April 2015



Damage to Syria’s Heritage

26 April 2015

Statement regarding information sharing and data verification

In light of the recent reports of destruction of heritage in the Middle East, and acknowledging the value of this as a propaganda tool, Heritage for Peace would like to reiterate that it is not our purpose here to verify the reports circulated and referred to in this newsletter.  Our intent has always been the collation of all available data of possible heritage destruction in order to raise awareness of the problem, and assist those who do verify such information and conduct damage assessments by providing comprehensive data, in order to aid stabilisation, damage mitigation and, future restoration and reconstruction. Considering recent debates concerning the value of unverified information, we are currently considering this position and will issue a formal statement in the next newsletter.  We welcome opinions and suggestions and can be reached at: contact@heritageforpeace.org

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.

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Main Contents

New from Heritage for Peace | Updates on Damage | Updates on Looting | Intangible Heritage | Reports and Updates from the Syrian DGAM | Policy Changes and Updates from Syria | International Activity | News Updates


New from Heritage for Peace
Heritage for Peace participates in press interviews  

HFP’s Rene Teijgeler has written an article on Gariwo.net entitled “Salvare l’arte, promuovere la pace”, which can be found here. HFP’s Esper Sabrine was interviewed for Radio Cataluny (April 17 2015) here, and by ARNDigital (April 13 2015) here. On April 14 2015, HFP participated in a Q&A at Franklin University, Switzerland, in a course entitled “Visual Culture of Disaster” and was interviewed on Cadena Ser on April 10 2015 here.

Updates on Damage
(Damage to Simeon Mountain complex.       Photo source: DGAM)

Damage in Aleppo region, Deir Ez-Zor and Idlib

  • There is continued vandalism around the church complex of St Simeon, in the countryside near Aleppo, the DGAM reports on April 18 2015 here.
  • Female Jihadists have set up a military training camp at Saint Simeon Byzantine Church in Aleppo Province. See the International Business Times article by Gianluca Mezzofiore  and Arij Limam (April 10 2015) here.
  • Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, Idlib. A photo shows the destruction of the door of a Byzantine Tomb in Shanshara. Protect Syrian Archaeology, April 18 2015.
  • Details of saving some ancient objects of Deir-Alzour/Deir El-Zor Museum by Ayman Slaiman have been shared from Eyes on Heritage (April 18 2015) here.
(Minaret from Al Omari mosque in Daraa       Photo credit: DGAM)

Damage in Daraa documented 

  • The DGAM reports that the minaret of the Al-Omari mosque in Daraa has been damaged due to a mortar strike. See details here.
  • The DGAM has issued four reports on damage in the region of Daraa including photographs. The first on April 6 2015 covers damage at Al Taiba in particular has suffered some serious vandalism here. The second on April 11 covers damage at Garz railway station, here. The third  addresses damage to the late Roman structures at al-Mataiya, here. The fourth covers illegal digging at Khirbet al-Qinah and Khirbet al-Suhb here. These can also be found on DGAM’s Facebook page here.

Damage in Bosra 

  • New footage and photos show shattered mosaics and walls at the Unesco World Heritage Site of Bosra shared in Travel Journal by Lizzie Porter (April 14 2015). These details can be found here.
  • Interview with the director of the archaeology department in Bosra was shared by Protect Syrian Archaeology (April 22 2015) here.
Updates on Looting
See International Activity section for included notes on looting.
Intangible Heritage
  • None
Reports and Updates from the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums
DGAM releases damage assessment

The DGAM has released its damages assessment for the period of January 1 2015 to March 31 2015. The assessment can be seen here:

DGAM returns to work in citadel in Bosra

The DGAM reported on April 5 2015 that their personnel have managed to return to work on the citadel in Bosra and thanked the local community for their help in protecting the archaeological sites in the area. See here for more details.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria
  • None
International Activity
UNESCO, UN organize efforts to bolster protection of heritage

  • UNESCO held a meeting with group of heritage experts to help safeguard heritage in Syria and Iraq, discussing increased information-sharing and cooperation together to enforce the February 12 UN security council resolution. Details can be found here.
  • The head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has called on the younger generation to protect world heritage, which can be found here.
  • On April 16 2015, an UN anti-crime meeting in Doha discussed ways to stop the trade in stolen goods. For details, see here.
ASOR publishes weekly reports for April

ASOR has released its 35th and 36th weekly reports from the Syrian Heritage Initiative, giving detailed analysis of the state of Syria’s heritage sites, which can be found here and here respectively.

Royal Ontario Museum hosts panel

On April 14 2015, the Royal Ontario Museum convened a panel of experts to discuss ‘Cultural Genocide in Iraq and Syria’. A discussion of the event can be found in the Globe and Mail from April 17 2015, here.

News Updates

(Not covered in other sections)

Looting and destruction of heritage in the news

    • The National Post on April 20 asks whether museum curators should buy artefacts implicated in the funding of terrorism, in an article found here.
    • On April 17 2015, the BBC discusses the call for an international response to IS’ looting here.
    • Christopher Jones on Hyperallergic (April 17, 2015) assesses the issues around any prospective international intervention against ISIS for the purpose of safeguarding culture. See the piece here.
    • CBC (April 14 2015) discusses the efforts of curators to save heritage from destruction, here.
    • BBC Arabic (April 9 2015)has published an article (Arabic) by Andrea Watts on artifacts trafficking by the Islamic State. BBC Arabic by Andrea Watts, which can be found here.
    • Julie Lowrie Henderson for PRI (April 8 2015) provides discussion about whether it is right to return artefacts to their countries of origin in times of war, here.
    • Conflict Antiquities is reporting that ‘Civilians may have been kidnapped and exchanged for arrested paramilitary antiquities looters in Syria’ (April 7 2015).


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