Damage to Syria’s heritage – 26 August 2015


Damage to Syria’s Heritage
26 August 2015 
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, availbale here.

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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 People | Policy Changes and Updates from Syria | International Activity | News Updates


New from Heritage for Peace
  • None
Updates on Damage
(Marc Deville/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images. Photo source: The Guardian)

Heritage worker executed by ISIS

Khaled al-Assad, the prominent archaeologist and old former Director of Palmyra Antiquities, was murdered on August 18 2015, by Islamic State militants. Quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Director of the DGAM, the BBC reports that “Mr Asaad had been beheaded on Tuesday at a square outside the museum in the modern town next to the ruins…His body was then hung from one of the Graeco-Roman columns.” Note that the New York Times report states that he was hung from a traffic light (below). Numerous sources, such as the New York Times, quoting Syrian sources, suggest that Khaled al-Assad was killed because he refused to give up the locations of Palmyrene artefacts that had been hidden away for safekeeping, but these reports cannot be verified. (See also the report from the DGAM.)


The DGAM held a tribute to Khaled al-Assad at the National Museum in Damascus on August 23, 2015.


For further coverage, see:

The Oriental Institute released a statement on Khaled al-Assad’s death on August 19 2015

In Counterpunch, Franklin Lamb discusses the deaths of Khaled al-Assad and Qassim Abdullah Yehya, whose death was reported in our last newsletter, calling them heroes.

(Temple of Baalshamin, Palymra. Photo source: Elizabeth Roberts via BBC News)


On August 24 2015 the DGAM reported that Palmyra’s famous Baalshamin temple has been destroyed by IS militants. On Tuesday August 25 The Independent shows images of the temple being blown up [Accessed August 25 2015]

(Destruction of the temple.  Photo source: ISIS, via The Independent)

There is some disagreement about when this event took place, with some claiming August 23 2015, others as long ago as one month. The most recent estimate places the destruction of the temple “Sunday, August 23, 2015 shortly after 4pm.” UNESCO has branded this event a war crime.

In addition, Palmyra News Updates reports damage from air strikes on August 17 2015, which have caused additional damage to the site of Palmyra.

Damage to Aleppo

  • A new video shows the damage in different parts of the Ancient City of Aleppo, by Aleppo Archaeology August 13 2015
  • Photos show the damage to Naser Street in Ancient Aleppo, by Aleppo Archaeology, August 21 2015
  • A video by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology shows damage to Nour Eddin/Nour Alddin Mousque in the Ancient City of Aleppo, published August 23 2015.
  • They have also shared Halab News’ photos of damage to old houses in Al-Bayada on 25 August, available here.

Damage to Other Sites

  • The DGAM further reports on August 21 2015 that the fifth century Mar Elian Monastery in Al-Qaratayn near Homs has been destroyed by ISIS, using bulldozers and other heavy machinery.  The action was condemned by UNESCO.

    The Daily Express, on 21 August 2015, also covered the story suggesting as well that the abbot, Fr. Jacques Mouraud, and other personnel had been abducted, the saint’s relics desecrated, and Roman frescoes at the site destroyed. According to THONLINE.COM, they also removed the bells first. However, that article also suggests that the people were abducted, but not killed.

  • On August 18 2015 the DGAM reported that Roman sites at Jmarein village near Daraa had been damaged in fighting.
  • Recent photos of Raqqa – Ar Rasafah have been published by ISIS, and shared by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology on 23 August 2015.
  • The DGAM reports on August 24 2015 that further damage has taken place around Qala’at Simeon in NW Syria, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria.
Updates on Looting

Illegal looting in Idlib

A video by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology shows damage to the site of Tell Adeh from illegal excavations, August 23 2015.

Intangible Heritage

Syria’s Christian heritage threatened

Franklin Lamb in Counterpunch on August 7 2015 writes about Syrian Christians protecting their religious heritage.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People
DGAM collects items for safekeeping

PBS Newshour, August 19 2015, reported on the work of the DGAM to save Syria’s heritage – thousands of priceless relics are being gathered in the capital of Syria.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria
  • None
International Activity

UNESCO visits Damascus

On August 14 2015 members of the UNESCO project Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Heritage visited Damascus.

Reports from international organisations available

The Antiquities Coalition has posted numerous videos from its series “Culture and Threat: Terrorism and Profiteering”.

The most recent report from ASOR’s Syrian Heritage team is available here.

Honour for Syrian heritage heroes

The petition site Change.org is lobbying UNESCO to honour Khaled al-Assad. For details click here.

If you do sign, and can add a comment, remember the many other Syrians who have died protecting their heritage.  Khalad al-Assad is by no means the first member of the DGAM, or the first Syrian volunteer, to die for protecting their heritage. Others have been threatened and paid the price, (e.g. “In Syria, Yahya Ibrahim guarded Bosra’s ancient ruins, one of the world’s best-preserved Roman amphitheaters. In January, armed militants broke into his office and demanded he not go to work. They shot and killed him when he refused.” (Vice News) or Ms. Huda Al-Hamoud, hijacked and killed (DGAM Report).) Many others have simply died just for daring to leave their houses and go to work, even when it’s dangerous. A great number of men an and women in Syria – and elsewhere – are taking amazing risks to protect their heritage: they all deserve to be honoured.


News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

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