Damage to Syria’s heritage – 30 June 2017



Damage to Syria’s Heritage

30 June 2017

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

  • We apologise for the delay in this newsletter, resulting from technical difficulties
  • We are also delighted to welcome Hameed to our volunteer team, and thank him for his hard work and time.

Updates on Damage

Omari Mosque, from video by Middle East Eye, shared on Facebook by Misc Horanih

Video footage of damage in Daraa

Drone footage damage in Daraa, starting with an overview of the historic Omari Mosque, from a video by Middle East Eye, shared on Facebook by Misc Horanih .

Damage in Aleppo

Aleppo Archaeology Facebook page shared a post depicting a picture of a damaged historic house (collapsed roof, fallen debris, etc.) from the Al-Amalji neighborhood. The picture has been credited to Mahmoud Sakeet.

The Aleppo Archaeology Facebook Page shared a post depicting a picture of a damaged stone built minaret, called the Adiliya Minaret. It seems to show a large hole in the side of the minaret’s shaft.

Resafa recovered

The Syrian Arab Army liberated the ancient site of  Resafa from ISIS: the city was known in the Roman and Byzantine era as Serigopolis. According to the DGAM, through initial assessment of the damage, some of the outer walls of the castle are destroyed by shells and clashes, and in general the technical condition of the site is good.

Damage in Al-Jazira Canton

The Authority for Tourism and Preservation of Antiquities has documented sites:

  • Derek area – Tell teldar – Tell zagat  – Tell zerin
  • Sere Kanye area – Tell Abojrada – Tell Abosoun  – Tell Arnan  – Tell Bareer  – Tell Jahash  – Tell Jamous

Appeal for site protection

The Authority for Tourism and Preservation of Antiquities issued an appeal to the relevant institutions to intervene and protect the Samaan Castle (St Simeon’s Basilica, part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Ancient Villages of Northern Syria) that has been used by various sides within the Syrian Civil War, in defiance of The Hague Convention of 1954.

Updates on Looting

The United States combats trafficking of antiquities

The USA’s House Financial Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance held a hearing on June 23 about “The Exploitation of Cultural Property: Examining Illicit Activity in the Antiquities and Art Trade.” View the webcast on the Financial Services US government website.

Missing holy rock from mosque in Aleppo

The Aleppo Archaeology Facebook Page shared a post reporting a missing rock of holy importance to the Muslim community. According to the post, the rock held a mark of Prophet Muhammad’s left hand, and it was placed in the mosque’s wall. The rock was located in a mosque in Aleppo, and its date of theft was not reported, however it was last seen in December 2016. Pictures of the rock can be seen on the page, including the a picture of the wall after its theft.

New Emergency Red List of Syrian Antiquities

According to the Medmak Syrian Archaeologist Study Center, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) issued a new Emergency Red List of 33 Syrian Antiquities. They include items stolen from Maarat al-Nu’man’s Museum and the National Museum of Damascus. The date of the report is unclear.

Kurdish security forces retrieve looted antiquities

The Authority for Tourism and Preservation of Antiquities documented and released photographs of looted antiquities (stones, pottery, and coins) that were retrieved by the Kurdish Security Forces

Intangible Heritage

Syria launches project to protect cinematic heritage

The Ministry of Culture is launching a new project to protect world and Syrian cinematic heritage.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

The Hekkaya heritage project

The Dead Cities, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a group of abandoned villages in northwest Syria, built between the first and seventh centuries. Some of the oldest surviving Byzantine churches are among the ruins. The archaeological sites are now used by displaced people for homes. Hekayya is an outreach effort supported by the Safeguarding the Heritage of Syria and Iraq Project, which aims both to protect cultural heritage and to assist these refugee communities. Read more in the Penn Cultural Heritage Center newsletter here.

New initiative to build bonds with refugee kids and Syria’s history

The Syrian Association for Preservation of Archaeology and Heritage, in cooperation with Qibaa Architectural Studio, and the Molham Team, released a video in a Facebook post revealing a new initiative this Eid Al-Fitr to produce a series of heritage-themed games for 1500 refugee kids. According to the groups involved, these games will hopefully address the lack of bonds these kids have with their country’s history and heritage. The first games to be produced will be puzzles of 8 pictures of The Umayyad Mosques in Damascus and Aleppo, with information on the country’s great historical figures.  To donate to this campaign, please click on the following link.

Preservation work in Al-Jazira Canton

The Authority for Tourism and Preservation of Antiquities, in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities in Kobani repaired damaged mosaics that were retrieved from the archaeological site of Tell Shiyukh Tahtani.

They also met with UNESCO in Beirut to discuss how to develop cooperation in protecting Syria’s cultural heritage (read more here).

Restoration in Aleppo

Reconstruction continues in Old Aleppo today – Despite the destruction of many ancient buildings, most of the old rocks have been recovered. See pictures on the @MmaGreen’s Twitter account here.

The Lebanese Newspaper al-akhbar, published an article reporting a botched restoration of a historic building in Aleppo. The building was first built in 1910 as the headquarters for the Ottoman Agricultural Bank, and since then has changed its purpose several times until its most recent use as a restaurant.

One man is now using his house as a children’s home (Video by the BBC)

Civilians create library

Civilians rescue books for a public library in Inkhil, “one of the most important ancient towns in the Houran Plain and one of it oldest inhabited cities.” Read more on the News Deeply website here.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

Human rights council holds dialogue with the commission of Inquiry on Syria

The dialogue included discussion of culture, heritage, and claims that the “deliberate destruction of historical and cultural heritage, were not being adequately documented.” Read more on the OHCHR website here.

The summary of the presentation of reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the start of the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, which the Council started on 20 June, can be found here.

New project: digital documentation project for Syria

This project aims to train Syrians in digital documentation techniques in order to digitally document heritage sites at risk. Learn more on the British Council website here.

New project: Building conservation capacity in Syria and Jordan

This is a new heritage conservation training program for Syrian refugees and Jordanians. The project will also include innovative cultural education activities with public school students and teachers in order to build awareness of the value of cultural heritage to the daily lives of local communities. Learn more on the World Monuments Fund website here.

New project: Syrian Stone Masonry 

This project will provide a group of Syrian and Jordanian trainees with traditional stonemasonry skills that can be used to repair conflict-affected heritage buildings. Learn more on the British Council website here.

Cultural protection in conflict panel discussion in London

The Victoria and Albert Museum will host a panel on “Memory & Authenticity: Cultural Protection in Conflict.” June 30, 15:30-1730. More details on the V&A website here.

New survey uses technology to assess damage to Palmyra

ICONEM starts an ambitious survey exploiting the immense visual documentation collected on the site. More than 50,000 photographs of the monuments of the ancient city, taken from the ground and with the help of drones, are the data collected by the teams of the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums of Syria and Iconem. Read more on the ICONEM Tumblr here.

Destroyed Palmyra artwork now restored

The Italian High Institute for Conservation and Restoration has reconstructed two tomb figures from Palmyra using old photographs and 3D technology. Read more on the Deutsche Welle website here.

New exhibit in USA showcases Syrian culture

The New Mexico History Museum (Santa Fe, USA) is opening a new exhibit about Syrian heritage and culture. “Partnering with Curators Without Borders, the exhibition highlights the vast collection of albumen prints, showing not only the historic sites now destroyed in Syria, but representations of its people in adjacent collections within the Photo Archives.” Syria: Cultural Patrimony Under Threat, June 23 – December 2017, 113 Lincoln Avenue, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Learn more on the NM History Museum website here.

French military uses 3D technology to document threatened heritage sites

A $1.1m grant, announced last month, supports a three-year project to widen access to this 3D data, so that it can be used by troops on the ground and scholars via their laptops anywhere to assess the condition of monuments and sites at risk.For more information see here.

Syrians celebrate heritage in international festivals

  • Syrian musician Badr Rami performs at the Mawazine Festival 2017 in Morocco and discusses the importance of musical heritage. Read more on the National website here.
  • The Evening Standard interviews Syrian choreographer Mithkal Alzghair about his art and heritage.
  • Syrians share their heritage at the DiverseCity Multicultural Street Festival hosted by the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada (P.E.I. ANC) in Charlottetown.

Training courses by heritage for all. 

Heritage for All is offering several training courses in July 2017.

Course: How to Manage your Heritage Site? 5 – 8 July 2017 (fb.com/events/700276650174173/), 19 – 22 July 2017 (fb.com/events/1396257057106974/)

Course: How to Market the Heritage Value? 12 – 15 July 2017 (fb.com/events/1819515041408952/)

Course: Social Approaches to Archaeological Heritage – Workshop. 29 July – 7 August 2017.

For more information see here.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • A video from Voice of America discusses Syria’s agricultural heritage. “Just south of Aleppo there was once a research center where Syria’s agricultural heritage was preserved with a view to helping feed the world. The seed bank may have been abandoned due to the country’s civil war, but efforts of scientists and farmers now continue.” Watch the video on the VOA website here.
  • Smartwater is an undetectable liquid that can be used to protect cultural artifacts. The SmartWater Foundation is in the news again, emphasizing their ability to protect sites from looting. Read more on the Antiquities Coalition website here.
  • New art projects at the Pratt Institute in New York examine “stories of migration, displacement, identity, family, and heritage, the events revealed some of the complexity of experiences and stories of the immigrant community,” including focus on Syria. Read more on the Pratt Institute website here.
  • The Aleppo Project publishes an article in which Dr. Kinda Alsheikh Ali paints a picture of the public park of Aleppo as it once was – its beauty as a place that brings people together, in the past and hopefully in the future.
  • A new article on the Geographical website discusses cultural heritage destruction during times of conflict. The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime.
  • The Los Angeles Times talks with a Syrian shopkeeper about his decision to return to Palmyra.
  • Charles Glass shares a remarkable story of reconstruction, tourism, and hope in Syria. Read the CG article here.
  • Syrian Following the destruction of the al-Nuri Mosque of Mosul, Al Jazeera asks “What can be done to stop cultural genocide?” Watch the 25 minute video on the Al Jazeera website here.
  • The Hindu website publishes an overview of major heritage sites that IS has destroyed, including those in Syria. Read more on the Hindu website here.
  • The Antiquities Coalition’s “Culture Under Threat” map provides an interactive view of heritage sites which have been attacked and/or are in danger now.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2017 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2017 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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