Damage to Syria’s Heritage – 31 July 2019

Damage to Syria’s Heritage

31 July 2019

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

H4P attends World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku

Heritage for Peace and its partner CSIC-IMF, a member of the networking World Heritage Watch, were invited to participate in the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as observers.

Before the World Heritage Committee, Heritage for Peace attended a conference on the role of NGOs in the world heritage sites which was organized by World Heritage World (more information is available on the conference website).

H4P participates in Syrian-Iraqi meeting

In Baku, H4P participated in a meeting organized by the Minister of Culture of Iraq, Dr. Abdalamir Alhmdani and Dr. Mahmoud Hamoud, the Director-General of the Syrian DGAM. This meeting aimed to coordinate the efforts between Syria and Iraq in issues related to the protection of cultural heritage in both countries. Isber Sabrine, the Chair of Heritage for Peace, presented a new project for  empowering civil society in the protection of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, which is lead by CSIC-IMF in partnership with H4P: “The protection of heritage in places of conflict through digital tools: the role of civil society“. This project is a good example of fostering collaboration between Syria and Iraq on cultural heritage protection.

Heritage for Peace attends World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku
Heritage for Peace attends World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku
Heritage for Peace attends World Heritage Committee Meeting in Baku

Updates on Damage

  • None

Updates on Looting

Looting reported in Ifreen, Aleppo and Palmyra

The Heritage & Culture of Syria Facebook page published photos alleging that that looting of Syrian archaeological sites is occurring around Afrin / Ifreen. This was also reported by the DGAM.

The Syrian Observer alleges that militias are looting antiquities from Aleppo and Palmyra.

Antiquities seized in Homs Province

Sputnik News reports that Syrian authorities seized a collection of antiquities in the city of Al-Rastan, Homs Province. It is believed these antiquities were to be smuggled out of the country. For more information about this incident you can read the full article on Sputnik News.

Archaeologist posts updates on damage to Syrian sites

Archaeologist Ristem Ebdo publsihed photos and an update on damage Tel Mambaqa. To see the photos and read the update you can go to the archaeologist Ristem Ebdo’s Facebook page or his Twitter

Intangible Heritage

Facebook used to share Syrian stories

The Syrian Heritage Archive Facebook page published an interview about the old tramway in Aleppo (1929-1969) and invited audiences to share similar stories with the hashtag #TellaStorySyria. If you want to learn more you can see the Facebook post detailing the project, with Narratives of Syrian Heritage.

Thousands of Aleppians are using a Facebook group to share their way of life before the Syrian war, according to the Guardian.

Syrian musical heritage performance

The Syria Heritage التراث السوري Facebook page published song clips of Syrian musical heritage. To listen to these clips go to the  التراث السوري” Facebook page.

The National reported on the Sultans of Tarab musician group, which performs traditional Syrian music.

International support for project developing livelihoods through cultural heritage

Royal News reports that the European Union, UNESCO, and partners gathered recently to honor the “Support to livelihoods through cultural heritage development” project, supported by the EU Regional Trust Fund and EU ‘Madad’ Fund in response to the conflict in Syria.

Syrian craftmen preserve traditional crafts in Damascus

Xinhuanet reported on the Orient House, an ancient house in the al-Midan neighborhood of Damascus, where craftsmen are preserving the heritage and cultural crafts of Syria in order to maintain traditional crafts and teach them to new generations.

Traditional farming hurt by conflict

Al-Monitor reported on the damage to traditional farmers in the Idlib countryside, where families that have cultivated the land for generations face challenges.

Reports and Updates from the Syrian People

UNESCO to consider removing Old Damascus from list of endangered heritage

The DGAM and the Syria Times reported that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has agreed to consider the possibility of removing  The Ancient City of Damascus from the list of World Heritage in Danger during the next Committee Meeting.

On the sidelines of the conference, the World Heritage Center organized an event on ancient Aleppo, entitled “Planning for the reconstruction and recovery of World Heritage Sites” with the Old City of Aleppo as a case study, in which the Director of the World Heritage Sites in Syria, Lina Qatifan, presented the plan of the Directorate of Antiquities for Reconstruction and Recovery in Old Aleppo, in cooperation with the Aga Khan Development Foundation. The plan includes short-, medium- and long-term plans and budgets required for reconstruction, as well as a study of a new administrative structure that will lead the reconstruction process flexibly, with the authority to achieve the objectives set within the specified timetable.

Syrian market on World Heritage list restored

According to Urdu Point, Syrian authorities report that the Al Saktyya market in Aleppo, which is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, has been fully restored. However, the DGAM apologise that the opening of the souq has been delayed. Bruno Deslandes has publicly shared photos on Facebook of the restoration work and the 3D scanning undertaken as part of that.

Restoration of the Raqqa Walls  

The Directorate of Antiquities in Al Raqqa has begun the restoration of the damaged parts in the southern area of the ancient wall of Al-Raqqa. The wall of Al-Raqqa suffered extensive damage and destruction as a result of the war.

Maintenance and preservation of mosaic paintings from Al-Sheuok Tahtani site

The Directorate of Antiquities in Culture Authority in self-management in Al-Jazira province, in coordination with the Culture Authority in Northern and Eastern Syria, on Wednesday began procedures for the maintenance and preservation of a group of painted mosaics.

The paintings were recovered from the site Al-Sheuok Tahtani by international experts during a rescue campaign. The site was subjected to secret excavations and bulldozing by Daesh during their period of control.

The paintings were supervised and maintained by a group of archaeology specialists in the field and under the supervision of international experts. The Directorate of Antiquities in Al-Forat province had carried out emergency repairs to these paintings earlier.

The reconstruction of the mission house of Tel Beydar 

The Directorate of Antiquities in Culture Authority in Al-Jazeera recently began the last phase of the reconstruction of the mission house of Tel Beydar, which was damaged by weather.

Policy Changes and Updates from Syria

  • None

International Activity

ALIPH funds Syrian cultural heritage projects

ALIPH (International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas) reports that they will support virtual reconstruction of the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra and rehabilitation of the Raqqa Museum.

New Research

The latest issue of the International Review of the Red Cross has devoted a special issue to the conflict in Syria, including its cultural heritage damage. You can download individual articles or the full report on their website.

Prompted by concerns of documenting damage to cultural heritage sites in Syria, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has issued guidelines for scientists, volunteers and others for gathering location-based data and protecting the privacy and safety of human subjects. Available in PDF format on the AAAS website.

The Aleppo Project has published a paper on the “Circassian Heritage in Syria within the Context of Multiple Displacements” (available as a pdf on their website). Architect Dima Meiqari investigates how war and forced displacement affected the vernacular and cultural practices of Circassians in Syria, in the realm of the built environment. Presented at the 4th LemkinReunion, Shattuck Center, CEU SPP, 2018.

The Aleppo Project published about the research of Sawsan Abou Zainedin and Hani Fakhani, who examine how Syrian authorities have affected the built environment in Syria in order to realise and sustain political achievements. The research was presented at the keynote session of the 5th Lemkin Reunion in March 2019. PDF download available.

RASHID researcher Dr Mónica Palmero Fernández recently contributed a blog post to the AHRC-funded project ‘Heritage in War‘, framing the history of the term cultural heritage, its value and protection within international law, and how to protect and enhance cultural heritage at times of conflict and as part of processes to build sustainable, inclusive peace.

Professor Abdelkarim leads workshop on cultural heritage risk management 

UNESCO reports that Professor Maamoun Abdelkarim, former Director of Antiquities in Syria, led the “Workshop on General Principles of Risk Management for Cultural Sites and Museums” held earlier this year in Khartoum, Sudan.

International symposium on cultural devastation during conflict

The Imperial War Museum will host the “Culture Under Attack” Symposium in London, gathering journalists, heritage professionals and policy-makers to discuss cultural devastation during conflict. 7 September 2019 – registration open now.

Syrian cultural heritage in museum exhibitions

The Syria Times reports that Syrian antiquities are currently on display at the National Museum of China in Beijing “Splendor of Asia” exhibition.

AP News reports that London’s Imperial War Museum exhibition “What Remains” includes the story of Palmyra and Khaled al-Asaad.

USA Today reports that the “Leaving, Never to Return” exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv includes artifacts from Jewish communities in Syria.

Inland Empires reported on the “Time Tour: Explore a Mysterious Oasis in Syria” exhibit at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art (RAFFMA) at Cal State San Bernardino. The event accompanies the exhibition “Voices of Ancient Palmyra Resounded”, currently on display at RAFFMA.

The National discusses a new solo exhibition of Syrian-born artist Simone Fattal, who draws on her heritage to connect past and present through art. “Works and Days” exhibition, Moma PS1 in New York through September 2.

Citing threats to Syrian cultural sites, the Museums + Heritage Advisor website writes that Europeana, the European Union’s digital platform for cultural heritage, has launched an online exhibition to explore threats to cultural heritage across the world.

Armenian documentary on damage in Palmyra

SANA reports that a team from the Armenian state television is filming a documentary on damage in Palmyra.

News Updates
(Not covered in other sections)

  • OZY reported about the growing global pushback against selling antiquities of question provenance, noting the difficulty of tracing ownership and sales for pieces acquired from countries such as Syria.
  • The Bosra Press Facebook page posted a video with aerial footage of Bosra.
  • No new information, but the Bellingcat website published a comprehensive overview of desecration and destruction of cultural sites in Afrin.
  • CBC news interviewed Andrew Nelson, a professor of archeology at Western University, about the illegal international market for ancient artifacts.
  • According to Xinhuanet, Culture Minister Mohammad al-Ahmad said on Friday that the conflict in Syria has targeted the cultural heritage and history, and discussed plans to rebuild the buildings and culture.
  • Vestnik Kavkaza interviewed Lina Qutiefan, director of the Syrian branch of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
  • ASEMUS reports that UNESCO recently hosted two major meetings related to the fight against trafficking of cultural property and the restitution of stolen artefacts.
  • The “Syria Heritage التراث السوري” Facebook page published a historical photo identified as Safita Tower.
  • Arab News published an op-ed arguing that Western countries must return antiquities to countries including Syria and Iraq.
  • RT News published before-and-after photos of damage in Aleppo.
  • Prensa Latina reported that Mahmoud Hammoud, Director of Antiquities and Museums, has denounced the theft of antiquities and coins from museums in Raqqa, Idleb, and Basra. The full story is on the Prensa Latina website.
  • Al-Jazeera interviewed a Syrian lady in Qamishli who has been collecting and preserving Syrian folklore and objects since she was 20 years old (in Arabic).
  • ArchDaily report on the The Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo: from Historic Islamic Monument to War Battlefield.

This mailing list was produced by Dr Emma Cunliffe, in association with Heritage for Peace
Copyright © 2019 Heritage for Peace, All rights reserved.

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