UNESCO warns Syrian heritage sites endangered
PHNOM PENH - Agence France-Presse
The pictures show the minaret of Aleppo’s ancient Umayyad mosque.UNESCO on June 20 added six ancient sites in Syria including a fortress of Saladin and a Crusader castle to the endangered World Heritage list, warning that more than two years of civil war had inflicted heavy damage.
“Due to the armed conflict situation in Syria, the conditions are no longer present to ensure the conservation and protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the six World Heritage properties,” UNESCO said.
Syria has six World Heritage Sites: the ancient cities of Damascus, Bosra and Aleppo, the oasis of Palmyra, the castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din, which counts as one site, and the ancient villages of northern Syria. All six were placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee at its annual meeting in Phnom Penh.
“The decision is meant to rally support for the safeguarding of the sites,” UNESCO spokesman Roni Amelan told AFP.
Members also supported a French proposal calling for a special fund to help conserve World Heritage properties in Syria.
Experts say fierce fighting and deteriorating security have left the country’s extraordinary archaeological heritage susceptible to damage and looting.
Most brutal destruction
UNESCO said its information on the scale of the destruction was “partial” and came from unverified sources including social media and a report from Syrian authorities which it said “does not necessarily reflect the actual situation”. Aleppo’s old city, in particular, has “witnessed some of the conflict’s most brutal destruction,” it said, adding that the old citadel had been “caught in the line of fire”.
In April, the minaret of Aleppo’s ancient Umayyad mosque, originally built in the 8th century and then rebuilt in the 13th century, was totally destroyed.
“The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated,” UNESCO said.
In February, at least 18 ancient mosaics depicting scenes from Homer’s “The Odyssey” were stolen during illegal excavations on archaeological sites in the war-torn country’s northeast, the country’s culture minister said at the time.