Syr­ian her­itage a vic­tim of ongo­ing con­flict

The minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, one of Syria’s most famous land­marks, was destroyed last week dur­ing clashes between rebels and gov­ern­ment forces.

The mosque is con­sid­ered the largest and one of the old­est in Aleppo. It was built at the begin­ning of the eighth cen­tury, with the minaret crown­ing the build­ing in 1090.


In Sep­tem­ber 2012, Aleppo’s ancient souk, parts of which date back to the 14th cen­tury, was par­tially destroyed by a fire set by régime forces to intim­i­date pro­test­ers and rebels in the city.

Irina Bokova, director-​general of the U.N. Edu­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Orga­ni­za­tion, has expressed “deep con­cern about the dra­matic human­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in Syria and the threats to the out­stand­ing cul­tural her­itage of the coun­try, which bear tes­ti­mony to its his­tory and to its cul­tural identity.”

The UNESCO chief has reminded all par­ties of their oblig­a­tions under the 1954 Hague Con­ven­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of Cul­tural Prop­erty in the Event of Armed Con­flict, to which Syria is a sig­na­tory.

Aleppo is not the only UNESCO world her­itage site in Syria to have suf­fered dam­aged since the rev­o­lu­tion against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad’s régime started in 2011. The ancient cities of Bosra and Palmyra, as well as vil­lages in north­ern Syria, have all been affected.

Info graphic: Syr­ian her­itage under threat (Design by Farwa Rizwan /​Al Ara­biya English)

So far, only the ancient city of Dam­as­cus and the cas­tle of Salah al-​Din remain safe, but their future remains uncer­tain as the con­flict rages on.

The Tem­ple of Bel is a stone ruin in Palmyra that formed the cen­ter of reli­gious life in the old city, and was ded­i­cated in 32 AD. Its ruins are con­sid­ered the “best pre­served” in Palmyra. The tem­ple was shelled dur­ing gov­ern­ment attempts to stop protests.

On the out­skirts of Homs, the Crac des Cheva­liers, once one of the most impor­tant pre­served cru­sader cas­tles in the world, is now scarred by shells and bul­let marks.

It is not only UNESCO sites that have been dam­aged. Homs is the site of the Saint Mary Church of the Holy Belt, dat­ing back to 50 AD. It was used as a shield by rebels from 2011 to 2012, and was exten­sively dam­aged dur­ing fight­ing with gov­ern­ment forces.

Fear of los­ing more of Syria’s her­itage trea­sures is increas­ing as the con­flict rages on. Clashes are encroach­ing on Dam­as­cus, one of the old­est con­tin­u­ously inhab­ited cities in the world, and listed as a UNESCO world her­itage site since 1979.

Source: Alara­biya

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