On 25 March, as armed conflict has escalated in Bosra, Syria, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Irina Bokova, called on all parties involved to act for the protection of the city’s invaluable cultural heritage. According to reports, parts of the World Heritage site of Bosra have been damaged by fighting.
"I call on all parties to act for the protection of Bosra’s unique cultural heritage and appeal to all to refrain from any military use or targeting of cultural heritage sites and monuments, in respect of international obligations," said Ms. Bokova.
The World Heritage site of the Ancient City of Bosra, once the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, was an important stopover on the ancient caravan route to Mecca. A magnificent 2nd-century Roman theatre, early Christian ruins and several mosques, are found within its great walls.
"It is imperative to avoid exposing Syria’s cultural heritage, including World Heritage, to further destruction or damage," said Irina Bokova. “World Heritage represents the shared memory of humanity and must be given protection and respected by all parties in a conflict”.
Many of Syria’s World Heritage properties have been the target of military operations in the course of the current conflict, including the archaeological site of Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers, and Aleppo.
This has led to substantial damage, in violation of the provisions of the 1954 UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural property in the Event of Armed Conflict, to which the State of Syria is a signatory, as well as to customary international humanitarian law.
The UN Security Council, in its resolution 2139 (2014), had explicitly called on all parties to take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites.