UNESCO Condemns Vandalism of Cultural and Religious Heritage in the Old City of Tripoli

On 7 October, a group of gunmen stormed and vandalized the Karamanli Mosque, one of Tripoli’s most famous and beautiful mosques built by Ahmed Paschia in 1738. Ceramic tiles and marble decorations in the interior of the mosque were removed, and the floor completely ripped out. Days later, on 11 October, the historic Othman Pasha Madrassa, which serves the Sufi community of Tripoli, was damaged and looted by armed men. Later the same day, an attempt to vandalize the Darghout Mosque, the famous mosque dedicated to first Ottoman Governor of Tripoli, failed, thanks to local volunteers who protected the building and forced the attackers to leave.

“I firmly condemn the recent attacks on cultural and religious heritage buildings in the old city of Tripoli. Looting and illicit trafficking of cultural objects can only deepen the wounds of the Libyan society, struggling for normalcy and recovery.  I wish to commend all those citizens and volunteers who protected the Darghout Mosque," declared the Director General of UNESCO.

“These attacks cannot be seen as isolated or collateral damages. They take place in a global context of repeated and deliberate attacks against cultural heritage, in Libya and elsewhere, threatening social cohesion and fuelling violence and division within society” she added.

UNESCO urges all national and international partners to reinforce actions and vigilance in order to protect Libya’s cultural heritage in the current context of rising unrest and insecurity. 

This call is made in recognition that the historic religious buildings of the old city of Tripoli, a common heritage of all Libyans, are increasingly the deliberate target of vandalism and at risk of looting and illicit trafficking.

UNESCO is engaged with the Libyan authorities to reinforce emergency measures for cultural heritage protection. An emergency and risk preparedness training course will be implemented in the forthcoming weeks to enable the authorities to carry out rapid assessment, documentation and monitoring of heritage.