Female military personnel conclude their third day of training on “Protecting Cultural Property” at the World Heritage Site of Tyre

, Lebanon

UNESCO Beirut concludes its regional workshop on the "1954 The Hague Convention on The Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict" addressed to female military personnel, through a field visit to the World Heritage Site of Lebanon

Following a two-day training on “Protecting Cultural Property in Armed Conflict” at UNESCO Beirut where they were introduced to the 1954 Hague Convention and its Two Protocols, female military personnel concluded on 3 October 2019 the workshop at the World Heritage Site of Tyre, to get hands-on experience of the protection of cultural sites in emergency situations.

The World Heritage Site of Tyre is protected by the Antiquities Law No. 166/1933, and the Law on Protection of Cultural Property, No 37/2008. Its conservation and management is assured by the Directorate General of Antiquities (DGA). Currently, a Protection and Enhancement Plan is being prepared for this site, with the goal of ensuring an enhanced presentation of the unique vestiges and developing a new system for the protection of the property that respects the international charters. A master plan for the town has been approved. It aims to provide maximum protection to the area surrounding the property and to counter the phenomenon of urban sprawl that seriously affects the listed archaeological zone.  

In light of the unique character of this site, female military personnel who participated in UNESCO Beirut’s workshop on “Protecting Cultural Property in Armed Conflict”, were invited to conclude this workshop by an on-site visit to Tyre, where they were introduced to the historical and cultural value of the site, and trained on scenarios of conflict and how to anticipate an emergency response. In particular, participants were given a group exercise whereby they had to prepare, in a rapid and effective manner, a Situation Report and Response Plan to safeguard the World Heritage Site of Tyre in case of an attack, and submit these documents to the commander.

Hence, for three days, through lectures, experts’ presentations, field visits, and group exercises, participants acquired comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the 1954 La Haye Convention and its Two Protocols, and of the issues at stake in the protection of cultural property in situations of armed conflict.

Chuan Lin, an officer at UNIFIL, said:

“This workshop was extremely useful as it gave us knowledge in international humanitarian law, and introduced us to the legal tools and practices for the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict. We usually focus on protecting ourselves and protecting others’ lives in a war, but we are not necessarily aware of the necessity to protect not only human lives but also cultural property (monuments, buildings) that sometimes are as valuable as human lives as they carry with them the identity, history, and memory of peoples and civilizations”.

Not only the workshop gave participants knowledge about the protection of cultural property, but it also raised their awareness on cultural sensitivities.  As Maria, a military police officer at UNIFIL, explains:

“This workshop was an eye-opener: we, as foreign officers working in Lebanon, sometimes unvolutarily disregard cultural sensitivities. We focus on wars and conflicts and how to resolve them, but we do not pay attention to the local culture of the country we serve. Through this workshop, I realized that what’s important for local populations in this part of the world is not only to protect their lives, but also to protect some monuments and cultural property that is dear to their heart, that speaks about their culture and their history. And a monument that means nothing to me, can mean a lot to them. The workshop made me aware that my duty is also to protect the cultural property of these people”.

Maria added:

“I found it extremely interesting that this workshop only targeted female military personnel. In fact, women are well placed to defend cultural property. For, women are also mothers and they are interested in the future of their children. And we know that without the past, there is no present and no future. Hence the necessity to safeguard cultural artefacts that speak about our past and history. It is a way to shape the future of our kids”.

As to Major Ghada, from the Jordanian Armed Forces, she highlighted that:

“This experience was unique; I interacted with female military officers from Lebanon, Iraq, and the UNIFIL, and I learnt that I have a role in safeguarding the cultural property of our region, especially at this critical time of restlessness and conflicts”.