Heritage at Risk in Syria


Syria, at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, boasts tens of thousands of sites of archaeological interest, from the ruins of our earliest civilizations to Crusader-era fortifications and wonders of Islamic worship and art. Since March 2011, Syria’s exceptional cultural richness has suffered as a result of the on-going conflict. Many of its important monuments, including those on the UNESCO World Heritage List, have been severely damaged due to the conflict, many museums and archaeological sites have been looted by organized groups intent on illicitly exporting rare artefacts to be sold on the international art market.

Satellite images of treasured historical sites show the soil so completely pocked by holes, the result of thousands of illicit excavations, that it resembles the surface of the moon—destruction and looting, as Unesco Director General Irina Bokova put it, on “an industrial scale.”

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