Located at the crossroads of several trade routes from the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamelukes and Ottomans. The 13th-century citadel, 12th-century Great Mosque and various 17th-century madrasas, palaces, caravanserais and hammams all form part of the city's cohesive, unique urban fabric.
- From 16 to 19 January, UNESCO led an emergency mission to Aleppo to undertake a preliminary assessment of the extent of damages at the World Heritage site of the Ancient City of Aleppo, as well as the state of educational institutions in the city. The UNESCO team reported extensive damage at the Great Umayyad Mosque, the Citadel, mosques, churches, suqs, khans, madrassas, hammams, museums and other significant historic buildings in Aleppo. According to a preliminary assessment, some 60% of the old city of Aleppo has been severely damaged, with 30% totally destroyed.
- On 18 and 19 June 2015, due to escalation of the conflicts in the Middle East and to the significant destruction of cultural heritage, a meeting was organized by World Heritage Center with a group of multidisciplinary experts to brainstorm on the issue of post-conflict reconstruction in the Middle-East context, and in the Ancient City of Aleppo in particular, at UNESCO’s Headquarters .
Conservation issues presented to the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee (Istanbul, 2016)
As a result of major escalations of armed conflict, the Ancient City of Aleppo has been severely damaged since 2013. On 11 May 2015, the State Party submitted an updated report for the property resulting from the assessment of pictures (commissioned by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and taken in April 2015 when ground access was possible) and on 5 February 2016, a state of conservation report for the six World Heritage properties in Syria, which is available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/21/documents.
The reports confirm and detail some of the damage reported in 2014 and 2015, to the Great Umayyad Mosque, Mosque al-Utrush, Madrasa al-Adiliyya, Madrasa al-Sultania, the Citadel, the New Serail (Grand Serail), the Hotel Carlton, Matbakh al-Ajami, Khan al-Shouna, Khan al-Saboun and Khan al-Wazeer as well as additional severe damages to the Maronite Church. In addition, severe damage has been reported at Khan Slaimanyeh (Haj Musa), Suq al-Haddadin, Suq al-Zarb, Suq al-Sagha, part of Suq al-Suweiqa and at Madrasa al-Shathbakhtiyya (al-Shaikh Maarouf Mosque) destroyed by underground explosions. Minor damage is reported at Aslan Dede Mosque, al-Hayaat Mosque, al-Dabagah Mosque, and Suq Qara Qumash.
In addition the State Party indicates that local communities and social media have provided additional information about severe damage caused by underground explosions to the Qasab Gate and Suq Khan al-Harir, and by clashes to the Armenian Orthodox Church in April 2015, as well as minor damage to the Museum of Folks Arts (Ajiqbash House) on 7 May 2015. Underground explosions destroyed part of the defensive wall at the Northeast side of the Citadel on 11 July 2015, and partially damaged the Citadel’s 13th century entrance as well as Khan al-Shuna on 10 November 2015.
The report finally indicates the initiatives taken by the State Party to digitize and archive existing architectural drawings for the city and monitor damages notably in cooperation with the Media Agency that accessed the site in April 2015.
In April and May 2016, heavy bombardments have been reported by the media but no details on damages to the property have been received yet.
Analysis and Conclusions by the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM (Istanbul, 2016)
The Old City of Aleppo has been, and continues to be, severely damaged owing to the armed conflict, and very large portions of the property appear to have been completely destroyed. This has resulted in a humanitarian crisis with loss of life and displacement of large sections of the community, and major destructions of the city that will need extensive reconstruction and recovery of its social and economic fabric.
Several international and national initiatives are ongoing to document the damages in Aleppo, and gather the existing archives, historical data and recent surveys and documentation, such as the Aleppo Archives initiative in Berlin.
In the face of this devastation, the World Heritage Centre has decided to publish a damage assessment report prepared on the detailed state of conservation in Aleppo – which is currently being finalized following a reflection meeting with a group of multidisciplinary experts on the issue of post-conflict reconstruction in the Middle-East, with a special focus on Aleppo, (Paris, 18-19 June 2015) to launch the reflection on recovery plans in Aleppo.
As soon as access to the property becomes possible, it is important that humanitarian and security actions be done in coordination with cultural heritage stakeholders, as much as possible, to avoid further irreversible damages to the property, and allow the undertaking of first-aid measures on its cultural heritage.
For more information and the general decisions on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic (from 2013 till present), please check the following link: http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3345.