Destruction and Looting in Syria

AP Photo of destruction in Homs

There are increasing reports of destruction in Syria. Sites like Krak des Chavaliers, Palmyra, Elba, and historic buildings in Homs are all at risk. Government forces in some cases are shelling civilian areas—the Citadel of Al Madeeq has been shelled, with a tragic result for the site and for the inhabitants.

The AP describes the damage: “shells thudded into the walls of the 12th century al-Madeeq Citadel, raising flames and columns of smoke as regime forces battled with rebels in March. The bombardment punched holes in the walls, according to online footage of the fighting.”

There are reports of looting, including some by government forces and others. Rodrigo Martin, an archaeologist who has worked in Syria describes some of the destruction:

We have facts showing that the government is acting directly against the country’s historical heritage,. . . What we know . . . Syrian heritage has already provided a huge quantity of information, but we can safely say that the part that has not yet been studied is even bigger,. . . [the destruction] is like burning a page in the book of history of mankind.

This kind of damage, which approaches intentional destruction similar to the destruction of the Buddhas at Bamiyan will be difficult to prevent. With respect to the looting and damage being done, sadly there are not a whole lot of good options the heritage community can call for, apart from a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and renewed vigilance in the marketplace to watch out for the kinds of objects which looters may be taking from Syria.

  1. Syria’s Cultural Treasures Latest Uprising Victim, NPR.org,   May 1, 2012, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=151783292 (last visited May 3, 2012).
Questions or Comments? Email me at derek.fincham@gmail.com

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