State of Conservation (SOC)
Ancient City of Damascus
Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger
Threats for Which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger
Destruction and ascertained as well as potential threats consequent to the armed conflict in Syria started in March 2011
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
10,000 USD from the Italian Funds-in-Trust.
Total amount provided to the six Syrian World Heritage properties:
2.46 million Euros by the European Union (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage)
200000 USD by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain
170000 USD by the Flemish Government
International Assistance granted to the property
Requests Approved: 0
Total Amount Ap proved: 156,050USD
|2001||Photo exhibition on Syrian cultural heritage||1,250 USD|
|1998|| Conservation Project for the Ancient City of Damascus (NOT ...
Reapproval: 29 Mar, 2000 (n°1286 - 30,000 USD)
|1998|| Conservation project for Tekiya Suleymaniah in the Ancient City ...
Reapproval: 08 Jan, 1999 (n°1063 - 18,000 USD)
|1994||Equipment for the restoration of the Citadel of Damascus||19,500 USD|
|1993||Financial contribution to the consolidation works in the Ancient ...||19,500 USD|
|1981||Conservation work in the City of Damascus||67,800 USD|
March and December 2007: World Heritage Centre missions for the King Faisal Street project; April 2008: Joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission.
Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, the security situation has not allowed any missions to be undertaken to the Syrian World Heritage properties.
|2008||Joint UNESCO/ICOMOS monitoring mission, Ancient City of Damascus, 23 – 29 April 2008|
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Poor state of conservation;
- Inappropriate restoration techniques;
- Lack of a buffer zone;
- Lack of a management plan.
- Development projects threatening the significant historic fabric.
Current conservation issues
On 28 January 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report of all cultural heritage sites in Syria including the six World Heritage properties, available at: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/documents. The report indicates that mortar shelling damaged the western facade of Umayyad Mosque, the western facade of the Citadel’s eastern gate, the northern wall of its Royal Hall, and the facade of the Great Madrasa Al-Adliya. The State Party also notes that targeted explosions and/or bombing have damaged several historic buildings including the Maryamieh Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Bab Tuma, and the Armenian Orthodox Church in Bab Sharqi. It further reports on the fire that damaged several structures in the districts of Sarouja and Qanawat. The Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) has already restored the damaged Byzantine mosaic of the Omayyad Mosque’s western facade.
Media have reported heavy shelling in the Midan historical district, but no detailed information is available at this stage to ascertain extent of damaged caused. This information has yet to be confirmed by the State Party.
Following the request of the DGAM, the World Heritage Centre organised on 19 December 2013 an emergency meeting with ICOMOS, ICCROM and Interpol to discuss the planning and implementation of immediate preventive measures, by the DGAM and the Municipality Directorate for the Old City of Damascus (Maktab Anbar), in light of the possible escalation of armed conflict in the area of the Old City of Damascus. The identified technical recommendations and risk mitigation measures focused on safeguarding heritage in times of conflict. they included the rehabilitation of existing shelters, infrastructural networks, fire prevention and firefighting, securing archival materials and valuable movable items, protecting decorative elements and heavy movable items in situ, blocking access to minarets or belfries and awareness raising initiatives, among others.
Analysis and Conclusion
General Decision on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic
Current conservation issues
The armed conflict in Syria started in March 2011 and has constantly escalated leading to significant violence and degradation of humanitarian conditions. Since the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2013, the destruction of Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has risen significantly and has continued to affect all six inscribed properties as well as the twelve sites inscribed on the Tentative List.
The State Party has sent two letters to the Director-General of UNESCO, dated 4 December 2013 and 6 March 2014, to express the concern of the Syrian authorities about the destruction of cultural heritage and requesting UNESCO’s assistance. The UNESCO Director-General has issued several appeals calling on all parties to the conflict to stop the destruction of cultural heritage and to refrain from using cultural heritage sites for military purposes. She also requested the countries bordering Syria to reinforce the fight against the illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property and wrote to the members of the UN Security Council ahead of the Geneva 2 conference in January 2014 to plead for the protection of Syrian heritage and for an international ban on trade in Syrian cultural objects. She reiterated this again in February 2014 to draw attention to the danger of the use of cultural heritage sites for military purposes in Syria, in respect of international obligations of all parties involved in the conflict, notably the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of Armed Conflict, and in consistency with customary international humanitarian law. On 12 March 2014, the Director-General also issued a joint statement with the UN Secretary-General, and the UN and Arab League Special Representative on the situation of cultural heritage in Syria.
These efforts have led to a greater awareness of the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria at the level of the United Nations and to the adoption of resolution 2139 by the Security Council on 22 February 2014, which “calls on all the parties to immediately […] save Syria’s rich societal mosaic and cultural heritage, and take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites”.
On 28 January 2014, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report of all cultural heritage sites in Syria including the six World Heritage properties; available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/38COM/documents.
This report represents an official statement from the Syrian authorities and collates available information from the branches of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and from social media. However, it notes that ground access in Syria is extremely limited for heritage experts, and the full extent of the damage to World Heritage properties cannot be assessed in detail at this time. Therefore, the report does not provide first-hand information on several sites, in particular the Old City of Aleppo and the Ancient City of Bosra, to be able to gauge the extent of damage to the properties. For the preparation of the state of conservation reports, additional information was sought from civil society organisations, international organisations, local experts and the media to supplement official data.
The State Party highlighted the destruction and identified damages at the World Heritage properties due to their use for military purposes and as military training areas, and from direct shelling, targeted explosions, extensive illicit excavations, intentional destruction, construction violations, and temporary human occupation. The report also stresses the positive role of local communities to safeguard heritage and fight illegal excavations. It stresses the day-to-day work carried out by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, within the existing limitations, to assess the damage, monitor the World Heritage properties and undertake emergency conservation and risk mitigation actions whenever possible.
Actions implemented by the Advisory Bodies and UNESCO
Since the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee (Phnom Penh, 2013), UNESCO has intensified its activities to monitor the situation of Syrian heritage, raise awareness on its protection, and undertake emergency actions to safeguard it. On 29 August 2013, the UNESCO Director-General convened a high-level technical meeting with the participation of the UN and Arab League Joint Special Representative, the Director-General of the DGAM, ICOMOS, ICCROM, ICOM, Interpol, the World Customs Organisation and the European Union, where an Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage was adopted. Based on this Action Plan, UNESCO elaborated a project entitled “Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage”.
Following Decision 37 COM 7B.57, which requested the Director-General of UNESCO to consider the creation of a Special Fund aimed at the conservation of the World Heritage properties in Syria, the World Heritage Centre successfully raised funds for the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage, including:
- the European Union-funded “Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage” project (2.46 million Euros). Started on 1 March 2014 for a duration of 3 years, the project, which is implemented in partnership with ICOMOS and ICCROM, addresses the safeguarding of built, movable and intangible heritage, through awareness-raising, monitoring and damage assessment, capacity building and technical assistance;
- the Flemish Government-funded project for the organisation of an International Experts Meeting on Syria and for Emergency Assistance Measures (170 000 USD); and
- the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage (Category 2 centre under the auspices of UNESCO) financial support to the World Heritage Centre for the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage (200 000 USD). Taking into account the experience of the Special Fund for Mali, it was concluded that earmarked projects provided more chances for successful fundraising than the establishment of a Special Fund.
The World Heritage Centre has maintained regular communication with the DGAM and heritage specialists throughout Syria to document the situation on the ground and assist where possible, and has worked with the UNESCO staff in charge of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, and Interpol to fight illicit trafficking and block illegal selling of Syrian cultural property on a day-to-day basis. Since October 2013, the World Heritage Centre has engaged with national and international professionals working on Syrian heritage to map and coordinate international efforts, and to avoid duplication of activities; it also elaborated Damage Assessment Sheets that are regularly filled-in by heritage professionals in Syria to document damage, and established the following webpage dedicated to Syrian Cultural Heritage :
The World Heritage Centre also organised, at the request of the State Party, an emergency meeting with ICOMOS, ICCROM and Interpol, to provide technical recommendations and risk mitigation measures for the Old City of Damascus. Another such meeting is foreseen in May 2014 for the emergency measures to protect the Crac des Chevaliers.
UNESCO is also organising an International Experts Meeting for the Preservation of the Syrian Cultural Heritage (26-28 May 2014) and actively fundraising for further actions to protect World Heritage properties and the sites inscribed on Syria’s Tentative List. Finally, UNESCO has also sounded the alarm on the destruction of Syrian heritage at numerous occasions in the media and through press conferences at UNESCO and the UN Headquarters in New York.
ICOMOS and ICCROM have contributed to awareness raising regarding the state of cultural heritage in Syria through several releases on their web pages and participation in international experts meetings. They also held, in cooperation with the DGAM, a new e-learning course for the protection of cultural heritage in Idlib Governorate, Syria, on 21 August 2013. This course follows on from an earlier course held in Damascus in January 2013. Course activities focussed on potential measures to safeguard and protect cultural heritage during conflict situations, and on first aid and emergency responses to damaged sites and collections. The course had over 100 participants, including DGAM staff and experts on cultural heritage, curators from Idlib Museum, and representatives of cultural heritage NGOs, as well as first aiders from the Red Crescent. ICOMOS and ICCROM are working on providing practical guidelines in Arabic and English for salvaging and securing damaged cultural heritage. Further documentation on the initiative is available at:
The ICCROM and ICOMOS Guidelines for First Aid Training courses were translated into Arabic by the ICCROM-ATHAR Regional Centre and shared with the DGAM to support their conservation actions.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
The armed conflict situation in Syria and its continued escalation has affected the six World Heritage properties and has limited the capacities to adequately sustain and protect their Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). The properties are increasingly threatened by a specific and proven imminent danger, in particular the Old City of Aleppo which has been extensively destroyed and which runs the risk of further irreversible destructions, including its Citadel.
It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee commend the DGAM and all heritage professionals in Syria and local communities for their sustained efforts to protect cultural heritage and to monitor it closely.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies will continue to support the State Party in the identification of the necessary corrective measures and in the development of a Desired state of conservation for the properties, as soon as the situation allows for an assessment mission to be carried out.
Furthermore, it is recommend that systematic documentation of all damage incurred at the World Heritage properties be duly undertaken whenever the situation allows, and the World Heritage Committee may urge the State Party to safeguard damaged property through minimal first aid interventions to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and refrain from undertaking conservation work until the situation allows for the development of comprehensive conservation actions that respond to international standards.
Until conditions improve, It is further recommended that the World Heritage Committee call upon all parties associated with the conflict in Syria to refrain from any action that can further damage the heritage of the country, in particular World Heritage properties and all sites inscribed on the Tentative List, and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage including the evacuation of World Heritage properties used for military purposes, and the halting of all damages that result from targeting World Heritage properties.
It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee also thank the European Union, the Flemish Government, and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage for their financial contributions for the implementation of the Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Syrian Cultural Heritage. It is also worth bringing to the attention of the World Heritage Committee that earmarked projects have proven to be a successful fundraising strategy for the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage.
Draft Decision: 38 COM 7A.12
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC-14/38.COM/7A.Add,
- Recalling Decisions 35 COM 7B.58, 36 COM 7B.58, 37 COM 7B.57 and 37 COM 8C.1, adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011), 36th (Saint Petersburg, 2012) and 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) sessions respectively,
- Deplores the conflict situation prevailing in the country, the loss of human life and the degradation of humanitarian conditions;
- Takes note of the report provided by the State Party regarding the state of conservation of the six Syrian World Heritage properties and the 12 sites inscribed on the Tentative List and expresses its utmost concern at the damage occurred and the threats facing these properties;
- Launches an appeal to the neighbouring countries and to the international community to cooperate in fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Syria;
- Urges all parties associated with the situation in Syria to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to cultural heritage of the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage, in particular the safeguarding of World Heritage properties and those included in the Tentative List;
- Also urges the State Party to adopt measures for the evacuation of World Heritage properties being used for military purposes;
- Further urges the State Party to safeguard damaged property through minimal first aid interventions, to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and refrain from undertaking conservation work until the situation allows, for the development of comprehensive conservation actions that respond to international standards;
- Reiterates its suggestions to the State Party to consider ratifying the Second Protocol (1999) of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage during times of Armed Conflict;
- Commends the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), and all the heritage professionals and the local communities in Syria who are working on monitoring and protecting cultural heritage, for their sustained efforts amidst difficult conditions;
- Requests the State Party to pursue the systematic documentation of all damage incurred by the World Heritage properties whenever conditions allow, to inform the development of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger and the identification of corrective measures for all six properties;
- Recalls the request to UNESCO to establish a Special Fund for the conservation of World Heritage properties in Syria and welcomes the establishment of earmarked projects as an appropriate means to raise funds for the safeguarding of Syria’s cultural heritage;
- Expresses its thanks to the European Union, the Flemish Government and the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage for their financial contributions to the earmarked funds;
- Calls upon the international community to further support the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage through earmarked funds;
- Also requests the State Party to invite, as soon as the security conditions allow, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to Syria to assess the state of conservation of the properties and elaborate, in consultation with the State Party, a prioritised action plan for their recovery;
- Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015;
- Decides to retain the Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Decides to retain the Ancient City of Bosra (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Decides to retain the Site of Palmyra (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Decides to retain the Ancient City of Aleppo (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Decides to retain the Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Decides to retain the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Syrian Arab Republic), on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Ancient City of Damascus
- Management activities
- Management systems/ management plan
Inscription on the Danger List
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).