1.         Ancient City of Bosra (Syrian Arab Republic) (C 22bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1980

Criteria  (i)(iii)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger    2013-present

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

Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger

Not yet drafted

Corrective measures identified

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/22/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1995-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 51,250
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/22/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

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 (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage)

Previous monitoring missions

Since the start of the conflict in March 2011, the security situation has not allowed any missions to be undertaken to the World Heritage properties in Syria.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Since March 2011:

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/22/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 14 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report for the six World Heritage properties in Syria, and on 9 April 2015 an update on the Ancient City of Bosra; which are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/22/documents.

The January 2015 report indicates that in September 2014, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) branch at Bosra was able to access some parts of the property and assessed the veracity of the damages reported in 2014. The State Party reports minor stone collapses at Mabrak Mosque, al-Omari Mosque, Abu al-Fidaa Mosque and al-Fatemi Mosque as well as the collapse of most of the architectural elements in the Kalybe of the ‘Cradle of the King’s Daughter’. It also reports damage from street fights at the monastery of Monk Bahira, the Citadel, Abu al-Fidaa Mosque, al-Fatemi Mosque, and al-Omari Mosque, including damages to its minarets, and in some areas of the ancient city.

The State Party further reports damages caused by bulldozers to the Shims Monastery and to the city walls, where illegal buildings have been constructed by local inhabitants. It furthermore indicates illegal excavations in the ancient city and the removal of the water fountain’s bricks at the Manjak Hammam. In addition on 1st December 2014, a massive blast occurred in al-Omari Mosque area, seriously damaging a house.

The report finally indicates that the State Party has taken some measures, such as raising awareness among local communities about the importance of cultural heritage, notably to prevent them from using the ancient city for military purposes.

In addition to these damages, and to those reported in 2014, satellite images provided in the December 2014 UNITAR/UNOSAT report show moderate damage to the Roman Amphitheatre, the Central Baths and  a Roman residence, and also show a 164 m dirt road dug through the south of the amphitheatre although this avoided most of the excavated structures. No further damage is reported in other sources.

The April 2015 report indicates that due to the escalation of the conflict, armed groups took control of the property on 25 March 2015; clashes resulted in minor damages to the historical monuments such as al Omari mosque, but the ancient residential units have been severely damaged near al Omari mosque, in the Souq, and to the east of the property; the site museum in the Roman Citadel has also been looted. The State Party indicates that thanks to the cooperation with the local community, an agreement has been reached to freeze combats within the property and allow the DGAM to work on the protection and cleaning of the Citadel and Roman Theatre.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

See item 36 of this Document (General decision on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic).

The agreement between the parties to the conflict to freeze combats within the property and allow the DGAM professionals to work in the Citadel and Roman Theatre are an important but precarious development which was commended on 2 April 2015 in a statement issued by the UNESCO Director-General. It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee also commend the temporary freezing of combats and request that all efforts be made to ensure that it is maintained.


36. 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 38th session of the World Heritage Committee in 2014, the destruction of Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has reached a deplorably high level and has continued to seriously affect all six inscribed properties, the twelve sites inscribed on the Tentative List, and a wide number of highly significant cultural heritage sites all over Syria. Cultural heritage in Syria continues to be damaged by shelling, street fighting, targeted explosions, extensive illegal excavations, and use for military purposes and as military training areas, construction violations, and quarrying, in addition to intentional destructions and inappropriate use of archaeological sites by internally displaced populations. 

On 14 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report with detailed information on the destruction and damage at the six World Heritage properties, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/39COM/documents. On 12 February 2015, the State Party submitted the state of conservation report of all the sites on the Tentative List and a report on the intentional destruction of built heritage. These reports represent an official statement from the Syrian authorities and collate available information from the branches of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) and from social media. However, the State Party 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 reports do not provide first-hand information on several sites, in particular the Ancient City of Aleppo and the Ancient City of Bosra, and thus do not allow a full understanding of the extent of damage to the properties. For the preparation of the state of conservation reports for the World Heritage Committee, additional information was sought from civil society organizations, international organizations, local experts and the media to supplement official data.

The State Party reported on the work carried out by the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), despite the difficult working conditions, to monitor the World Heritage properties and cultural heritage in general, assess damages, undertake emergency conservation and risk mitigation actions whenever possible, and inventory built and movable heritage. The report also stressed the DGAM efforts in raising local awareness and highlighted the positive role played by local communities in some cases to safeguard heritage and limit illegal excavations.

The state of conservation report of the sites inscribed on Syria’s Tentative List indicates that:

The report on intentional destruction of Syrian built heritage relies mostly on local communities and pictures published in the social media; it indicates that:

In the Aleppo region:

In the Deir ez-Zor region:

On 26-27 May 2014, in the framework of the European Union-funded “Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage” project, with co-funding from the Flemish government (USD 170,000), UNESCO organized an international expert meeting to help rally the International Community to safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage. 120 international and Syrian experts from 22 countries and UNESCO’s partners took part in this meeting and produced a detailed action plan, which provides short, medium and long term actions to safeguard immovable, movable and intangible heritage.

Since the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee (Doha, 2014), UNESCO has pursued its actions to assist the State Party in its continuous and sustained efforts to safeguard cultural heritage. At the international level, UNESCO raised the awareness of the international community on the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria; these sustained efforts led to the adoption by the United Nations Security Council of Resolution (UNSC) 2139 on 22 February 2014 which called « on all parties to immediately end all violence which has led to human suffering in Syria, save Syria’s rich societal mosaic and cultural heritage, and take appropriate steps to ensure the protection of Syria’s World Heritage Sites ».

On 3 December 2014, UNESCO organised at its headquarters an international conference on the “Protection of Heritage and Cultural Diversity at Risk in Iraq and Syria”, with financial support from the Government of Kuwait, and called for the creation of “protected cultural zones” around cultural heritage sites, suggesting a start could be made with emblematic monuments in the Ancient City of Aleppo.

On 12 February 2015, the UNSC adopted resolution 2199 that condemned the destruction of cultural heritage and adopted legally binding measures to counter illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural objects from Iraq and Syria and called on UNESCO and other concerned entities to implement this ban.

At the national level, UNESCO has pursued its activities to monitor the situation of Syrian cultural heritage, raise awareness on its protection, undertake short, medium and long-term actions to safeguard it, and coordinate the work of national and international entities working on its safeguarding. In the framework of the European Union-funded “Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage” project (2.46 million Euros) that was started in March 2014, and  is implemented in partnership with ICOMOS and ICCROM, the following activities were undertaken:

In the framework of the European Union (EU) – funded Project “Emergency Safeguarding of Syria’s Cultural Heritage”

In May 2015, the World Heritage Centre will organise a technical meeting on post-war reconstruction in the Middle-East context, focusing on the Ancient City of Aleppo as a case study. The meeting will set out the basic recommendations on reconstruction from the theoretical and practical points of view.

ICOMOS has supported many of these and other initiatives.

Under the Partnership with the UNESCO-EU Project for Emergency Safeguarding of Syrian Cultural Heritage (mentioned above) ICOMOS has the following responsabilities:

ICOMOS, including its different International Scientific Committees, commits itself in:

At its 18th General Assembly, in Florence in November 2014, the ICOMOS Executive Committee tasked an ICOMOS Working Group on the safeguarding of the cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, to cooperate with UNESCO and other international and national partners, and with the support of ICORP, to coordinate the activities of ICOMOS related to fostering cooperation and exchanges, monitoring, awareness raising, communication, training, assisting and planning for the safeguarding of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq, as long as the present conflict and its subsequent consequences continue.

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 substantially 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 Ancient City of Aleppo, which has been extensively destroyed and which runs the risk of further irreversible destructions, including its Citadel. The illegal excavations across archaeological sites and tells in Syria are a major source for the illicit trafficking of cultural objects and are causing extensive and irreversible damages to those sites, as well as  providing looted artefacts for sale  in  regional and international black markets.

It is recommended that the World Heritage Committee commend the DGAM and all heritage professionals in Syria and local communities who have made 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 recommended that systematic documentation of all damage incurred at the World Heritage properties be duly pursued whenever the situation allows, and that the World Heritage Committee reiterate its call to the State Party to safeguard damaged property through minimal first aid interventions to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and refrain from undertaking other measures until the situation allows for the development of a comprehensive strategy and action plan that respond to international standards and high-quality scientific methods. With regard to post-conflict reconstruction, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee call on the State Party to plan the future of World Heritage properties according to international conservation charters and standards, in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies.

Until conditions improve, it is also 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 included 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 further recommended that the World Heritage Committee call upon all parties associated with the conflict in Syria and the international community, in particular the neighbouring countries to Syria, to ensure effective measures for the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural objects, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2199.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.31

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decisions 35 COM 7B.58, 36 COM 7B.58, 37 COM 7B.57, and 38 COM 7A.12, adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011), 36th (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 38th (Doha, 2014) sessions respectively,
  3. Taking into account Decision 39 COM 7A.36 on the World Heritage properties of the Syrian Arab Republic, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  4. Notes with satisfaction that a temporary agreement to freeze combats within the property has been reached and requests that, as a matter of urgency, all efforts be made to ensure that it is maintained, and that heritage professionals be given the right to access and protect the property;
  5. Decides to retain the Ancient City of Bosra (Syrian Arab Republic) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7A.36

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decisions 35 COM 7B.58, 36 COM 7B.58, 37 COM 7B.57, and 38 COM 7A.12, adopted at its 35th (UNESCO, 2011), 36th (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), 37th (Phnom Penh, 2013) and 38th (Doha, 2014) sessions respectively,
  3. Deplores the conflict situation prevailing in the country, the loss of human life and the degradation of humanitarian conditions;
  4. 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 the report on intentional destruction of cultural heritage in Syria and expresses its utmost concern at the damage occurred and the threats facing these properties and cultural heritage in general;
  5. 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 the sites included in the Tentative List;
  6. Also urges the State Party to adopt measures for the evacuation of World Heritage properties being used for military purposes;
  7. Further urges the State Party to safeguard damaged properties through minimal first aid interventions, to prevent theft, further collapse and natural degradation, and refrain from undertaking conservation and reconstruction work until the situation allows, for the development of comprehensive conservation strategies and actions that respond to international standards in full consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Launches an appeal to all Member States of UNESCO to cooperate in fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Syria as per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 of February 2015;
  9. 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;
  10. 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 extremely difficult conditions;
  11. Requests the State Party to pursue the systematic documentation of all damage incurred by the World Heritage properties whenever conditions allow and to implement all possible risk mitigation measures, to inform on the development of the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) and the identification of corrective measures for all six properties;
  12. Calls upon the international community to further support the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage through earmarked funds;
  13. Also requests the State Party to invite, as soon as the security conditions allow, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to Syria to assess the state of conservation of the properties and elaborate, in consultation with the State Party, a prioritized action plan for their recovery;
  14. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, 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 40th session in 2016.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 8C.2

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger (WHC-15/39.COM/7A and WHC-15/39.COM/7A.Add),
  2. Decides to retain the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: