1.         Ancient City of Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic) (C 20bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(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/20/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1981-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 156,050
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/assistance/

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)

200 000 USD by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain

170 000 USD by the Flemish Government (for World Heritage, movable and intangible heritage)

Previous monitoring missions

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 World Heritage properties in Syria.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Before the conflict:

Since March 2011:

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 14 January 2015, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on all cultural heritage sites in Syria, including the six World Heritage properties, which is available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/20/documents. The State Party indicates that, in addition to the damages reported in 2014, mortar shelling caused minor damage to Madrasa al-Adiliye near the Omayyad mosque, to Madrasa Jukmaqjieh (the Arab Calligraphy Museum) and to a shop façade near Saladin Tomb in Bab al-Bareed neighborhood. It also reports minor damages to the Manar School and to private properties in Jura, Bab Tuma and Kharab neighborhoods, as well as to several shops in the Jewish quarter in the North-East of the walled city. The State Party further reports moderate damages outside the walled city in al-Qanawat historical district where six buildings and al-Saada School were shelled, and in Mezanet al-Shahem district where Beit al-Quwatli partially collapsed.

In addition, on 1 February 2015, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) reported on its website that the Northwest Ayyubid Tower at the upper part of the Citadel has been partially damaged due to a violent explosion near Suq al-Hamidiyyeh.

The report finally indicates that the State Party has taken several immediate preventative measures, in line with the Emergency Response Plan provided by the World Heritage Centre on 20 December 2013. These include digitizing administrative documents, archiving material pertaining to the property, evacuating valuable movable heritage collections from the Old City, reducing risks of fire in historical areas and organizing responses to it. , as well as coordinating with the concerned local authorities in order to raise awareness about heritage preservation, share documentation and data and implement the risk mitigation and protective measures. The State Party provided additional information which confirmed the implementation of the following recommendations proposed by the World Heritage Centre in December 2013:

In addition to these damages and to the damages reported in 2014, satellite images provided in the December 2014 UNITAR/UNOSAT report show moderate damage to Khan al-Haramein, Khan al-Zait, Hisham Mosque, Manjak Mosque, Beit Shirazi, Hammam Nawfara and Hammam Bakri inside the property as well as moderate damages to Hammam Khanji in the buffer zone. Other sources report further damage to Beit Sakka Amini and to Abou al-Ezz building.

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

The damages at the Old City of Damascus are limited but they have been targeted at very important monuments such as the Omayyad Mosque, the Citadel and the Madrasa al-Adiliye, and parts of the urban fabric that include important historic structures and houses. During the reporting period, the property was subject to shelling on several occasions and may therefore incur threats of direct shelling at a larger scale in the future. Notably, the Suleymaniye complex outside the Old City walls is extremely vulnerable. For this reason, it is very important that the DGAM and Maktab Anbar, the municipal entity in charge of the property’s management, put in place all the risk mitigation measures provided by the World Heritage Centre in cooperation with ICOMOS, ICCROM and Interpol, in December 2013, and any additional measures deemed necessary. It is also of utmost importance to ensure that the property’s high rise architectural elements are not used for military reasons, in particular the Suleymaniye and Omayyad Mosque Minarets.

Any plans for conservation or reconstruction would need to be kept to a minimum until the security situation allows comprehensive and well-thought out projects to be conducted and shared with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies for approval prior to the commencement of works.

Utmost importance should be given to avoid urban encroachment and new urban plans from being implemented without proper planning amidst the current crisis.

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


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.30

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. Commends the State Party for taking the necessary risk mitigation measures to protect the property;
  5. Decides to retain the Ancient City of Damascus (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: