1.         Ancient City of Aleppo (Syrian Arab Republic) (C 21)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1986

Criteria  (iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/21/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2001)
Total amount approved: USD 5,250
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/21/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/21/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

Since March 2011, the uprising in Syria had led to thousands of deaths, displaced population, and caused turmoil and destruction, including that of the exceptional archaeological and historical heritage of the country. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria, UNESCO has called for the safeguarding of the country’s cultural heritage and alerted the international community, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, regarding the risk of illicit export of cultural objects. This issue was also highlighted at the UN Security Council by the joint UN-Arab League Special Envoy for Syria on 24 September 2012.

Syria has six properties on the World Heritage List: Ancient City of Damascus, Ancient city of Bosra, Site of Palmyra, Ancient City of Aleppo, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din, and Ancient Villages of Northern Syria. Aleppo in particular has suffered considerable damage. The available information about the destructions is partial and comes from various sources, not always verifiable, such as the social networks, media, etc. In light of the present situation and the threats facing these properties, the World Heritage Centre requested the State Party to provide, in addition to the two state of conservation reports requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session on Damascus and the Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, a report on the state of conservation of its World Heritage properties, which was received on 28 March 2013. The report collates available information from the branches of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums. However, it notes that ground access in Syria is extremely limited for antiquities experts, therefore the extent of the damage cannot be assessed at this time. Photos included were taken from social networks and the media. It is to be noted that this report represents an official statement from the Syrian authorities, but does not necessarily reflect the actual situation. The text of the report is reproduced hereunder.

Ancient City of Damascus (C 20)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “The Heritage city has been targeted in explosion several times, but no damages for its monuments had accrued inside. One illegal building (with three floors) had been built in the historical districts south of the old city (Midan district).”

Ancient City of Bosra (C 22)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “During the crises on 2012 the old city witnessed several damages: The residents found the right moment to push through illegal projects (construction in protected area), it is difficult to assess today the extent of their illegal actions.” The report also includes images of damage to historic buildings, the al Mabrak Mosque, among others.

Site of Palmyra (C 23)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “Several stone sculptures apparently stolen from the unexcavated tombs especially in the South east and South west of the site and illegal excavations conducted with the help of heavy equipment. Clandestine excavations have increased, these violations are taking place right now throughout the site (accompanied by sabotage and cracking of the foundations of ancient buildings and blocks). Some parts of the monuments like Camp of Diocletian, are being degraded because of the bulk removal of foundation stones. The entrances of the excavated Cemeteries, were buried by the antiquities authority before the end of 2010 (approximately the beginning of the events) in order to protect them from theft. But unexplored tombs in the Valley of the tombs and in the area of the Southwest and Southeast tombs (passage-graves or underground tombs), were exhumed and looted. In some parts foundations stones has been completely removed by heavy machinery to be used as barriers for roads.” Photos included show damage to the Western façade of the Bel Temple, to the ancient oasis and the opening of new trails through the oasis and also from the North West of the cemeteries area to the southern slope of the Mount Arab castle.

Ancient City of Alepppo (C 21)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “The old city witnessed some of the conflict’s most brutal destruction. The Aleppo's citadel had been caught in the line of fire. The crises that began in 2011 has done grave damage to the outer gate of the 13th century citadel (one of the remarkable examples of military architecture in the Middle East), its 700-year old wooden door which damaged the place where the explosives were placed is now a hole on the ground. Many of Aleppo’s historical sites stand damaged, including the 17th-century market, or souk, in the Old City, which was engulfed by fire in September 2012. What happened to Aleppo’s ancient Souk happened also to the city’s oldest and largest Mosque (the 12th century Ummayyad mosque), the Mosque suffered extensive damage, as has the nearby medieval covered market, or souk, which was gutted by a fire. Despite the fire, the structure of the mosque appeared to be intact, although a gate that leads to the ancient market was burned[1]. Many monuments and houses occupied by fighters ( like Bimaristan Al Argwany, Dar Zamarya hotel, museum of science, etc.), most of the inhabitants had to flee away. Additional destructions are possible at any moment. The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated. It also, in several respects, is not yet fully known, because ongoing problems such as site looting continue in the area. The situation of the Old City of Aleppo seems the most worrisome, because of the scale of damage as well as the fragmentation of private ownership.”

Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din (C 1229)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “Crak des Chevaliers has been exposed to clashing and gunfire. Gunmen is using the ancient Crac des Chevaliers fortress west of the flashpoint town of Homs, it was apparently occupied before July 2012 by gunmen issued from the close village of Al Husn. We think that the ancient mosque (the chapel) in the centre of the citadel, which still retained traces of original paintwork, has been damaged. Till now it is unknown what damage has been caused to the site. We didn’t inform about any damages in Qal’at Salah El Din in-spite of the conflict, which was taken place on 2012 in the "Al-Hafeh" district of Lattakia.”

Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (C 1348)

The report from the State Party indicates the following: “The impact of the crises from the beginning in Ancient Villages was complex, the 4 parks (1-2-5-6) in (Jabal Zawiye and Jabal Simeon Sanctuary) face serious conservation issues, including illegal excavation, inappropriate development such as: illegal buildings, soil erosion. The lack of security has allowed illegal construction works to be undertaken inside the parks (Bara, Simeon and Rweha). In the rural of Aleppo, the gunmen have taken strategic places, including ancient hilltop as Saint Simeon Sanctuary and they spread also in some of the parks (Bara and Rweha parks). Gunfire damage has been seen at several areas in particular in al-Bara, (Deir Sunbel, Qal’at Abu Sifian, Pyramidal tombs, Monastery monks). The parts known to have been damaged are: In Deir Sunbel, Al-Bara, 3 tombs were damaged inside the pyramid tomb and 4 decorated crown stones have been stolen. Clandestine excavations have found in several villages (Bara, Kafer Aqab), antiquities authority didn’t find any archaeological evident in the mentioned digging areas. In Sergilla, Shinshrah, Rabia, Majlia, Deir Loza and Jaradeh refugees have re-inhabited buildings and rock shelters and digging latrines amongst the Ancient Villages. Theft and vandalism had shown in Sergilla, the new equipment’s in the visitor bathroom had broken with many panels inside the archaeological site and the stone coffin at the entrance of the site had broken also.”

 

Actions implemented by the Advisory Bodies and UNESCO

Early January 2013, ICOMOS, in close cooperation with ICCROM and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), and in coordination with UNESCO, organized an e-learning course through video conference at the National Museum of Damascus. The course was designed to assist Syrian cultural heritage professionals in the management and response to the multi-layered effects of armed conflict on their sites and museum collection. It provided essential information about documentation in emergency for sites and collections, disaster risk management and emergency response, evacuation and temporary storage of collections, assessment of damage and first aid to sites, safety and security procedures during the response phase, network building and capacity building for the recovery phase. About 75 DGAM managers, directors, curators, architects and staff, together with Syrian members of ICOMOS, university professors and students from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Damascus, benefited from the course. Further seminars on additional subjects could be foreseen to assist in the recovery phase, depending on additional international support. The booklet from the e-learning course is available on the web at the following link: http://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/Secretariat/Syria%20E-Learning%20Course%20Booklet-%20Final%20Version_09_January%202013.pdf

In addition, as part of UNESCO’s action in response to the current Syrian crisis, the UNESCO Amman Office and the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Protection Treaties Section organized a four-day regional training, with the support of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture and the UNESCO Offices in Iraq, Beirut and Venice, entitled “Syrian cultural heritage: addressing the issue of illicit trafficking”, which took place in Amman (Jordan) from 10-13 February 2013. The meeting aimed to assess the situation of the cultural heritage, its illicit trafficking and the risk of looting of Syrian cultural objects, and promote cooperation in the region as a priority, as well as in the rest of the world. The initiative brought representatives of the police, customs and heritage departments from Syria and neighbouring countries together with international organizations involved in cultural heritage management and protection, as well as international experts in Syrian archaeology and law enforcement agencies from countries such as Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States. The objective of the training was to contribute to the safeguarding of Syrian cultural heritage, providing a venue to discuss the current situation and develop an Action Planto address the issue of illicit trafficking, in coordination with all relevant stakeholders and making use of the experience gained by UNESCO in other conflict and post-conflict situations.

The report presented by the Syrian authorities at that occasion is available in English at the following address: http://dgam.gov.sy/index.php?d=309&id=717.

The report of the Amman February meeting is available at the following address: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/FIELD/Amman/pdf/20130322_Report_Syria_workshop_FINAL.pdf



[1] Since this report, the minaret of the Great Mosque was totally destroyed on 23 April 2013.

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that due to the armed conflict situation in Syria, the conditions are no longer present to ensure the conservation and protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the six World Heritage properties located in the Syrian Arab Republic and that they are threatened by a specific and proven imminent danger, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines.

They recommend that the World Heritage Committee calls upon all parties associated with the situation in Syria to refrain from any action that would cause further damage to the cultural heritage of the country and to fulfil their obligations under international law by taking all possible measures to protect such heritage. They also recommend that the World Heritage Committee draws the attention of the State Party to the need to also safeguard all the properties inscribed on the Tentative List of Syria.

 

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are at the disposal of the State Party to identify the necessary corrective measures and the Desired state of conservation for the properties, following an assessment which could be undertaken once the situation allows. 

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 7B.57

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Deplores the conflict situation prevailing in the country and the loss of human lives;

3.  Takes note of the report provided by the State Party regarding the state of conservation of the six Syrian World Heritage properties and expresses its utmost concern at the damage occurred and threats facing these properties;

4.  Considers that the optimal conditions are not present anymore to ensure the conservation and protection of the Outstanding Universal Value of the properties and that they are threatened by both ascertained and potential danger, in accordance with paragraphs 177 to 179 of the Operational Guidelines ;

5.  Decides to inscribe the Ancient City of Damascus, Ancient city of Bosra, Site of Palmyra, Ancient City of Aleppo, Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din, and Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Syria) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

6.  Launches an appeal to the neighbouring countries and to the international community to cooperate in fighting against the illicit trafficking of cultural properties coming from Syria;

7.  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;

8.  Requests the State Party to invite the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to undertake a mission to Syria as soon as the security conditions permit in order to assess the state of conservation of the properties and elaborate, in consultation with the State Party, an action plan for their recovery;

9.  Also requests the State Party in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies to prepare, as soon as the situation allows, the corrective measures as well as a Desired state of conservation for the removal of the properties from the List of World Heritage in Danger, once a return to stability is effective in the country;

10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2014, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Syria for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session in 2014;

11. Suggests 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;

12.  Requests the Director-General of UNESCO to consider the creation of a Special Fund aimed at the conservation of the World Heritage properties in Syria.

Decision Adopted: 37 COM 8C.1

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined the state of conservation reports of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHC-13/37.COM/7B, WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add and WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add.Corr) and the proposals for inscription of properties on the World Heritage List (WHC-13/37.COM/8B and WHC-13/37.COM/8B.Add),

2.  Decides to inscribe the following properties on the List of World Heritage in Danger: