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Ancient Villages of Northern Syria

Syrian Arab Republic
Factors affecting the property in 2024*
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Earthquake
  • Financial resources
  • Housing
  • Human resources
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Legal framework
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Military training
  • Quarrying
  • War
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Before the conflict:

  • Legal framework (Protection Policy does not adequately integrate cultural landscapes)
  • Financial resources
  • Human resources
  • Housing (Development or infrastructure projects)
  • Management System/Management Plan (Management Plan still incomplete and lack of an Action Plan)

Since March 2011:

  • Armed conflict (destruction and damage due to the armed conflict)
  • Illegal activities (use of ancient stones as building material, illegal constructions and excavations, use of the sites by internally displaced people)
  • Military training (use of the sites by armed groups)
  • Deliberate destruction of heritage
  • Quarrying
  • Land conversion
  • Earthquake (February 2023 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks)
Threats for which the property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger

Destruction as well as ascertained and potential threats consequent to the armed conflict in Syria that 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 for the property

Not yet identified

Timeframe for the implementation of the corrective measures

Not yet identified

UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2024

Total amount provided to the six Syrian World Heritage properties: 200,000 euros by the Italian Government; for built, movable and intangible heritage: 2.46 million euros by the European Union, USD 170,000 by the Flemish Government, 63,000 euros by the Austrian Government, USD 200,000 by the German Government; for cultural heritage under conflict: USD 200,000 by the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage in Bahrain.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2024
Requests approved: 1 (from 2007-2007)
Total amount approved : 30,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2024**

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2024

On 11 January 2024, the State Party submitted state of conservation reports for the six Syrian World Heritage properties, which are available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1348/documents/, and include very brief information about the property and its state of conservation, as follows:

  • Access to the property is still extremely limited and consequently, the extent of the damage cannot be assessed;
  • Extensive damage has been reported by the media at the monastery buildings and fortress structures at Qala’t Sem’an, in the archaeological park of Jebel Sem’an, due to the February 2023 earthquake.

No further information is provided in the State Party report.

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2024

The State Party confirms some of the information provided by third parties last year that there has been damage to Qal’at Sem’an caused by the February 2023 earthquake, with no new details provided.

Reports previously received from third parties included photographs of collapsed walls and ceilings, and cracks in walls at the archaeological parks of Jebel Zawiye, Jebel al-A’la, Jebel Barisha, Jebel Wastani and Jebel Sem’an, which is when the collapse of an arch of the western basilica at Qal’at Sem’an was first reported.

Owing to the inaccessibility of the property and ongoing conflict in the region, very little substantive new information has been reported since the 41st session of the Committee in 2017, other than sporadic third part reports and examination of satellite imagery. This lack of verifiable information about the state of conservation of the property remains a great source of concern, which has been aggravated by the lack of detailed information related to the impact of the 2023 earthquake.

A full detailed on-site assessment of the damage remains essential to assess the overall state of conservation of the property and to identify the measures needed for ensuring its conservation and protection. Such assessment should be undertaken as soon as the security situation allows. In due course, the Desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR) would need to be developed and the associated set of corrective measures identified.

Given the previously reported illicit excavation at the property, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its appeal to the Member States of UNESCO to fulfil their obligations under international law, especially the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2347 of March 2017.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2024
Draft Decision: 46 COM 7A.30

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/24/46.COM/7A,
  2. Recalling Decisions 45 COM 7A.43 and 45 COM 7A.46 adopted at its extended 45th session (Riyadh, 2023),
  3. Remains greatly concerned about the situation at the property, which does not allow for an overall assessment of its state of conservation, and the lack of sufficient available information on damage, including the impact of the February 2023 earthquake;
  4. Calls again on all parties involved in the conflict to refrain from any action that could cause further damage to the property, including through its use for military or other purposes;
  5. Also reiterates its appeal to all Member States of UNESCO to cooperate in the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage coming from Syria as per the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2199 of February 2015, and 2347 of March 2017;
  6. Also calls again on all States Parties to support emergency safeguarding and recovery measures;
  7. Reiterates the need for the invited joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM Reactive Monitoring mission to be carried out as soon as the security situation allows, in order to proceed with a comprehensive assessment of the state of conservation of the property;
  8. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2025, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 47th session;
  9. Decides to retain Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (Syrian Arab Republic) on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Report year: 2024
Syrian Arab Republic
Date of Inscription: 2011
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Danger List (dates): 2013-present
Documents examined by the Committee
SOC Report by the State Party
Report (2024) .pdf
arrow_circle_right 46COM (2024)

* : 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”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.