Civil War and Cultural Heritage in Syria, 2011-2015

Silvia Perini, Mattia Guidetti


Since the start of the uprising in 2011, the Syrian cultural heritage has suffered dramatically from both direct and indirect effects of the battle. Therefore, extensive damage has been observed on all six World Heritage sites, as well as on numerous cultural properties of national and local significance.

The aim of this article is to provide a discussion on some of the most representative buildings and sites that have been damaged during the Syrian civil war, focusing, in particular, on the historic and archaeological value of these sites.

This article is formed of three parts. The first section provides an overview of the Syrian tangible cultural heritage and its management. The second part discusses the types of damage that historic buildings and archaeological sites have been suffering since the beginning of the conflict. Selected case studies are used to discuss typology and the extent of the damages. Lastly, the third section deals with regulations and law that refer to the protection of the cultural heritage and provides a summary of the most important international responses undertaken towards the protection of the Syrian archaeological heritage.

This report does not aim to be a comprehensive analysis of the Syrian historical and archaeological damage, but, in broader terms, calls for attention to the need to act now to protect Syrian ancient and historic monuments, museums, and archaeological sites since attacks on these irreplaceable resources are “attacks against the very identity of communities”.

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