UNESCO evaluates the destruction of Palmyra

UNESCO values the damages, caused by ISIS during the past ten months, to the World Heritage site of Palmyra after its liberation by the Syrian army last March.


Temple of Bel captured on 31st March 2016 and a photography of 14th March 2014. AFP/Joseph Eid

A team which belongs to UNESCO has been displaced to Palmyra in order to see and value the deterioration that the city has suffered. The city of Palmyra is an oasis in the Syrian Desert north-east of Damascus which contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. Because of these monuments, Palmyra is considered one of the World Heritage sites by UNESCO since 1980.

It goes without saying that Syria has been going through a brutal civil war for five years and that nobody knows when it will be over. According to Al Jazeera, the Syrian civil war is the deadliest conflict the 21st century has witnessed thus far. Thousands of people have lost their lives from the beginning of the war, but not only people are hit by conflicts’ violence. In fact, every time there is a war going on, it also has a strong impact on culture. In this case, the word culture is referred to many historic buildings and artifacts. The city of Palmyra is not an exception and its historic monuments have also suffered war consequences, which are added to the damages caused by terrorists.

Traditionally, the target of terrorists was focused on innocent humans. However, terrorists have found this new way to attack society. The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) uses buildings’ destruction as part of a propaganda campaign in order to draw world’s attention by destroying cultural treasures. The city of Palmyra has been under Islamic State’s control for ten months and temples, shrines and monuments had been destroyed during that period.

After being released by Syrian army with the support of the Russian air last 27th March, UNESCO inspected both Palmyra’s museum and archaeological site, taking stock of “considerable damage to the museum”, UNESCO said in a press release 27th April.

“Palmyra is a pillar of Syrian identity, and a source of dignity for all Syrians”, said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova. “UNESCO is determined to ensure the safeguarding of this and other sites with all partners as part of broader humanitarian and peacebuilding operations”, she added.

For this reason, UNESCO has announced that will adopt emergency safeguarding measures which include to document, evacuate, safeguard and restore whatever is possible, hence, the first works with statues have already begun.

From 2nd to 4th June, Berlin will host an international meeting of experts on the preservation of Syria’s heritage sites. In addition to this, on July a full official report on the site will be presented in occasion of the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session, in Istanbul.

It seems so unfair that a region full of testimonies of the first human civilizations is experiencing a cruel conflict. The violence of the war has destroyed some of history’s greatest monuments and peaceful people, as we are, have to deal with the cost of these invaluable losses.


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