Syrian Uprising Threatens Survival of Treasured Historic Landmarks

Christian Sahner reports on the devastating destruction of historical sites that has befallen Syria since the beginning of the opposition uprising 18 months ago, and urges international communities to take action to protect them from further harm.
August 29, 2012, 9am PDT | Emily Williams
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Syria is home to some of the world's most treasured historical sites, but throughout the chaos of the Syrian uprising, they have come under attack from shelling, gunfire and looting, common occurrences which Sahner claims draws "ominous comparisons to postinvasion Iraq."

"As war has engulfed the country, security resources normally allocated for protecting monuments have been redeployed to the battlefield. The fighting has drawn few distinctions between civilian and military targets, leaving many sites exposed to damage." Several Unesco World Heritage sites are under threat due to decreased security, including the Crusader fortress Crac des Chevaliers - "regarded as the finest example of medieval castle architecture anywhere in the world" - whose outer walls were damaged due to shelling from gunfire, and the ancient city of Palmyra, which has reported cases of looting in various locations throughout the site.

In order to save Syria's ancient landmarks for future generations, he proposes several solutions to safeguard them from future attacks, including publicizing the damage and strengthening "legislation against the illegal antiquities trade." Sahner argues that the protection of these landmarks is a priority in re-establishing the country when the uprising ceases. "Syria's cultural patrimony can play a crucial role as a reminder to the country of its diversity and achievements across the ages, as well as a symbol of pride and unity going forward."

Thanks to Daniel Lippman

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Published on Monday, August 20, 2012 in The Wall Street Journal
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