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Published on 1 October 2012
News Issue 112/10
Reports have emerged from Syria of looted museums, damaged heritage sites and the trade of antiquities for arms.
The Independent reported that government museums at Deir ez-Zor, Raqqa, Maarat al-Numan and Qalaat Jaabar had been looted.
The newspaper also quoted Syrian director of museums Hiba Sakhel, who said items from the National Museum of Aleppo had been moved to the vaults of the central bank in Damascus for safekeeping.
Sources in Syria are also reporting looting at museums in Homs and Hama, while a recent report in Time magazine found evidence of a trade in arms for antiquities on the Lebanese border.
A report for the Global Heritage Fund, Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict, found evidence of shell-fire damage at three world heritage sites and several national heritage sites, as well as extensive looting at archaeological sites and museums.
Emma Cunliffe, the author of the report, said: “Looting is a huge problem in Syria. It is hard to monitor, but traders in Jordan and Lebanon report that Syrian artefacts are flooding the market.”
The director-general of Unesco, Irina Bokova, called for the protection of Syria’s cultural heritage.
“Damage to the heritage of the country is damage to the soul of its people and its identity,” she added.
A Unesco spokesman said: “Unesco has been in touch with Interpol and contacts around Syria, but the situation on the ground is volatile, so it has not been possible to send people to verify these reports. We are preparing a mission to go to Syria as soon as it is possible.”
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