Protection of Syria's Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict
Published on 10 January 2013
ICCROM recently collaborated with ICOMOS and the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums of Syria (DGAM), in coordination with UNESCO, to hold an e-learning course for Syrian cultural heritage professionals from 7 to 8 January 2013 at the Damascus National Museum. The course was led by the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on Risk Preparedness (ICORP).
Since its beginnings in 2011, armed conflict in Syria has escalated dramatically with major human loss, hundreds of thousands of refugees, and extensive damage to infrastructure and properties. Cultural heritage in all its forms has suffered from the direct and indirect effects of this ongoing conflict. Syria’s World Heritage sites together with numerous cultural properties of national and local significance are at serious risk.
ICCROM’s constructive cooperation and its resource persons played a pivotal role in this initiative. Training materials developed through ICCROM’s international courses on First Aid to Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict (FAC
) were used to provide knowledge and build capacity for emergency response amongst the Syrian professionals.
About 75 DGAM managers, directors, curators, architects and staff, including Syrian cultural heritage researchers and experts of conservation, gathered at the National Museum of Damascus with Syrian members of ICOMOS, university professors, and a few students from the Ecole de Chaillot. Together they followed the lectures and exchange with nine trainers from ICOMOS, ICCROM and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. The trainers made their presentations from their countries of residence: Canada, France, India, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
The Syrian audience welcomed this initiative as a show of professional solidarity from the international heritage community in what is a particularly difficult situation. Organized entirely through voluntary contributions by its trainers and coordinators, ICOMOS project management and financial support, along with facilities and translation provided by the DGAM, the e-learning course is seen as a first phase in a long-term effort. Further seminars on additional subjects or in other Syrian cities are envisaged, in cooperation with ICCROM and partner organizations. Knowledge, experience and advice may be offered in the recovery phase. Information material gathered will feed into a portal for technical information exchange. Some further activities may however depend on additional international support.
In organizing the course, ICOMOS and ICCROM call on all parties associated with the situation in Syria to fulfill their obligations under international law to protect Syria’s precious cultural heritage sites and institutions. A call was repeated at the beginning of course to abide by the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
and to respect museums, monuments and historic cities.
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