Syria's cultural heritage being looted, destroyed - UNESCO

PARIS Fri Aug 30, 2013 3:03am IST

A view shows damaged shops in Al Khandaq street in Old Aleppo October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Zain Karam/Files

A view shows damaged shops in Al Khandaq street in Old Aleppo October 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Zain Karam/Files

Related Topics

PARIS (Reuters) - As the world argues over how to prevent more civilian deaths in Syria, UNESCO warned on Thursday that a rich cultural heritage was being devastated by the conflict now in its third year.

Clashes have damaged historical sites and buildings throughout the country, from Aleppo's Umayyad Mosque to the Crac des Chevaliers castle dating from the 13th century Crusades.

But the most irreversible damage comes from the illegal looting of artefacts from archaeological sites for export, said the U.N. cultural arm's assistant director-general for culture, Francesco Bandarin.

"We had it in Iraq, we had it in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Mali," Bandarin said. "It is a typical by-product of war. Unfortunately it's very difficult to stop."

Organised, armed gangs sometimes involving hundreds of hired men who threaten local residents against retaliation are taking advantage of a lack of security at many archaeological digging sites.

A comparison of satellite images from before the crisis and today at Apamea, known for its extensive Hellenistic ruins, shows clearly the scale of looting and destruction, UNESCO said.

Precious objects have been identified for sale in Beirut and international police agency Interpol has confiscated 18 Syrian mosaics and 73 other artefacts at the Lebanese border, the agency said. It has appealed to neighbouring countries to better control their borders against the trafficking of art.

UNESCO's warning comes as the West considers whether to launch a military strike against Syria in response to last week's chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people.

(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Gaza Attack

Gaza Attack

At least 15 dead in Israeli shelling of Gaza school - Health Ministry.  Full Article 

Ukraine PM Resigns

Ukraine PM Resigns

Ukrainian prime minister tenders his resignation in parliament.  Full Article 

Health Crisis

Health Crisis

Myanmar Muslims in remote Rakhine suffer worsening health crisis.  Full Article 

Afghan Election

Afghan Election

Afghan vote recount moves at snail's pace, rival sides far apart.  Full Article 

Iraq Government

Iraq Government

Iraq elects president as Ban urges unity to save nation.  Full Article 

Freedom at Last

Freedom at Last

Death row Christian woman flies out of Sudan, meets Pope.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage