Current situation in Syria

Built Heritage

Homs, Syria © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

Syria’s exceptional archaeological, urban and architectural heritage has been considerably damaged during the conflict, and has affected all six World Heritage Sites in Syria and eleven sites inscribed on UNESCO's Tentative List.

For an assessment of the situation of the heritage sites in Syria, click here

Movable Heritage

© UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

A number of sources report that numerous archaeological sites in Syria are being systematically targeted for clandestine excavations by well-organized and often armed groups, not all originating from Syria. Museums in Syria are also a cause for concern, and there have been many incidences of looting of valuable cultural property. A large number of museums have also had their infrastructure damaged as a result of being caught in the middle of armed conflict.

For an assessment of the situation of archaeological sites and museums in Syria, click here

Intangible Heritage

Syrian students after receiving their violins © UNESCO

Syria enjoys rich cultural expressions reflected by the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional nature of its society. The conflict in Syria has had a significant impact on the bearers and practitioners of intangible cultural heritage expressions and on the viability and transmission of practices and know-how of living heritage, essential to maintaining cultural diversity, social cohesion and dialogue between communities.

For an assessment of the situation of intangible cultural heritage in Syria, click here

National initiatives

"Save Syria's History"

Campaign posters © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

A national campaign under the banner “Save Syria’s History” was launched to raise awareness on the current looting of museums and illegal excavation of archaeological sites. It also serves to remind all Syrian people of the importance of protecting their rich cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations.

Workshop against illicit trafficking of Syrian cultural property

Workshop poster © UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

To further raise awareness of the Syrian people to the need to protect their cultural heritage, a two-day workshop focused on the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property in Syria was held at the National Museum in Damascus on 12 and 13 May 2013.

The workshop was organised as a follow-up to the UNESCO Capacity Building Workshop in Amman, Jordan

Syrian citizens protect their cultural heritage

© ICOM

Volunteer networks from local communities all over the country have mobilized themselves and come together with a common objective to protect their unique cultural heritage. These networks provide additional security in protecting archaeological sites from illegal excavations, and safeguarding museums from looters. They have also helped recover looted items of cultural significance that were illicitly taken.

Keeping trace of cultural heritage

© UNESCO/Prof. Abdulkarim

The inventories and archives of cultural property in Syrian museums are being digitized to simplify the identification and registration of any missing artefacts. Testimonies, images and videos from the public, and from national and international archaeological missions, assist in completing the digitized database. All this collated information will facilitate a more effective response against the illicit trafficking of cultural property out of Syria, and help potential restitution cases in the future.