"The destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage must stop"
Statement by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and UN and League of Arab States Joint Special Representative to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi: The destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage must stop.
As the people of Syria continue to endure incalculable human suffering and loss, their country’s rich tapestry of cultural heritage is being ripped to shreds.
World Heritage sites have suffered considerable and sometimes irreversible damage. Four of them are being used for military purposes or have been transformed into battlefields: Palmyra; the Crac des Chevaliers; the Saint Simeon Church in the Ancient villages of Northern Syria; and Aleppo, including the Aleppo Citadel.
Archaeological sites are being systematically looted and the illicit trafficking of cultural objects has reached unprecedented levels.
There are alarming reports that Syrian heritage has been deliberately targeted for ideological reasons. Human representations in art are being destroyed by extremist groups intent on eradicating unique testimonies of Syria’s rich cultural diversity.
All layers of Syrian culture are now under attack -- including pre-Christian, Christian and Islamic.
The destruction of such precious heritage gravely affects the identity and history of the Syrian people and all humanity, damaging the foundations of society for many years to come. The protection of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, is inseparable from the protection of human lives, and should be an integral part of humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts.
We therefore make the following joint appeal:
- We call on all parties to halt immediately all destruction of Syrian heritage, and to save Syria’s rich social mosaic and cultural heritage by protecting its World Heritage Sites, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on 22 January 2014.
- We condemn the use of cultural sites for military purposes and call on all parties to the conflict to uphold international obligations, notably the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of Armed Conflict and customary international humanitarian law.
- We appeal to all countries and professional bodies involved in customs, trade and the art market, as well as individuals and tourists, to be on alert for stolen Syrian artifacts, to verify the origin of cultural property that might be illegally imported, exported and/or offered for sale, and to adhere to the UNESCO 1970 Convention on illicit trafficking of cultural property.
Our efforts to save Syria’s cultural heritage must be part of wider efforts to end violence and move to peace. Destroying the inheritance of the past robs future generations of a powerful legacy, deepens hatred and despair and undermines all attempts to foster reconciliation. Now is the time to stop the destruction, build peace and protect our common heritage.
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