UNESCO Director-General calls for the protection of Yemen’s heritage after new damage to historic houses in Old Sana’a
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed renewed concern following reports of human casualties and heavy damage to historic buildings in the Old City of Sana’a in Yemen, which was hit by an air strike on 20 September 2016.
“I am distressed by news of air strikes on heavily populated areas in the Old City of Sana’a. I deplore the tragic loss of human life and the new, additional damage to Yemen’s irreplaceable cultural heritage. This is a blow to the identity and history of Yemen, which can only deepen the suffering of its people,” said the Director General.
“Once again, I call on all parties to refrain from targeting cultural heritage sites, and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The protection of heritage is inseparable from the protection of human life, and this violence must stop now.” she added.
UNESCO has received information and photographic evidence that historic buildings have been heavily damaged and destroyed near Ghumdan Palace in Al Maydan district, in the eastern part of the Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage since 1986. The Old City of Sana’a has suffered extensive damage since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015 and was included in the List of the World Heritage in Danger in 2015.
Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and bears witness to the wealth and beauty of the Islamic civilization. By the first century AD, it emerged as a center of the inland trade route and its houses and public buildings are an outstanding example of a traditional, Islamic settlement. Sana’a’s dense rammed earth and burnt brick towers, strikingly decorated, are famous around the world and are an integral part of Yemen’s identity and pride. The Old City was restored through a major campaign launched by UNESCO in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Yemen has two other cultural World Heritage sites: the Old Walled City of Shibam (1982) and the Historic Town of Zabid (1993), inscribed on the World Heritage in Danger list since 2000.
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