23 Dec 2014
As fighting continues in Syria it’s become increasingly difficult to make an objective assessment of the destruction to its rich cultural heritage.
But now, using satellite imagery, UN training and research agency (UNITAR) has shown the extent of the damage in clear detail.
Encompassing ancient souks, mosques and temples from Bosra in the south to Cyrhhus in the north, the UN agency demonstrates in a new report how aerial bombardment and looting have scarred each of the country’s six UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Here’s Einar Bjorgo, who manages the UN agency’s UNOSAT project:
“The most affected locations are Aleppo, Damascus, Dura Europos, Ebla and Palmyra…basically where there is a war raging there is unfortunately heavy damage to cultural heritage locations. In addition, indeed large amounts of looting, and (in) the other areas we also do see considerable damage to both the mosques, to ancient ruins, Roman ruins, ancient fortresses in several locations it also seems that ancient fortresses are being used as military positions as well.”(32”)
The UN agency examined 18 cultural heritage areas in 14 governorates using commercial satellite imagery, some 290 locations in all.
Twenty four sites have been destroyed and 104 severely damaged since fighting began in March 2011, UNITAR said.
These include the Great Umayyad Mosque in Aleppo, whose outer buildings and minarets have been reduced to rubble, along with damage to the main quad.
The real number of damaged sites could well be higher as the UN agency’s Unosat project was unable to get data for an additional seven areas across the country.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations