Syrian culture destroyed by ISIS

map of syria

By Lauren Randall
The Razorback Reporter

Five of the six World Heritage sites in Syria listed by UNESCO as endangered cultural areas have been severely damaged and looted for antiquities by terrorist groups, the U.N. organization reported.

ISIS has destroyed monuments, temples, and cities that go against their ideological beliefs, and are looting archeological sites that already have been excavated, according to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. Terrorists are selling artifacts that are significant in preserving the culture’s history and background.

In the recent occupation of the city of Palmyra ISIS blew up the temple of Baalshamin and the temple of Bel in late August, and the Arch of Triumph a couple months later. The castle, Crac des Chevaliers, was also bombed last year.  Outside of explosives, the terrorist group also commits acts of arson including the Great Mosque of Aleppo fire in 2012.

Not only are these groups destroying ancient history they are selling it. Riad Ismat, former Minister of Culture for Syria, hopes that one day the country will regain tranquility and security, he said.

Several countries in the Middle East are experiencing similar issues including Iraq and Afghanistan; antiquity trafficking has become a worldwide issue – the third largest global criminal enterprise after drugs and guns, said Ann Early the State archeologist in Arkansas.  Money that is spent by individuals on these antiquities is considered “blood money” and is very likely going back to international terrorist groups, Early said.

ISIS infographic

The history that is being destroyed and sold is not just significant to Syria’s culture but the world. The University Of Pennsylvania Museum Of Archeology and Anthropology’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center and the Smithsonian Institution partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to inspect and observe these areas that had been affected or taken over by terrorist groups such as ISIS in Syria through a satellite images. Their research concluded that five sites including the ancient city of Aleppo, the ancient city of Bosra, the ancient city of Palmyra, the ancient cities of Northern Syria and two castles Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din had been badly damaged, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Damascus, the capital, was the only city that was not considered badly damaged.

The World Heritage Convention listed all six sites in 2013 as cultural sites in danger; the 48 other areas listed also include places in Afghanistan and Iraq.

UNESCO has protected Syrian’s cultural heritage, and people have gone to great lengths to preserve it. ISIS beheaded an archeologist who sought to protect antiquities where he had worked in Palmyra for more than 50 years.

“It’s our culture too, these are the civilizations of all human civilizations, this is not just one country’s heritage it’s the world heritage,” Early said.