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Global Heritage Fund and Durham University Release Report on
Syria’s Damaged Cultural Heritage Sites

“Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict”
Documents Destruction of Ancient Sites as a Result of War and Conflict

PALO ALTO, CA (May 21, 2012) – Global Heritage Fund (GHF), an international conservancy devoted to saving endangered cultural heritage sites in developing countries, today released a new report — Damage to the Soul: Syria’s Cultural Heritage in Conflict — documenting the destruction of Syria’s most significant heritage sites during the country’s recent conflict. The comprehensive report, which collates all known damage as of May 16, was produced by Emma Cunliffe, a Global Heritage Preservation Fellow and PhD researcher at Durham University.

“Of all countries on earth, Syria’s cultural heritage is among the richest and most complex,” said Jeff Morgan, Executive Director of GHF. “For over a year, that heritage has come under fire as a result of war and conflict, with clouds of uncertainty surrounding potential damage to these irreplaceable sites. Today, thanks to Emma Cunliffe’s excellent and comprehensive report, we have a much clearer idea of the state of Syria’s cultural heritage, meaning we are better equipped to work together to save and protect it for future generations.”

Damage to the Soul is split into two main sections. The first describes various conflict-related activities that have directly or indirectly damaged cultural sites, including shelling, gunfire, army occupation, terrorism, looting, and uncontrolled/illegal construction and demolition. The second section documents damage to specific sites, including all six of Syria’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites — Aleppo, Ancient Villages of Northern Syria, Bosra, Crac des Chevaliers, Damascus, and Palmyra — and numerous Tentative World Heritage and National Heritage sites.

Photos and videos show shelling and gunfire damage to the Ancient Villages — inscribed to the World Heritage List less than a year ago — with buildings turned to rubble and ruins toppled for use as road blocks. At Apamea, one video shows tanks shelling the ancient Greek colonnade where hundreds of columns had previously been restored and re-erected, while others show the prolonged shelling that has devastated the citadel of Qal-at al-Mudiq. At Palmyra, one of Syria’s most important ancient cities, security forces set up in the citadel overlooking the town and nearby Roman ruins, blasting the landscape with tank and machine gun fire.

Cunliffe was awarded a Global Heritage Preservation Fellowship in 2010 for her ongoing research in Syria. Since then, she has documented threats to Syria’s ancient sites as an active member of Global Heritage Network (GHN), an early warning and threat monitoring system for cultural heritage sites in developing countries. For Damage to the Soul, Cunliffe engaged a wide range of sources external to Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, including GHF and other archaeology and conservation organizations, GHN and other social media platforms, and national and international media reports.

“The destruction of cultural heritage has been committed (intentionally or otherwise) by those on all sides of this conflict, whether out of a desire for the protection of strong citadel walls, or in the hunting of those in opposition to them,” Cunliffe writes in her conclusion. “Others watch opportunistically from the outside, and have crept in to steal a heritage which does not belong to them, for a market which seeks only to profit from the others’ loss… In the face of the blame, and the hatred, it becomes all the more important to remember those in Syria who have worked for years to preserve the treasures of the past, and to pay tribute to those who struggle still to get their messages out, and to protect the heritage of Syria.”

About Global Heritage Fund
Global Heritage Fund (GHF) is an international conservancy whose mission is to protect, preserve and sustain the most significant and endangered cultural heritage sites in the developing world. GHF utilizes its 360-degree Preservation by Design® methodology of community-based planning, science, development and partnerships to enable long-term preservation and sustainability of global heritage sites. Since 2002, GHF has invested over $25 million and secured $20 million in co-funding for 18 global heritage sites to ensure their sustainable preservation and responsible development.

About Durham University
Durham University is a world top-100 university with a global reputation and performance in research and education. The most recent UK league tables place Durham in the top echelon of British universities academically. Durham is ranked in the top 3 UK universities in the influential Sunday Times University Guide 2012; is 26th in the world for the impact of its research (THE citations ratings) and 15th in the world for the employability of its students by blue-chip companies world wide. We are a residential Collegiate University: England’s third oldest university and at our heart is a medieval UNESCO World Heritage Site, jointly owned with Durham Cathedral. Durham has accepted an invitation to join the Russell Group of leading research-intensive UK universities.