12 March 2014

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, UNESCO Chief, Joint Special Representative Call for End


to Destruction as Syria’s Cultural Heritage ‘Ripped to Shreds’


The following statement was issued today by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] Director-General Irina Bokova and United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi:

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 Muslim.

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 United Nations 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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For information media • not an official record