Cross posted from Nature Middle East’s House of Wisdom blog on behalf of Mohammed Yahia.
As a popular uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria enters its second year, the Syrian Expatriates Organization has voiced concern that the nation’s archaeological treasures are under serious threat from attacks by the Syrian army.
A Facebook group, called Syrian Archaeological Ruins in Danger, released an internal letter that the Syrian Prime Minister Adel Safar supposedly sent to other ministers, warning that “professional international gangs” have smuggled into the country equipment for “stealing manuscripts and robbing museums, safes, and banks.” There are several museums in Syria spread across the country, housing artifacts from different eras. The deteriorating security and the chaos ensuring from the fighting might make it harder to protect these important sites. This echoes what happened in Egypt after the uprising that toppled long-time President Hosni Mubarak in January February 2011, when looting attempts, often successful, spread across the country as security waned.
Meanwhile, according to an AFP report, the Syrian army has taken up fortification in the historic Citadel of Ibn Maan, overlooking the ancient Roman Desert Ruins of Palmyra, a UNESCO protected world heritage site. Tanks have been set up near the entrance to the Roman ruins and residents say soldiers fortified in the citadel have been shooting at anything that moves from within since they started sieging the city in early February 2012.
In Homs, one of the worst hit cities by the conflict, activists have released videos and images of destroyed historic mosques, souqs (markets) and ancient towns.
Read the rest of this post, and see a video showing damage to archaeological sites, on House of Wisdom.