Syrian Antiquities Officials Scramble to Save Aleppo's UNESCO Heritage Sites

By | Jan 14, 2017 12:07 AM EST
The Umayyad Great Mosque

The Umayyad Great Mosque is one of the UNESCO heritage sites that have suffered damage.(Photo : Getty Images)

Syrian antiquities officials are asking for urgent action to protect damaged buildings in the city of Aleppo, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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"We have more than 150 heritage buildings with different levels of damage, without taking into account places like the ancient souk, 60 percent of which is destroyed," Maamoun Abdulkarim, Syria's Director General of Antiquities and Museums, told journalists.

According to Abdulkarim, many of the traditional houses, dating from around the first century AD, have also suffered extensive damage.

Syrian government forces took control of Aleppo in early December after four years of war between them and armed opposition groups. Since the fighting stopped, Abdulkarim and his team have photographed ancient heritage sites in the city while assessing the extent of the damage.

Many buildings are still standing, while others have suffered huge damage.

Abdulkarim said that the situation is both sad and dramatic. He added that while they can afford to wait for peace to return in Palmyra, in Aleppo every new winter will be a further attack on the cultural sitesThis is because unlike the stones used in Palmyra, a lot of the buildings in Aleppo were built using traditional materials.

Photographs showed the damaged buildings blanketed by snow. Some of the structures have lost roofs, while others have collapsed almost entirely due to shelling during the war.

Abdulkarim said that while Syrians have more pressing problems to deal with, leaving the buildings in their present state will only lead to more deterioration. Steps have been taken to start removing the rubble and debris from the Citadel and the Umayyad Mosque, Aleppo's most famous landmarks.

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