Syrian Heritage At Risk As U.S. Blockade Threatens Antiquities: Official

(MENAFN- Nam News Network) DAMASCUS, May 19 (NNN-XINHUA) – Mohammed Nazeer Awad, head of the General Directorate for Antiquities and Museums in Syria, shed light on the“catastrophic” impact of the U.S. economic blockade, on the management of cultural heritage in Syria.

In an interview with Xinhua, Awad said that, the economic blockade imposed by the United States has catastrophic consequences on various sectors in Syria, with a significant impact on the management of heritage in particular.

The blockade slowed down the restoration of historical buildings that were destroyed during the war, as many materials needed for restoration came from abroad.

“The economic blockade has harmed us no less than the war did, because any historical or archaeological building left for a long period after being partially damaged or destroyed without intervention afterwards, becomes more complicated and more costly to restore,” he noted.

“The economic blockade has led to an increase in prices of many necessary materials, due to shortages, an increase in labour costs, and an increase in the wages of experienced workers or their unavailability.”

In pre-war times, museums used to be open and functioning, and archaeological sites welcomed visitors. However, the economic blockade has brought all these activities to a halt. The aid that was used to support museums and archaeological sites for restoration and maintenance also ceased, further exacerbating the damage caused by the conflict, he said.

He stressed that, the restoration process in archaeological buildings requires a lot of expertise and many craftsmen working in the field of stone and wood, but many of these experts have moved abroad due to economic hardships.

“The siege has generally led to what I call the impoverishment of the Syrians, and this, in turn, has led to the leakage of these experiences through travel and migration, and we are suffering a lot,” he pointed out.

He also voiced concerns about illegal excavation and destruction of archaeological sites in Syria, particularly in areas outside government control. He highlighted the deliberate destruction of heritage as an attempt to erase national identity.

“The percentage of damage is catastrophic ... Until now, all the lands outside the government's authority are subject to illegal excavation and destruction, under the management and supervision of the controlling party of that land.”

“The most destructive entity is the American presence in areas rich in antiquities, whether by its presence or by its support of other entities that may contribute to the destruction of Syrian antiquities,” he said.

Amid these challenges,“we were able to achieve a lot of progress in international forums at the United Nations, by issuing a set of resolutions criminalising the trafficking of Syrian artefacts. However, all of this will not be of any benefit, in light of the lack of commitments or specific actions from the involved countries to return the artefacts to their owners,” he pointed out.

As the world observed International Museum Day on May 18 (yesterday), Awad forwarded a message expressing gratitude to those who helped manage and protect Syrian cultural heritage during the war, particularly highlighting the support from China.

“I hope we can establish more exhibitions or other cultural activities in China, to support us in informing the world about what happened to our artefacts and our country during the war,” he concluded.– NNN-XINHUA


Nam News Network

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