Damascus, SANA – Director of the Archeology and Museums General Directorate Mamoun Abdelkarim said that the Directorate managed to protect around 99% of the contents of Syria’s museums throughout the past four years, employing swift and effective steps to carry that out.
In an interview given to SANA on occasion of him being awarded the Cultural Heritage Rescue Prize by the Venice-based Priorita Cultura association, Abdelkarim said that terrorist organizations have done much damage to Syria’s cultural and historical heritage, with terrorists carrying out acts of looting and vandalism of archeological sites.
Discussing the Directorate’s work, Abdelkarim said that efforts are being made to restore damaged historic structures where possible, noting that many structures sustained severe to low damage, particularly in Aleppo and Homs cities.
Regarding archeological sites, which number over 10,000 across Syria, Abdelkarim said that steps were taken to ensure their protection in cooperation with local communities, but despite that several sites sustained considerable damage in Raqqa, Deir Ezzor, Hasaka, Hama, and Daraa.
He said that there are hundreds of mercenaries working with organized crime networks that are operating in Syria and attempting to steal archeological artifacts, calling on the international community to act to prevent the smuggling of Syrian antiquities and track down stolen artifacts.
As for museums, Abdelkarim said that they are in good condition barring some damage to the buildings, as most of the museums’ contents are perfectly secured and preserved, except for some instances in Raqqa and in Deir Attiye, praising the role played by local communities in preserving heritage sites from theft and vandalism.
He went on to say that there is ongoing cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to alert international law-enforcement about artifacts stolen from Syria, with a multi-lingual bulletin being issued on artifacts of Syrian origin, adding that over 93 artifacts have already been recovered in cooperation with the Directorate’s counterpart in Lebanon.
“We don’t hide information about the state of our antiquities. All the information we have, we publish on the directorate’s website… when artifacts are stolen, we inform international organization so that they can act in public and so that we can recover the artifacts or register violations,” Abdelkarim concluded.