Antiquities Director demands serious int’l measures to protect Palmyra’s ruins against real ISIS threat

Damascus, SANA – Director General of the Antiquities and Museums Directorate Maamoun Abdul-Karim warned that the historical city of Palmyra is facing “a real threat” after the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked Tadmur city and the archeological sites days ago.

The attack, he warned in a press conference on Saturday, portends a “catastrophe” for Palmyra, a World Heritage Site that is home to one of the region’s most renowned ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world.

He called the battle for Palmyra as a “battle for culture per excellence,” calling on all of the Syrians to stand united in the face of the terror gangs in this battle “to defend our history and cultural identity.”

Addressing reporters of several local, Arab and international media outlets, Abdul-Karim demanded enforcing the Security Council’s resolution no. 2199 to the effect of drying out the sources of terrorism and protecting the cultural heritage threatened by terrorism in Syria and Iraq, where ISIS has spread.

The Russia-drafted resolution, which was unanimously approved on 12 February 2015 provided for combating terrorism by all means, including economic sanctions, and condemned extraction of natural resources and  destruction of cultural heritage by terrorists.

The resolution, Abdul-Karim said, must be followed by “executive measures” that translate the international will to preserve Syria’s cultural heritage that is now in jeopardy.

He criticized the absence of “any serious preventive action” to that effect by the international community despite the repeated appeals by the Directorate and international organizations interested in the issue, mainly the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

He also called for compelling Syria’s neighboring countries to control their borders in the face of infiltrating terrorists and the systematic smuggling of artifacts and archeological items stolen from Syria.

Touching upon the situation in the historical city after ISIS attack, Abdul-Karim said there is information that the terrorists stormed into the National Museum there and messed with its contents and destroyed newly displaced models.

He assured that the Antiquities and Museums Directorate, in cooperation with army units, had moved tens of thousands of archeological artifacts and pieces prior to ISIS attack, including statues, coffins and sarcophagi among others.

As for the sites in the ancient Palmyra city, he expressed real concerns that demolition or theft might actually be the fate of the ruins there, since ISIS has given previous examples of its tendency to such conduct in northern Iraq.

Haifa Said

Check Also

Russia, Iran affirm necessity to respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity

Moscow, SANA-Russia and Iran have reiterated the necessity of respecting Syria’s sovereignty and preserving its …