NEW YORK, JANUARY 20 – The UN Security Council expressed alarm on Friday after new attacks to cultural heritage in Palmyra, Syria, including the tetrapylon and parts of the theatre, with satellite imagery by UNITAR-UNOSAT confirming the destruction.
”The members of the Security Council were alarmed by reports of executions in the theater of Palmyra and expressed deep concern for the safety of thousands of Palmyra residents inside the city”, stressed a statement strongly condemning “these ongoing terrorist acts by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Syria”.
The statement was approved after an Italian and French initiative. Italy, who holds the rotating presidency of the G7, has proposed to put concrete actions to protect world heritage on the next March meeting of the Ministers of Culture in Florence.
Today the members of the Security Council reaffirmed their grave concern for the protection of the World Heritage site of Palmyra and the systematic campaign of destruction of cultural heritage in Syria by ISIL/Daesh.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their condemnation of the destruction of cultural heritage in Syria by ISIL/Daesh, including targeted destruction of religious sites and objects, and noted with concern that ISIL and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaida have generated income from engaging directly or indirectly in the looting and smuggling of cultural heritage items from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites in Syria, which is being used to support their recruitment efforts and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks. The members of the Security Council underlined the need to bring perpetrators of these acts to justice.
In the statement, the members of the Security Council noted the statement of UNESCO Director-General Bokova that “this destruction is a new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity,” and voiced their support for the efforts by UNESCO to address the destruction and looting of cultural heritage, including efforts to assist in the implementation of relevant provisions of United Nations Security Council resolution 2199 (2015).
Bokova noted that this “new blow against cultural heritage, just a few hours after UNESCO received reports about mass executions in the theatre, shows that cultural cleansing led by violent extremists is seeking to destroy both human lives and historical monuments in order to deprive the Syrian people of its past and its future.”
“The tetrapylon was an architectural symbol of the spirit of the encounter and openness of Palmyra – and this is also one of the reasons why it has been destroyed. Its position and shape are unique in ancient architecture and testified to the specificity of Palmyrene identity, as a source of pride and dignity for all Syrians today,” declared the Director-General.
Palmyra’s theatre, dating from the 2nd century AD and was built in the centre of a semicircular colonnaded piazza located to the southwest of the main colonnaded street. UN analysis of satellite imagery shows damage at its formerly well-preserved proscenium wall, which was decorated with ten curved and nine rectangular niches placed alternately. (@OnuItalia)