The Caliphate is continuing to spread terror and violence in Syria. Members of ISIS destroyed some famous and historical monuments in the city of Palmyra. Particularly, they demolished the Arch of Triumph, which is considered an UNESCO World Heritage site and is more than 2000 years old. In the same area, ISIS damaged and vandalized various archeological sites, after having occupied this territory. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Syria’s director-general of antiquities and museums, said about this issue “It’s a crime in every sense of the word; All we can do is share the sadness”(1).
This monument was built during the Roman occupation and was considered an invaluable artistic and historical heritage. The members of ISIS destroyed it, because they cannot accept every artistic expression or monument related to different cultures and religions. Due to their extremism, they demolished it as a sign of blasphemy and idolatry. It’s not the first time that the Caliphate is involved in similar actions. In fact, according to The Guardian “Earlier this summer, the group destroyed the majestic Temple of Bel, once the centre of religious life in ancient Palmyra, and the historic Temple of Baalshamin”(2).
There are other risks related to the occupation of this city by ISIS. In fact, there is a strong possibility that the Terrorists may destroy all the other monuments based in the same area. In fact, according to The Guardian “the majority of Palmyra’s monuments could be destroyed if the international community and forces on the ground in Syria did not act”(3). Moreover, this episode reinforces the urgency of a definitive military intervention in Syria against ISIS. Another city which risks to be targeted and destroyed is Aleppo, where there are other famous and historical monuments. Mr. Abdulkarim declared about this issue “Aleppo is like Warsaw in the second world war; It is in the process of being destroyed; We are losing one of the most important cities in the Islamic and Arabic worlds, for all humanity”(4).
The consequences of these destruction by ISIS have been discussed by UNESCO. Irina Bokova, the main chief of this organization has released many interesting statements about the destruction of the archeological heritage in Syria. She commented about these recent events “I’m calling this cultural cleansing; The world had been stunned by the scale of the destruction of historically and culturally significant sites by Islamist terror groups over the past few years”(5). Furthermore, she underlined the importance to involve the United Nations and other international organizations to solve this difficult situation in Syria and to save the Syrian artistic and historical patrimony. During her speeches, she often used the expression “cultural cleansing” to indicate the systematic destruction of monuments by ISIS.
In this case, for the first time UNESCO is going to be involved in political and military problems due to the gravity of the situation. In fact, Ms. Bokova said about this issue “For the first time we have convinced the UN Security Council to take up seriously something that we have been advocating since the beginning of the Syrian conflict; I remember during those times I was criticised in the press, [which said] that Unesco is out of touch because people are dying and we are talking about bricks and stones”(6).