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UNESCO: To act as a neutral organization and stop the Palmyra reconstruction plans

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UNESCO: To act as a neutral organization and stop the Palmyra reconstruction plans
  
  

 


Why this is important

We, the undersigned, urge the international community
and its cultural organizations and academic institutions to help protecting the Syrian heritage and sparing it the political, ethnic, sectarian, or business agendas of the fighting groups in the Syrian conflict and their global backers.

On March 27, 2016, UNESCO released a statement on the recent developments in Palmyra after the withdrawal of the Islamic State fighters and the recapturing of the ancient and modern town by the Syrian regime forces. We regret that UNESCO Director General “reiterated her full support for the restoration of Palmyra” without first considering the ramifications of such a hasty statement.

The intention of UNESCO and other organizations to engage in a restoration and reconstruction process of the ancient site of Palmyra right now is both inopportune and unrealistic. Despite the recent fragile ceasefire in Syria, the war is far from being over, and no peace agreement has been reached between the fighting parties to this date. Millions of Syrians are still suffering the enormous consequences of this bloody war. Among them are the people of Palmyra who have experienced and continue to experience loss of life, detention, displacement, and the devastating destruction of their homes and heritage.

While we condemn in the strongest words the barbaric and monstrous assaults of IS on the people and cultural monuments and artifacts of Palmyra, and express our relief at the IS withdrawal from the town, we observe the recent and upcoming political developments with caution. It comes at great shock to us that the protection and future of Syrian heritage is discussed with and decided by Russian President Vladimir Putin, an active player in this gruesome conflict and a perpetrator of human and cultural rights violations. UNESCO has a commitment to building peace in the minds of women and men. Taking a partisan position that celebrates the Syrian regime and Russian military achievements will not help constructing a lasting peace or restoring Palmyra’s famed cultural heritage. UNESCO must act as a neutral scientific, technical, and educational institution, and, if it does so, it can and should play a unifying role for all Syrians through their shared history and heritage.

We are in full support of a detailed investigation of the destruction and looting of the site and the Palmyra museum since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 to be undertaken by UNESCO with the help of Syrian heritage experts. We also support necessary emergency interventions now to prevent further deterioration of monuments, in addition to long-term plans for the eventual restoration of the ancient city. But we firmly oppose any hasty reconstruction initiated by UNESCO and carried out by parties directly involved in the Syrian tragedy.

Posted April 8, 2016
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