Responses to the Destruction of Syrian Cultural Heritage: A Critical Review of Current Efforts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 5, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-5895
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5909



The Syrian civil war has resulted in over 250,000 deaths and several million displaced refugees within Syria and abroad. In addition to this human toll, the conflict has resulted in the devastation of the country’s acclaimed cultural heritage sites and the historical fabric that composed the country’s social landscape and the identity of its population. In this article, we consider the reaction of the international heritage community to this moment of crisis. To date, the international heritage community has developed three kinds of projects: site documentation projects; public-awareness-raising projects; and emergency training and mitigation projects. Most of these undertakings have prioritized the collection and dissemination of information about heritage loss. Less attention has been given to emergency interventions to support Syrians inside the country and the at-risk heritage. A significant gap exists between international knowledge about heritage in this crisis and the immediate needs of Syrian heritage professionals. Here, we consider some of the reasons for the divergence between on-the-ground-need and international response, along with the intended and unintended outcomes resulting from the documentation and public-awareness-raising projects. In terms of tangible results, there is no substitute for efforts conducted within a humanitarian framework. The challenge is in encouraging the international heritage community to embrace such an approach.


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