The Syrian civil war is one of the century’s greatest catastrophes. As many as half a million people have been killed and millions more displaced. The war is also erasing Syria’s history. New drone video shows damage to Syria’s heritage with Byzantine churches, monasteries and even whole villages ruined by ten years of war.
Tourists used to flock to the northwestern province of Idlib. The well preserved remains of late antiquity and Byzantium were dazzling. The tourist trade is completely ruined of course, but so are many of the old sites.
“Idlib province is home to more than 360 heritage sites,” Ayman Nabo, head of Idlib’s archaeological centre, told Euronews. “These sites date back to prehistoric times until the late Islamic period. They have been subjected to numerous violations, the most serious of which being the shelling of Russian warplanes and the artillery and tanks used by the Syrian regime.”
Local people pillage stones from the sites for their own building projects. And unauthorized excavations did damage as well.
Drones show damage to Syria’s heritage
The war began with an uprising against high unemployment, corruption and lack of political freedom. The government of President Bashar al-Assad fought back brutally. In the chaos that followed, the Islamic State filled the power vacuum and took over vast swaths of territory. Although fighters of ISIS eventually capitulated, it wasn’t before they did their own damage to Syria’s heritage. They ransacked the ancient city of Palmyra, as drone footage revealed.
Russia has apparently used drone photos of ruined Palmyra to create a 3d model. It may help the Syrians eventually restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of course, Syria has much more important repairs to make than UNESCO sites. Drone video taken a year ago by the Red Cross showed Aleppo and rural Damascus practically reduced to rubble. And while drone video showing damage to Syria’s heritage may eventually help Syrians find their way back, its worth remembering military drones have contributed to the country’s ruin.