The mosque at Azaz, north of Aleppo, last week
“ There is, of course, a moral question about our concern for the destruction of the treasures of history. Common humanity suggests that the death of a single Syrian child amid the 19,000 fatalities of Syria’s tragedy must surely carry more weight than the plundering and erasure of three thousand years of civilisation. True. But the pulverisation and theft of whole cities of history deprives future generations – in their millions – of their birthright and of the seeds of their own lives. Syria has always been known as “the Land of Civilisations” – Damascus and Aleppo are among the world’s oldest inhabited cities and Syria is the birthplace of agrarian society – and the terrible conflict now overwhelming the country will deprive us and our descendants of this narrative for ever. ”
I generally hesitate to make a fuss over monuments and material culture when human life is at stake in the midst of conflicts. As some of you know, however, the majority of my research has focused on Syria for the last three years and this is very serious destruction. Palmyra, Krak des Chevaliers, the Dead Cities, and Roman material from outside Aleppo are now victims to war as well, and if you care even a smidge about cultural heritage, their damage warrants further attention.