Syria: Cultural Heritage and the Local Community

Since the beginning of the Syrian war in 2011, one of the countless victims along with the human catastrophe is cultural heritage in Syria. The social importance of heritage lies in the sense of identity it can create for individuals, giving them a connection to their history, their civilisation and the values of their ancestors. Therefore, destroying Syria?s heritage means damaging the soul of its people and the identity of the nation.

Once the conflict had reached a point where the archaeological authorities were no longer able to protect all sites and museums, the Syrian people had to get involved. The policy of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) was to communicate directly with local communities in order to shield sites from the ongoing events and prevent damage. In some cities, the social, religious and cultural elite have played a major and vital role in protecting archaeological sites and museums from looters.

The need to raise awareness of the value of this heritage, as well as the importance of everyone?s participation in its preservation, soon became clear. Several awareness campaigns on the importance of heritage and the need to preserve it have already been launched. The focus has been on the importance and definition of archaeological and historical sites, the correlations between past and present, raising awareness in schools and universities, and collaboration with anyone concerned with the protection of antiquities and human heritage. Preserving Syrian cultural heritage is an important step towards preserving the country?s cultural identity and rebuilding a healthy post-conflict society.

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