“Protecting Our Cultural Heritage Against Illicit Trafficking, a National Duty: Mushaweh

“Our great cultural heritage is currently, more than ever, being exposed to a serious threat that endangers our national identity, Culture Minister Lubana Mushaweh has said, stressing that “it is our national and humanitarian duty to protect this heritage against stealing, smuggling and illicit trafficking.

Mushaweh was speaking during a workshop held on Sunday by the General Directorate of Antiquities and Museums (GDAM) at Damascus National Museum to tackle the issue of illicit trafficking of cultural properties.

The workshop, which was held under the patronage of the Culture Ministry, aimed to discuss ways of fighting illicit trafficking of antiquities, building abilities and enhancing awareness about preserving cultural properties from threats.

The historical and cultural importance of smuggled Syrian antiquities, the effectiveness of the local and international laws, which control illicit trafficking of antiquities, under the current international developments, besides the role of the Syrian government in disseminating awareness about preserving the country’s national heritage and antiquities are the main topics listed on the workshop’s agenda.

According to minister Mushaweh, the workshop, which is being held under the critical circumstances Syria is passing through, comes within the framework of the ministry’s cooperation with concerned government bodies to put an end to the danger threatening Syrian antiquities.

She pointed out that the great efforts being exerted by the archaeological institutions can’t stand alone in the face the vicious aggression and dangerous violations targeting the Syrian antiquities and archeological sites.

“Unjust excavations in some Syrian archeological sites left more than 300 holes that led to the destruction of some archeological buildings dating back to the Hellenistic age in the 3rd century BC,” Mushaweh said, stressing that these aggressions necessitate from concerned parties to unify efforts to alleviate losses and avoid more serious aggressions.

“The Syrian cultural heritage is a source of pride to all humanity, said the minister, stressing that the international community must shoulder the responsibility towards supporting Syrian archeological institutions to help them face the barbaric aggression against this heritage.

Concluding her statement, the minister thanked the archeologists and researchers who back the ministry’s effort to combat the illicit trafficking of the Syrian antiquities and who spare no effort at international scientific forums to disseminate awareness about the reality of events in Syria and uncover the conspiracy which targets the Syrian cultural heritage.

Director of the GDAM Maamoun Abdul Karim said that stealing and smuggling antiquities is an old problem which threatens Syria’s unique heritage, pointing out that Syria has lost a precious part of its heritage as traders and smugglers of cultural properties were active during the past few decades in violating cultural and archeological places in the country.

He added Syria was among the first countries which were keen to enhance international cooperation to combat illicit trafficking of human and cultural heritage and to protect cultural properties in armed conflicts.

Experts participating in the workshop highlighted the GDAM’s experience in preserving Syria’s diverse cultural heritage and called for drawing up an integrated national strategy in coordination with government parties, civil society organizations and individuals in order to protect Syria’s cultural heritage which was accumulated over long ages.

H. Mustafa