The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Culture (DGAM) organized a workshop entitled: “Supporting Capacities in Safeguarding Cultural Heritage”
on 20 – 21 May 2015 at the Damascus national museum.
The workshop included speakers from the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), customs, UNESCO’s national commission and Damascus University. The speakers focused on how the both ministries have responded to the cultural heritage crisis.
The director of DGAM,
Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim
, formally opened the workshop; he underlined the significant of the workshop in time of increasing the risks that threaten our identity and history because of increase funding terrorist at the international level. He also referred to the efforts made by the MOI such as: strengthening the protection of the National Museums, contribute to the recovered a large number of artifacts smuggled abroad, provide Interpol with information and data relating to archaeological Syrian artifacts and the active participation of the (MOI) focal point.
he Major Johnny Singer,
from the office of the minister of Interior and the focal point to the cultural heritage sector, provided background information on the cooperation between the two ministries as a model and how Ministry of Interior is responding specifically in the sectors of illegal trafficking of artifacts, building capacities, raising awareness, involving the local community and strengthen the cooperation with the customs and DGAM.
Then Dr. Ahmed Deeb
, Director of Museums affairs at DGAM explained that 99% of the museums artifacts were transferred to safe places and the documentation and inventories measures are going on. Director Deeb explained the challenge and strength facing the museums sectors, he emphasized that the DGAM had recovered 6500 artifacts by the cooperation of the concerned authorities.
The commander Mohammad Hasan Ali
, Director of Moral Guidance Department at (MOI), spoke about the role of the MOI in fighting the cultural heritage illicit trafficking, he demonstrated several cases regarding these issues; the presenter explained also the role of MOI in raising awareness using several materials such as the media to draw attention towards the importance of the cultural heritage.
Mr. Nazeer Awad
, Director of Historical Buildings at DGAM presented the damages to the Syrian archaeological sites he classified the damages during the crisis to several categories such as: damages by illegal excavations done by antiquities armed gangs coming from the neighborhood countries, using the archaeological site as battlefield, ideological purposes that led the distructions of statues and religious buildings and shrines, illegal buildings and agriculture because of the absence of the government in some areas, destruction of the ancient stones for using in building. He added that the most significant archaeological sites suffered from serious damages like Mari, Dura Europos at the Euphrates Valley and Aleppo ancient city.
The commander Malek Ballo
, Chef of protection of government buildings department in MOI, spoke about the role of (MOI) in protecting the National museum at Damascus and the building of DGAM by increasing the numbers of police members to guard the national museum of Damascus, DGAM building, and essential infrastructure and recruit monitoring cameras and lighting equipment at the surrounding area. He added that the department had created a database for each government building with the needed infrastructure maps.
Director of excavation studies at DGAM Mr. Ahmad Ferrzat Taraqji,
presented the statue of the archaeological Tells before and after the crisis, he talked about the history of the excavation as the first archaeological works were carried out at Ugarit on 1929 during the French mandate, after that archaeological work became institutionalized under the supervision of DGAM, first excavations were done by DGAM on 1947 at Bosra. On 1954 the Directorate of Excavation and Historical Studies was established within the administration structure of the DGAM.
During the recent crisis most of the archaeological Tells suffered from extensive looting done by armed gangs the damage they left in archaeological sites is finite and important information about past life ways is lost. In facing this disaster the DGAM communicate with local community and all the international archaeological excavation missions who worked in Syria (that related to more than 25 nationalities), in order to mobilized the world about the damages and reduce its impact.
On the 2d day the Director of legal affairs at DGAM Mr. Ayman Sulaiman
spoke about looting as an international epidemic, he gave an overview of the national legislation for the protection of cultural heritage; the Syrian constitution as well as the antiquities law 222/1963 its sanctions and incentives. He spoke about the international trade and the reasons for its flourished such as the occupation, the lack of legislation and the absence of awareness of the importance of cultural heritage programs.
In his presentation, the lieutenant colonel Khalid al Houssin,
chef of the Arab and International Criminal Police Branch, introduced the rules of the national Interpol and its relation with the international Interpol. He added that Syria has contributed effectively and tirelessly in the fight against crime at the national, regional and international level, but over the last four years the crisis in Syria were not limited to what we known of killing and displacement of human life and the destruction of state institutions and infrastructure, but also terrorist Groups suspicious systematic operations to erase the cultural heritage in Syria through theft and smuggling the Syrian cultural heritage.
For his part, Eng. Abdulsalam al Midani
, Director of ICT in DGAM gave an overview of the existing dedicated ICT tools that help professional at DGAM to register, retrieve and share data at areas of conflicts. He introduced the database of historical buildings and archaeological site in Syria before the crisis by using the GIS and how the DGAM develop a specific alterations on the actual systems to document the damage and sharing data by using social media, DGAM website, interactive map and google earth.
Colonel Kamal Farha
, from the Tourist Polica unit in MOI gave a presentation, showcasing the role of the tourist police unit in help prevent crime and secure control in the areas which tourists visit (museums, archaeological sites).
Dr. Nidal Hasan
, Director of the UNESCO’s national commission in MOE, addressed the role of the commission in implemented the advancement of UNESCO’s objectives of its program” the Urgent Safeguarding of the Syrian cultural heritage”.
Dr. Mahmud Hamoud
, Director of Antiquities in Damascus countryside, underlined the damages at Damascus countryside and the role of the local community in protecting the archaeological sites, historical buildings and helping recover looted artifacts.
Mr. Yaarob Al Abdallah
, Curator of Damascus Museum and formal curator of Deir ezZour museum, addressed the damages at the Syrian eastern area, he focused in his presentation at Deir ezZour where several of the significant archaeological sites at the Euphrates valley suffered from extensive damages by looting and illegal diggings as well as the historical buildings at the city of Deir ezZour which damaged by clashes such as the old market, the bridge and others.
At the end of the workshop, Dr. Saeed Al Haji
, Professor at Damascus university, reviewed the damages at Bosra ancient site and the role of the local community to neutralize the site from clashes and to provide support to the Bosra Antiquities in order to undertake the emergency intervention for the damaged monuments.