Unesco adds six Syrian sites to endangered list

UN cultural agency says are ‘of outstanding universal value for humanity as a whole’


Six ancient sites in Syria, including a fortress built by Saladin and a famed Crusader castle, have been added to Unesco’s endangered World Heritage list as war continues to ravage the country.

Syria boasts six World Heritage sites: the ancient cities of Damascus, Bosra and Aleppo, the oasis of Palmyra, the castles of Crac des Chevaliers and Qal’at Salah El-Din – also known as the fortress of Saladin – and the ancient villages of northern Syria.

All six were placed on the list of World Heritage in Danger by Unesco at its annual meeting in Phnom Penh.

In a statement, the UN’s cultural agency said its World Heritage Committee described the sites as being “of outstanding universal value for humanity as a whole.”

Unesco said its information on the scale of the destruction was “partial” and came from unverified sources including social media and a report from Syrian authorities which it said “does not necessarily reflect the actual situation”.

Aleppo’s old city, in particular, has “witnessed some of the conflict’s most brutal destruction”, it said, adding that its old citadel had been “caught in the line of fire”.

Minaret destroyed
In April, the minaret of Aleppo’s Umayyad mosque – originally built in the 8th century and then rebuilt in the 13th century – was destroyed.

“The immediate, near-term and long-term effect of the crises on the cultural heritage of Aleppo cannot be overstated,” Unesco said.

Looting of ancient tombs and grave sites has been reported at several sites, it added. Illicit trade in Syria’s heritage has flourished during the two-year war.