Three generations ”will be necessary to repair the destructive effect of ISIS in Syria”, said Mohamad Saleh, the last director of tourism in Palmyra, to describe the huge damage in the ancient city, a UNESCO world heritage site controlled by the Caliphate since May.
Saleh intervened at the Mediterranean Bourse of Archaeological Tourism in Paestum that took place over the weekend and decided to name an international archaeological prize after Khaled Al-Asaad, the Syrian archaeologist killed by ISIS in Palmyra. The prize was awarded by Ugo Picarelli, the director of the Bourse, to Katerina Peristeri, who is in charge of excavations at the Amphipolis Tomb in Greece.
The Syrian official showed images of the Temples of Baal Shamin and Bell, the tower tombs in the ancient necropolis, the Arch of Triumph, before and after the passage of the terror group. And speaking about the image of children soldiers who last July, in the ruins of the amphitheatre, shot dead 25 Syrian soldiers, Saleh warned: ”Which future can be built with a whole generation of children who have seen their peers kill in cold blood? The men from ISIS destroy anyone who doesn’t think like them: culture is compromised, not only for the destruction of our heritage. We still don’t know today the entity of damages on the Museum: they certainly burnt on the street and then threw into the garbage five mummies”.
Uncertainty over the entity of damages was confirmed also by Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, director of the department of antiquities of Syria, who was reached on the phone during the meeting.
”Over the past 15 years, there was an effort to destroy the two truly secular countries in the area: the Syrian republic and the republic of Iraq”, stressed the archaeologist Paolo Matthiae, director of the archaeological mission in Syria until 2014, the year when all missions were closed for security reasons. ”For us operating there – he added – one thing is certain: cultural massacres are not carried out by Syrian citizens, nor rebels but by barbaric mercenaries who are religious fanatics, far removed from true Islam”.
The attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia was also remembered in Paestum with a prize awarded to the museum’s director Moncef Ben Moussa. ”The first effort of UNESCO is to raise the awareness of local populations on the fact that the heritage must not be destroyed – recalled Mounir Bouchenaki, special advisor to the director general of UNESCO – we are working for the constitution of an international Red cross dealing with the safeguard of sites and museums in territories torn by conflict”.