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Sandbags protect mosaics from damage caused by further attacks at the Maarra Mosaic Museum, Maarat an-Numan, Syria, March 4, 2015 (photo from the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania Museum).

Amid Carnage, Syrians Work to Protect and Rebuild What Remains

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Four years ago this week, the first protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in Syria. The toll from his regime’s crackdown and the ensuing civil war is staggering: at least 210,000 dead, 50 percent of the population displaced and over 1.2 million homes destroyed, along with half of Syria’s cities, where the lights have effectively gone out. Nearly 11 million Syrians have been forced from their homes. “The country they sought to improve literally no longer exists,” The Washington Post noted on this grim anniversary.

The war’s toll on Syria’s cultural heritage, in particular, has recently received more attention, after militants from the self-declared Islamic State (IS) went on a rampage destroying Iraqi antiquities. In a dire tally of what remains of Syria, Al Jazeera reported that 290 cultural and heritage sites have been affected by the fighting, with 104 of them severely damaged and 24 totally destroyed. Syria has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites; five of them have been significantly damaged. Satellite analysis from the American Association for the Advancement of Science confirmed the damage, with one of its lead researchers admitting his surprise at “just how extensive the destruction actually is.” ...

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