Aramea Foundation called for the adoption of a declaration guaranteeing the protection of the world cultural patrimony


By Bassam Alloni

The Aramea Foundation invited participants in the Palmyra International Forum in Moscow to adopt an effective Declaration guarantees the protection of the world cultural patrimony when threatened by war, terrorism, pillage and natural or human-induced disasters, and to hold accountable the terrorist groups that steal relics and those who are involved in their smuggling and illicit trade.

In a speech given by Mr Bassam Alloni under the title “Syria: From the cradle of civilisation to a haven for terrorisation – ISIS and the heritage cleansing”, Mr. Alloni, complimented the organisers for their proper selection of the city of Palmyra as the theme of Palmyra international forum, and also paid tribute to Russia’s efforts in combating the scourge of terrorism in Syria, and its endeavours to bring this country back to its natural habitat as the cradle of civilizations.

Mr. Alloni reminded the participants and audience that Jeffrey Feltman, the UN under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, stated that “Protecting heritage was not only a cultural issue, but also a security and humanitarian imperative.” But he drew their attention to the fact that the destruction and looting of cultural heritage in the Middle East by terrorist organisations is well-documented, and its brutality and severity have drawn international criticism as the violent destruction of heritage is classified as a war crime.

He warned that “The invaluable legacy of humanity’s common heritage is under attack in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya by terrorists groups”, and asked “why no concrete measures have been taken to stop the illicit trade of smuggled antiquities, as long as this illegal practice is considered a war crime, and why terrorists organisations like Da’esh, Al-Nusrah Front and all other individuals or groups associated with Al-Qaida are interested in archaeological sites and historical heritage?”

While Mr. Alloni pointed out that Western security experts and politicians believe that these terrorist organisations use the proceeds of the stolen antiquities to finance themselves, he raised questions about those who buy them, and how do they transfer the money to the culprits at a time when these terrorists groups are hunted militarily and financially by an international coalition of more than 50 countries and the world as whole.

He said “Since 2015, the UNSC, international bodies and Political blocs have taken many measures to tackle the illicit trade of stolen antiquities, but sadly the precious artefacts still find their way to Western museums. Many entities and individuals benefit from the stolen antiquities, as others also benefit from oil smuggled from Iraq, Syria and Libya.”

Mr. Alloni added that the Palmyra International Forum in Moscow offers an opportunity to start a serious work and specifically from Palmyra. He believed that there is a moral responsibility for all participants to contribute, because this city is a human heritage and does not concern Syria alone, and hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists used to come to Syria every year before the crisis to visit and enjoy Palmyra’s picturesque features.