Palmyra International Forum in Moscow: Constructive talks and a day of noteworthy activities for Aramea delegation (May 25, 2017)


On May 25, 2017, Aramea delegation visited the Union of Architects of the Russian Federation in Moscow which hosted the Palmyra International Forum, met with its President Mr. Shumakov N.I, members of its Board of Directors, and held constructive talks with them.

The talks dealt with the importance of the Syrian historical city of Palmyra for human civilization, the urgent need to protect the archaeological landmarks of the Levant from terrorism, sabotage and looting, and adopt decisive measures by the international community as a whole against traffickers and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Aramea delegation then inspected the photo exhibition about Palmyra, which included about 1,000 pictures taken by Russian photographers of the Syrian historical city before and after it was vandalized by ISIS/Da’ash terrorist group.

The delegation also saw pictures of the deliberate vandalism perpetrated by ISIS on the destroyed monuments of Palmyra, and the phrases it had written on them.

On May 26, 2017, Palmyra International Forum dedicated a special day for the Aramea foundation, during which its members talked about the Foundation and its activities that aim to highlight the importance of the Levant countries, the history of Palmyra, its importance for human civilization and the need to provide the necessary protection for archaeological sites in the Levant.

Ms. Maria Sapozhnikova, Aramea Director of Public Relations, introduced the Foundation to the audience, by describing Aramea’s vision and leadership, aims, and goals. She has stressed the importance of seeing the neighbouring countries in the Levant region collaborating with each other to solve regional issues.

Aramea delegation member, Mrs. Irina Berezina, presented to the attendees the current activities organized by the Foundation, such as round tables, conferences, including the last three round tables held this year in London and Paris. Furthermore, she has explained the work that has been done on the ground at the Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.

For his part, Dr. Antoine Joseph Assaf, Aramea Board Member, highlighted the importance of Palmyra throughout history and its cultural richness. He pointed out that this ancient Syrian city is “mentioned in texts discovered at Mari dating back to the 2nd millennium BC, and its rulers included the Assyrians and Persians, before the settlement was incorporated into the realm of the Seleucids, the empire founded by a former general of Alexander the Great.”

Dr. Assaf stated that “Palmyra, from an early time, was an indispensable staging post for caravans travelling between the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia and Arabia. It was also an important link on the old Silk Route from China and India to Europe with the city prospering greatly by levying heavy tolls on the caravans”. He said that emperor Hadrian visited Palmyra in AD 129 and declared it a ‘free city’, allowing it to set and collect its own taxes. Dr. Assaf noted that Palmyra became a Roman colony in 212, under the emperor Caracalla (himself born of a Syrian mother).

He concluded by calling to rebuild Palmyra, and restore it to what it was before as a beacon of the human civilization.

The Syrian archaeologist and Aramea delegation member, Ms. Rana Khawam, displayed a set of 13 posters representing the chronology of Palmyra going from prehistory to the Islamic era, and exposing the results of the two excavation campaigns (2010 and 2011) in the archaeological site of “Aïn Jawal” located in the El Kowm region of Central Syria and carried out by a Syrian scientific team. The set also relates to the social life of two villages “El Sokhna” and “El Taiba” that are considered as traditional steppe villages in the Palmyrene region by revealing a series of portrait photographs of the local people of these villages, taken between 2010 and 2011.

She gave details about the preliminary results of the excavations in the site of “Aïn Jawal” in which she participated. Ms. Khawam explained that in 2010 and 2011, a team of specialized archaeologists (lithicien, archaeozoologist, anthropologist, and topographer) has led excavations aiming to uncover evidences of human occupations dating from the Lower Palaeolithic to the Neolithic, as well as some remains belonging to both the Roman and Islamic periods.

Mr. Bassam Alloni complimented the organisers for their proper selection of the city of Palmyra as the theme of this international forum. He 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.

He stated that the invaluable legacy of humanity’s common heritage is under attack in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and those who claim that they really care have seen footage of heritage sites being destroyed and looted by terrorists’ groups but they remained silent.

Mr. Alloni called on all participants in Moscow International Forum to start serious work from Palmyra, given its location as a human heritage hub that does not concern Syria alone.

Architect Mr. Husam Chakouf from Zaha Hadid Architects and Aramea advisor, spoke about the need to rebuild what is being destroyed of the historic city of Palmyra by the terrorist group Da’ash. He pointed out that this step is important for human civilization, and also reminds the world of Syria’s contribution to the world heritage.

Mr. Chakouf explained that the method of restoring the destroyed monuments in the city of Palmyra can be done through advanced technology and by using the same materials to repair the missing parts, or by copying the same materials, or reconstructing them in a different way by using other materials.

At the conclusion of the activities of Aramea day, the management of the Union of Architects of the Russian Federation stressed on the need for future cooperation between the two sides.

Aramea Foundation participated in the Palmyra International Architectural Forum in Moscow, which was launched in the Russian capital on 22 May 2017 :

The exhibition of the photos of Palmyra has been extended till July 1st 2017.

You can find it at the House of Union of Russian Architects in Moscow, Granatniy per 7/1.