In the areas hit by the two earthquakes of Monday, February 6, all attention is focused on the relief of the victims, but information concerning the state of the heritage is beginning to be collected. Syria, which has six properties listed as world heritage, concentrates most of the concerns of Unesco. Especially since the monuments there were badly damaged by the war. “The regions affected by the earthquake are very rich in terms of heritage,” explains Samir Abdulac, Icomos (International Council of Monuments and Sites) expert for the region. Recently, the country had undertaken some major restorations, particularly in Aleppo. This effort risks being largely wasted. »
The old city of Aleppo would be the most deteriorated. “The great wall of the northern enclosure of the citadel and a tower have collapsed. This is also the case for part of the Ottoman mill and certain structures of the old souk, explains Youmna Tabet, in charge of Arab countries for the World Heritage Center. There are also cracks in the minaret, and the domes of the mosques are partially collapsed. The deputy director of Syrian antiquities, Houmama Saad Dgam, confirms these destructions: “There is also damage in the old madrassa. »
Closer to the coast, the Krak des Chevaliers, a crusader stronghold dating back to the 12th century, was also affected, with cracks and fallen stones over a large area. Situation shared by other medieval military sites, such as the Tartous citadel and the Margat fortress.
The other major subject of concern concerns the state of the ancient villages, listed as World Heritage, located in north-western Syria: around forty sites, abandoned from the 7th century, rare testimonies of rural life in the Late Antiquity and Byzantine Period. Their churches in particular could have been badly damaged, but this area located between the part controlled by the Syrian power and the rebel areas is not accessible. The important sites of Homs and Palmyra, on the other hand, would not have suffered.
“For now, the damage may appear to be limited, but you have to be wary of this first impression. Some cracks can lead to major collapses”, specifies Youmna Tabet. The Beirut office (Lebanon) of the World Heritage Center should soon go there, “in the name of humanitarian aid”, which is not prohibited by the embargo affecting the regime of Bashar Al Assad. “Heritage must escape politics,” pleads Houmama Saad Dgam, who hopes in particular for help from France, historically very invested in safeguarding heritage in Syria. A political dilemma for the French authorities.