The Ancient City of Palmyra: How ISIS is Ruining Precious Ruins

By FRANCESCA TIRAVANTI, The Straits Times

In the Syrian desert, there is an oasis that once was a great city and one of the most import cultural centers of the ancient world. Palmyra, held between the 1st and 2nd century an exquisite architecture and art incomparable to others; it grew rapidly as an important city and had trade routes with Persia, India, China and the Roman Empire. Re-discovered by travelers in the decade the 17th century, the magnificence of its ruins contributed to the revival of classic styles and designs of western architecture.  It is sometimes referred to as the “Bride of the Desert”.

Before the Syrian civil war began, Palmyra was home to 65,000 people, but after it was retaken by the government families fled and did not came back. Nowadays it’s home to few hundred families, and that number is reducing day by day since the city was captured by ISIS in December. This is not the first time the extremist has taken over this cultural heritage site; in May 2015 the iconic Arch of Triumph was blown up in what they called a “cultural cleansing”. The director of UNESCO later stated that: “This new destruction of culture in Palmyra reflects the brutality and ignorance of extremist groups and their disregard for local communities and the Syrian people,”

The threat to Palmyra’s heritage is not new, it has actually been presence since the very beginnings of the war; but the fact that this site is now in hand of a terrorist group makes the danger even bigger and worse. What we know about ISIS’s violent expansion is that they have targeted very important cultural and religious sites, and they will continue to do it as a deliberate way of iconoclasm.

As tensions in Syria continue to increase and by no means war has and end date, nation’s should start to support UNESCO’s program to train police officers and officials in order to try and stop the ISIS attacks to more cultural heritage sites. It is of extreme importance to prevent them, because even though the barbaric attacks seems to have been held back these sites are part of what makes us humans and what makes our culture, they should be entirely respected.

We spoke with the delegates of the Organizations of the American States and the United States, and they said that the committee is very interested in what will benefit them instead of coming with a greater and more global solutions, but that in their Working Paper they want to merge the ideas and find a better and more resourceful answer for the problem.

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