Syria: The Crimes Against Culture Committed By ISIS


The crimes committed by ISIS in Syria were not only directed at people, but also the historical and cultural diversity of the country.

Throughout the civil conflict in Syria over the last nine years, various attacks have been committed against cultural and historic sites in the country, most prominently by ISIS, sparking condemnation in the international community.

Perhaps the most prominent of those ancient sites is Palmyra, which was taken under the control by ISIS and damaged heavily. The ISIS attack on Palmyra was motivated by the group’s totalitarian ideology that saw any historical or modern symbols outside of their narrow worldview as heretical. Prominent historical sites that were damaged specifically by ISIS include the Temple of Baalshamin, the Temple of Bel, and the Monumental Arch of Palmyra. The demolition of Palmyra has been listed as a war crime.

“With the start of the crisis, the Syrian archaeological sites, in general, and museums were exposed to various attacks by terrorist gangs. Moreover, monuments and museums in all areas that have fallen out of the authority of the state are at risk”, stated Nazir Awd, the head of Syrian Museum Affairs.

Syria has six sites mentioned in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. All six sites are now placed in the list of endangered sites. These include the following: the Ancient City of Aleppo, the Ancient City of Bosra, the Ancient City of Damascus, the Ancient Villages of North Syria, the Crac des Chevaliers & Qal’at Salah El-Din in Homs and Latakia provinces, in addition to Palmyra.

Some sites that are located in areas that have been experiencing stability for some time now have been undergoing a reconstruction process. For instance, the Antiquities Committee of the Raqqa Civil Council has been implementing projects to restore the cultural heritage damaged by ISIS militants during the occupation of the city by the terrorist group between 2014-2017. The Committee has been concentrating its efforts on archaeological sites that include Raqqa’s Ancient Wall, the Ancient Mosque, and the Palace of The Ladies.