UN expert says Palmyra likely beyond repair after IS carnage
search
Before and after pictures show scale of devastation

UN expert says Palmyra likely beyond repair after IS carnage

During its 10-month occupation, Islamic State destroyed the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and shrine of Baal Shamin

Smoke rises from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, August 25, 2015. (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)
Smoke rises from the detonation of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, August 25, 2015. (Islamic State social media account via AP, File)

A Syrian expert for the UN’s cultural body said Monday she was “very doubtful” the destruction caused to Palmyra’s ancient monuments during its occupation by the Islamic State group can be repaired.

“Everyone is excited because Palmyra has been ‘liberated’, but we should not forget everything that has been destroyed,” said Annie Sartre-Fauriat, who belongs to a group of experts on Syrian heritage set up by UNESCO in 2013.

“I am very doubtful about the capacity, even with international aid, of rebuilding the site at Palmyra,” she told AFP.

“When I hear that we are going to reconstruct the temple of Bel, that seems illusory. We are not going to rebuild something that has been reduced to dust. Rebuild what? A new temple? I think there are probably other priorities in Syria before rebuilding ruins.”

A general view shows graffiti on a stone reading in Arabic: "Shooting without the permission of the chief is prohibited" near the remains of the entrance to the iconic Temple of Bel that was destroyed by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in September 2015 in the ancient city of Palmyra, after government troops recaptured the UNESCO world heritage site from IS jihadists on March 27, 2016. / AFP / Maher AL MOUNES / “
A general view shows graffiti on a stone reading, in Arabic, ‘Shooting without the permission of the chief is prohibited’ near the remains of the entrance to the iconic Temple of Bel that was destroyed by Islamic State jihadists in September 2015 in the ancient city of Palmyra, after government troops recaptured the UNESCO World Heritage Site from IS on March 27, 2016. (AFP/Maher al Mounes) “

The Russian-backed Syrian army ousted IS from Palmyra on Sunday at the climax of a three-week offensive.

During its 10-month occupation, IS destroyed the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel and shrine of Baal Shamin, a dozen of the city’s best-preserved tower tombs and the Arch of Triumph dating from around 200 AD.

Sartre-Fauriat’s assessment contrasts with the slightly more upbeat view of Syria’s head of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, who told AFP on Monday that 80 percent of the city’s ruins were in “good shape” and would need five years to restore.

A combination of images shows a general view (top) taken on June 19, 2010 of the Arc de Troimphe (Triumph's Arc) prior to being destroyed by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in October 2015 and the remains of the iconic structure after government troops recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from IS fighters on March 27, 2016. / AFP / LOUAI BESHARA AND STRINGER
A combination of images shows a general view (top) taken on June 19, 2010, of the Arc de Troimphe (Triumph’s Arc) prior to being destroyed by Islamic State jihadists in October 2015 and the remains of the iconic structure after government troops recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from IS fighters on March 27, 2016. (AFP/Louai Beshara and a stringer)

“As long as the Syrian army is there, I am not reassured,” said Sartre-Fauriat. “We should not forget that the army occupied the site between 2012 and 2015 and caused a lot of destruction and pillaging.

“We should not kid ourselves. It’s not because Palmyra has been retaken from Daesh (IS) that the war is over. This was a political and media operation designed to win over public opinion for the regime of (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad,” she added.

Statues decapitated, sarcophagi smashed

The historian said she was receiving photos and videos every hour from the scene — one showing the inside of the Palmyra Museum which was transformed into a court by IS.

“It’s totally vandalized. Contrary to what we thought, the museum was not emptied of its collection (prior to the arrival of IS) because the antiquities department had only 48 hours to pack everything up and the large monuments could not be transported.”

A combination of images shows a file photo (top) taken on March 14, 2014 of the iconic Temple of Bel prior to being blown up by Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in September 2015 and the remains of the temple after Syrian troops recaptured the ancient site of Palmyra from IS fighters on March 27, 2016. Archaeologists were rushing to the ancient city of Palmyra on March 28, 2016 to assess the damage wreaked by the Islamic State group, after it was ousted by the Syrian army in a bloody battle. / AFP / Joseph EID AND Maher AL MOUNES
A combination of images shows a file photo (top) taken on March 14, 2014, of the iconic Temple of Bel prior to being blown up by Islamic State jihadists in September 2015 and the remains of the temple after Syrian troops recaptured the ancient site of Palmyra from IS fighters on March 27, 2016. (AFP/Joseph Eid; Maher al Mounes)

She said the figures on ancient sarcophagi had been smashed and all the statues had been pushed over, decapitated or broken.

Funeral plaques, a special feature of Palmyra, “have been ripped savagely from the walls, probably to be sold by Daesh,” she added.

One sliver of hope lay in the fact that a huge lion statue with a gazelle in its paws that had been overturned and smashed “might possibly be recovered because it has not been pulverized,” she said.

read more:
less
comments
more