Cultural heritage in danger
The civil war in Syria, which has taken the lives of thousands since 2011, is becoming increasingly brutal. Valuable cultural sites are also being destroyed in the fighting. UNESCO is trying to protect them.
No society without culture
Over four millennia, Babylonian, Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman influences crossed paths in Syria. Today, precious cultural sites from these eras are being damaged as the Syrian civil war takes its toll on the country's cultural heritage. The United Nation's cultural organization UNESCO is concerned for the country's cultural heritage.
Historic center of Aleppo threatened
In 2013, UNESCO listed six unique World Heritage sites in Syria as being in danger, including the historic center of Aleppo. Aleppo has a long history: as a cultural hub on the Mediterranean Sea, it is mentioned in documents dating back to the 19th century B.C.
Historic bazaar torched
UNESCO also recognized Aleppo's historic center as a World Heritage site because of the ancient souk, the largest covered market in the Middle East. The bazaar covers an area of about 350 hectares with several streets and hundreds of shops. But even the five-kilometer long wall surrounding the historic center was not able to protect the market: it burned down during fighting in 2012.
Citadel of Aleppo occupied
Over the course of the civil war, cultural sites have been misused as strategic bases - among them the Citadel of Aleppo, a fortress on a hill towering above the old city. The Seleucid Empire, a dynasty that followed Alexander the Great, erected the fortress in the 4th century B.C. Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines and Ottomans have also built temples on the hill.
Bombs in Damascus' old town
The old town of Damascus, inhabited for the last 4,000 years, was also named on the UNESCO list. Before the start of the uprising against the Assad regime, the old town with its markets, restaurants, churches and mosques was one of Syria's main attractions. Bombs exploded here in June 2013, the first time the area was part of a larger attack.
Monumental Arch under fire
The oasis city of Palmyra is also at risk. The Monumental Arch is still standing, but some archaeological excavations sites have been looted. Palmyra is one of Syria's architectural landmarks. The boulevard with its Corinthian columns, the arch from the time of Septimius Severus and the walls of the Temple of Baal have now been marked by bullet holes.
Krak des Chevaliers now a rebel base?
The Krak des Chevaliers, a well-preserved Crusader castle in the Homs Gap, is also in the middle of the war zone. Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem first reached the castle in 1099. The castle's current state is contested - the Free Syrian Army is supposed to have used it as a base, but Syrian government troops apparently took the castle in March 2014.
Bosra amphitheater in ruins
The amphitheater in Bosra was once considered to be one of the best preserved Roman theaters in the world. In the 12th century, it was converted into an Arab fortress. In modern times, musicians and orchestras from around the world valued its special acoustics. But fighting has has apparently turned the amphitheater into true ruins.
Dead cities on danger list
Syria's so-called "dead cities" continue to be in danger. These village settlements in northern Syria have numerous houses from the Byzantine era, and the remains of some ancient buildings in Jerada were very well preserved until the start of the civil war. Since the fighting began, they have been partially under fire, and have also been looted.
Syria's museums are also at risk. Many are in the middle of combat zones - such as the museum in Idlib, which houses a majority of the priceless Ebla clay tablets. Since 2011, a number of valuable pieces have been moved from museums in Damascus and Aleppo and stored in a safe in the Syrian Central Bank. But most museums are defenseless against the looting.