In the two years since the Syrian conflict began, we have seen major destruction of the country’s irreplaceable heritage sites by shelling, bombing, fire, and looting. Rebels took refuge in the crusader castles of Crac de Chevalier and Shayzar, and the ancient Roman city of Apamea, the site of heavy fighting, was badly damaged by looters. The citadel of Aleppo was fired upon by a tank, destroying its medieval iron gate. The entire world watched the heartbreaking footage of the city's famous souk and the beautiful, medieval mosque and minaret as they were shattered by fire and shells.
Cultural heritage is the DNA of civilization. It is the bridge of traditions, objects, and structures that links us to our history. Heritage provides the precedents that shape our world, gives places their meaning, and shows us the way ahead through references to the past. Cultural heritage shapes the environment, contributes to moral and economic well-being, and is one of the fundamental cornerstones of a peaceful and prosperous society.
We must do all we can to prevent further damage in Syria and to assist with recovery efforts. Please add your voice in support of protecting Syria's irreplaceable architectural and cultural legacy.
I recognize your efforts and those of your colleagues to protect sites, and salute the work of heritage professionals who risk their safety to preserve these sites under extraordinary circumstances.
Joining concerned citizens around the world, I stand with the people of Syria in recognition of the importance of their cultural heritage as critical to both Syria’s and the world’s future.