US secretary of state John Kerry will be on-hand later today (22 September) to highlight the destruction of Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage by violent extremist groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq (IS) and the Syrian regime.
Alongside the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell and its president Emily Rafferty, Kerry will present the US’s case for protection of cultural elements in Iraq and Syria, which are in danger thanks to ongoing attempts by IS to deliberately target and destroy heritage sites in Iraq
, while warring Syria’s heritage sites have been the target of deliberate shelling and general chaos in the last couple of years.
A statement from the US Department of State said: “As the United States responds to the violence in Iraq and Syria that has destroyed millions of lives and caused enormous suffering to the region’s people, we also remain deeply concerned about the destruction of cultural heritage in these areas of tragic conflict. Ancient treasures have now become casualties of continuing warfare and looting and are targets for destruction.
“Historic monuments and archaeological sites of the world, which enrich modern societies by connecting all of us to our cultural origins and informing our identities, must be preserved.” Recent satellite imagery
has shown that five out of six of Syria's Unesco World Heritage sites have been "significantly" damaged by the country's civil war, with the only site appearing to remain relatively unscathed being the ancient city of Damascus. Iraq isn’t faring any better, with reports of continued destruction of heritage sites on a near-daily basis.