Headline May 26, 2019/ '' 'SYRIA'S -LOST HERITAGE- SHAMBLES' ''



SYRIA AND ITS LOST HERITAGE - just stands out in Aleppo's broken and crumbling minarets.

THE PENCIL MINARET of the Ottoman Adiyeh mosque in Syria's Aleppo lists to one side and is covered by an ugly gash running down its flank, the result of bombing in the war.

The sorry state of Aleppo's Old City, a labyrinthine 'World Heritage Site' and a battlefield from 2012 - 16, is obvious from a glance across the skyline at its shell-beaten minarets.

They look down on an area that suffered massive damage in a conflict that brought down the medieval covered souk, smashed mosque domes and burnt churches.

The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO in December said 10 percent of Aleppo's historic buildings were destroyed and more than half the buildings they assessed showed severe to moderate damage.

But restoration work in Syria is controversial. With the exception of Islamic State, which deliberately targeted ancient ruins, all sides in the war have portrayed themselves as guardians of historical sites and their enemies as vandals.

A large image of President Bashar al-Assad dangles from the monument gateway of the ancient citadel in central Aleppo.

Western countries that have imposed sanctions on Assad's government appose any reconstruction work and there is a political solution to the conflict, arguing it would reward him for war crimes they say he has committed but which he denies.

But that has cut off most funding from the nations that are normally top donors for cultural work -prompting state media to accuse them of complicity in destroying Syrian heritage.

A few of the most famous monuments are slowly recovering. At the Umayad Mosque, bullet-scarred walls are being refaced and the stones of the fallen minaret are piled ready to be rebuilt under a yellow crane.

One of the tallest, loveliest stretches of the souk has already been restored, its collapsed domes rising again high above the cobbled floor using original materials and techniques.

But these sites represent only a fraction of the Old City's myriad historical streets and buildings and, without fresh funding, the others risk falling into yet grimmer ruin.

''If there are funds I am optimistic that it will all be restored. We only need the money,'' said  Bassil al-Zaher an engineer who is restoring part of the souk.

At the Halawiya Madrissa, part of the dome has already caved in. It was once a Byzantine cathedral, built on the site of a Roman temple, and was converted to a mosque by a Muslim ruler during the  Christian Crusades. With more rain, the rest of the dome will fall, an engineer there said.

From the roof of the restored Saqatiyeh section of the souk, damaged minarets can be seen punctuating the Old City's skyline.

The 18th-Century Kemaliyeh Mosque, the Mamlouk-era Siffahiyeh mosque and the 14th century Tawashi mosque have all suffered considerable damage.

Viewed from close up, it is hard to see how the 16th century Adliyeh mosque's minaret is still standing. The hollow interior and tightly wound spiral stairs inside are clearly visible through a  monstrous shell hole on its west side.

''The best solution is to rebuild it because it is not straight. Even if there's small earthquake, it would collapse,'' said Zaher. Work on the mosque is the domain of the Ministry of Awqaf or Islamic endowments, and it lacks the money for major repairs.

With respectful dedication to the Leaders, Students, Professors and Teachers of the World.

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SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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