The list of world-famous historical sites that have been partially or entirely destroyed by recent conflict in the Middle East grows with grim regularity.
In Syria alone, the Great Mosque and the Citadel in Aleppo, the castle of every child’s imagination at Crac des Chevaliers, and the ancient city of Bosra have been damaged or destroyed.
Arguably Syria’s most impressive and arresting site, the sprawling ruins at Palmyra (Tadmur to Syrians), is now under Islamic State control and many fear the worst.
Having visited Palmyra and these other sites while studying Arabic at Damascus University back in 2007, I am far from alone in feeling that something truly terrible is happening.
That these symbols from a bygone era might be destroyed by modern-day barbarian forces when they have survived for hundreds or even thousands of years seems somehow deeply offensive and wrong.
Nevertheless, while I feel an acute sadness at the loss of these sites, I understand those who may feel a certain sense of unease at the outpouring of grief and anguish over their desecration.
From this perspective, Palmyra is, after all, a collection of stone; albeit stone exquisitely carved and impressively presented, imbued with huge historical import.
And compared to the staggering loss of life and widespread humanitarian disaster afflicting the Syrian people, bemoaning the loss of a historic tourist site seems crass.
But there are cogent arguments, of course, suggesting that sites like Palmyra are far more significant than that.
Important cultural sites are often pointed to as focal points that can be used to (re)unify a people.
Sites can act as potent symbols of a united past that may cross ethnic, tribal, linguistic, or cultural lines. In essence, their importance can be seen and used as a low common denominator to promote reconciliation in a post-conflict environment.
Most famously, the reconstruction of the old bridge in Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina acted as a focal point of wider metaphorical bridge-building between Serbs, Bosniaks (Muslims) and Croats after the civil war in the 1990s when the bridge was demolished.
In Syria, too, there have already been tentative attempts towards this kind of a goal, with meetings between regime and opposition officials nominally in charge of antiquities.
Read more: BBC
- Watch: Chuck Schumer Hammered on Senate Floor for Lying About Trump Being Under Investigation
- Millions Of Gun Owners About To Be Criminals Starting July 1st
- California’s ‘Assault Weapons’ Rule Rejected
- Student Going to Jail for Registering Dead People as Democratic Voters
- Smug Thug Smirking While Widow Testifies During Murder Trial is Destroyed by Judge [Watch]
- On The 154th Anniversary Of Gettysburg, Leftists Are Promising To ‘Desecrate Graves’
- London Women Targeted for Continuous Acid Attacks
- Clinton Foundation Busted for Taking $1MIL from Qatar and ‘Forgetting’ to Tell Gov. About It
- John McCain Tight Lipped on His Foundation After Being Busted for Taking Foreign Money from Questionable Sources
- Is This How Otto Warmbier Was Put In A Comma? Leaked Footage Shows North Korean Officials Beating A Woman Senseless For…
- Dear Gun Grabbers: This Video Proves Why Homeowners Need Guns
- Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks! Finds It “Improbable” The Second Amendment Only Protects…
- Snowflake Alert! University Now Has ‘Emotional Risk’ Assessment For Student Events
- Black Trump Supporter Demolishes Maxine Waters — “You Have Destroyed the Black Community!”
- Um… Guess Why These Feminists are Naked and Screaming in the Street
- Watch: Man Yells ‘Freedom’ as He Drives Car Through 10 Commandments Monument
- Democrats Scoff: Neil Gorsuch is Just ‘Another Scalia’
- Fake Mud Jeans Now Exist for Men Who are too Afraid to Get Dirty — Guess How Much They Cost