On Thursday, Maamoun Abdulkarim came to address the Italian Parliament regarding the plight of Syria’s 10,000 archaeological sites. Italy has been active in helping protect antiquities in conflict zones.
Abdulkarim, the head of Syria’s antiquities agency, says that 99 percent of museum collections — some 300,000 museum pieces — have been salvaged, but civil war has still caused massive damage.
Speaking to reporters, he compared the ravaged city of Aleppo to Warsaw at the end of World War II.
“After the clashes it is looting, with the all the mafia coming from neighboring countries, it is another challenge for us how we can protect all the sites,” he said.
Abdulkarim claims between 200 and 300 sites are now under ISIS control. The Islamic State has destroyed large quantities of artworks as idolatrous, and it’s also trafficking many pieces on the global black market to raise funds.
Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site with some of the best preserved antique artifacts, was overrun in May, where ISIS razed two ancient temples and a Roman-era triumphal arch.
“It is hostage, a hostage now — Palmyra, each 10 days we receive new bad news, new destruction,” Abdulkarim said. “And they beheaded … one of my best friends.”
Read more: NPR