The head of the United Nations’ cultural agency (UNESCO) has warned of the massive-scale plunder of Syria’s archeological sites by the Takfiri Daesh militants, saying the terrorists are using the proceeds of the looting to fund their operations.
Irina Bokova said Wednesday that satellite imagery shows archeological sites across Syria are dotted by hundreds of illegal excavations, proving that the valuable historic sites are being looted on an “industrial scale.”
She said limiting the trafficking of cultural goods is the agency’s top priority since Daesh is using the takings to finance its terrorist activities.
“The world expects from us to undertake decisive and uncompromising actions… to stop this source of funding for the extremists,” Bokova said.
According to estimates provided by the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA), the Takfiri terrorists have looted, damaged, or destroyed more than 900 monuments and archeological sites over the past four years of turmoil in the Arab country.
Daesh militants took over the world heritage site of Palmyra back in May and have since blown up several of its famed tower tombs. The terrorists also killed Khaled al-Assad, the 82-year-old retired head of antiquities in Palmyra. Assad’s mutilated body was then hung in public.
UNESCO has called such acts war crimes and says Daesh wants to wipe out evidence of Syria’s diverse heritage.
Bokova said the destruction at Palmyra “is an impudent crime against civilization because it was a symbol of cultural dialogue, a material proof of the ability of cultures to interact… This is what the extremists are seeking to destroy.”
The UN official also urged the European Union to harden its current rules with regards to the import of cultural property, although she said Europe is not the single destination for Syria’s artworks and that they are being trafficked globally.
Bokova said the first important step in preventing the illicit import, export and transfer of ownership of cultural property would be for various governments around the world to ratify and implement the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Syria has already ratified the convention along with 129 other countries.
She said the world is in dire need of a campaign “to counter the propaganda for cultural cleansing” waged by Daesh.