UNESCO: Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural Heritage announced

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today announced an Emergency Action Plan for the Safeguarding of Yemen’s Cultural Heritage upon the conclusion of a two-day expert meeting held at UNESCO. The plan responds to the continued threat the ongoing conflict poses to the country’s tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
“It is evident that the destruction of their culture directly affects the identity, dignity and future of the Yemeni people, and moreover their ability to believe in the future,” the Director General said. The Action Plan is also seen within the leading role UNESCO is undertaking to coordinate an international response through the Global Coalition and the “Unite4Heritage” campaign.

The Action Plan, developed by UNESCO, its institutional partners and relevant Yemeni national institutions, aims to respond to the recent widespread destruction of important heritage sites and museums caused by the conflict, as well as to the disruption of intangible heritage expressions, which together constitute the symbols of peoples’ identities and a fundamental asset for the country’s recovery and sustainable development.  
The Plan addresses three main areas of work, including awareness-raising and advocacy; information gathering and coordination; as well as technical assistance through risk-mitigation measures on the ground and capacity building initiatives. Participants in the meeting included experts in built heritage, archaeology, intangible cultural heritage, handicrafts, museums and archives, as well as representatives of key institutions involved in cultural heritage protection and the fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property, such as INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, IFLA, ICOM, ICOMOS, ICCROM and ICA.
Yemen’s Ambassador to UNESCO, Ahmed Sayyad, made a passionate call for the world to unite behind Yemen’s heritage. “Sana’a, Aden, Taez, Zabid, Saa’da and Marib are all my cities and they are all your cities,” said Ambassador Sayyad. “They are the past and present for all Yemenis. They are the past and present for every Arab, every Muslim. They are the past and present for every man and woman, whatever their religion or their identity. For this reason, the work to stop the destruction and to preserve is the duty of every Yemeni, every Arab, every Muslim and every man and woman.”
The Director General called on the international community to support the plan. “To succeed, this plan must be funded, and it is clear that local government does not have the resources to undertake these efforts alone,” Ms Bokova said, “I ask you to mobilize your institutions and your contacts to support UNESCO and the Yemeni authorities to implement this action plan.”
In February 2015, a violent conflict erupted in Yemen causing terrible human suffering and loss of life. Since March, over 1500 civilians have reportedly been killed, while 1,270,000 persons were internally displaced, according to UN OCHA. Cultural heritage sites are heavily affected, mostly through collateral damage. However, the intentional destruction of ancient tombs was reported to have occurred, for the first time, in Hadramout, last July.
All three cultural World Heritage properties (Old Walled City of Shibam, Old City of Sana’a, Historic Town of Zabid) are now inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Old City of Sana’a and the historic centre of Saa’da were hit by shelling and gravely damaged.
Many other sites, some of which figure on Yemen’s World Heritage Tentative List, have similarly suffered damage, including the Citadel of Taez, the archaeological site of the pre-Islamic walled city of Baraqish, the archaeological sites of Marib from the end of 2nd millennium B.C., and the Great Dam of Marib, a marvel of technical engineering. Movable heritage has also suffered severe losses, as in the case of the Dhamar Museum, which used to host a collection of 12,500 artefacts, and was completely destroyed in May 2015. 
Click here to read in the UNESCO official website


The Director General of UNESCO condemns the destruction of historic buildings in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen.

The Director General of UNESCO condemns the destruction of historic buildings in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen.   Creative Commons/Richard Messenger – Sana’a (Yemen)
In the early hours of 12 June 2015, the Old City of Sana’a, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was hit by a bombing raid. Several houses and historic buildings were destroyed, causing human casualties. Among the buildings destroyed was the magnificent complex of traditional houses in the Al-Qasimi neighborhood, bordering an urban garden (Miqshama), near the Sailah water channel.
“I am profoundly distressed by the loss of human lives as well as by the damage inflicted on one of the world’s oldest jewels of Islamic urban landscape. I am shocked by the images of these magnificent many-storeyed tower-houses and serene gardens reduced to rubble. This destruction will only exacerbate the humanitarian situation and I reiterate my call to all parties to respect and protect cultural heritage in Yemen. This heritage bears the soul of the Yemeni people, it is a symbol of a millennial history of knowledge and it belongs to all humankind” declared the Director General. 

  Sana’a, before and after the bombing raid

Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years and bears witness to the wealth and beauty of the Islamic civilization. By the first century AD, it emerged as a centre of the inland trade route and its houses and public buildings are an outstanding example of a traditional, Islamic human settlement. Sana’s dense rammed earth and burnt brick towers, strikingly decorated, are famous around the world and are an integral part of Yemen’s identity and pride. 

Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, several houses within the heritage city of Sana’a have suffered damage and collapses as a consequence of shelling and explosions. On 9 June, the Ottoman era Al-Owrdhi historical compound, located just outside the walls of the Old City, were severely damaged. Historic residential buildings, monuments, museums, archaeological sites and places of worship have not been spared. The historic value and memories enshrined in these sites have been irreparably damaged or destroyed.  
Click here to read in the UNESCO official website

المديرة العامة لليونسكو تدين التدمير الذي تتعرض له الأبنية التاريخية في صنعاء القديمة باليمن. 

المديرة العامة لليونسكو تدين التدمير الذي تتعرض له الأبنية التاريخية في صنعاء القديمة باليمن. 

  Creative Commons -صنعاء (اليمن)

تعرضت مدينة صنعاء القديمة، في صباح 12 حزيران/ يونيو الجاري، وهي موقع مدرج في قائمة التراث العالمي لليونسكو، لأعمال قصف. ونجم عن ذلك تدمير العديد من المساكن والأبنية التاريخية، مما أوقع عددا كبيا من الضحايا. ومن بين الأبنية التي دُمرت المجمع الرائع الذي يضم منازل تقليدية في حي القاسمي المجاور لحديقة مقاشم بالقرب من قناة السائلة.

وقالت المديرة العامة لليونسكو، إيرينا بوكوفا “إنني متأثرة كل التأثر للخسائر في الأرواح البشرية، وكذلك للتدمير الذي لحق بواحدة من أقدم جواهر الحضارة الإسلامية. ولقد أصبت بصدمة جراء صور المنازل الرائعة البرجية ذات العديد من الأدوار والحدائق الهادئة التي نالها التدمير. وستفضي أعمال التدمير هذه إلى تفاقم الوضع الإنساني في البلاد. وعليه، فإني أدعو من جديد كافة الأطراف إلى احترام التراث الثقافي في اليمن وحمايته. فهذا التراث إنما هو رمز لتاريخ البلاد الذي يعود إلى آلاف السنين من المعرفة، وينتمي إلى الإنسانية جمعاء”.

  صنعاء قبل وبعد أعمال القصف.

وجدير بالذكر أن مدينة صنعاء، المأهولة بالسكان منذ 2500 سنة، تدل على ثراء وجمال الحضارة الإسلامية. ففي القرن الأول الميلادي، أصبحت هذه المدينة مفترق طرق التجارة البرية، كما أن منازلها وأبنيتها العامة هي مثال بارز للحاضرة الإسلامية التقليدية. أما الأبراج المبنية من اللبن والطوب المحروق في صنعاء، والتي تتميز بثراء ديكوراتها، فهي تتسم بشهرة واسعة في جميع أركان العالم، فضلاً عن كونها جزءاً لا يتجزأ من هوية الشعب اليمني وافتخاره.

ومنذ نشوب النزاع في اليمن، تعرضت منازل عديدة تنتمي إلى تراث صنعاء للأضرار والانهيار جراء عمليات القصف والتفجير. ففي 9 حزيران/ يونيو الجاري تعرض المجمع التاريخي “العرضي”، الذي يعود إلى العصر العثماني ويقع خارج أسوار المدينة القديمة، إلى أضرار جسيمة. أما المباني السكنية التاريخية والآثار والمواقع الأثرية وأماكن العبادة فإنها لم تنج بدورها من القصف. كما أن القيمة التاريخية وذاكرة هذه المواقع فإنها تعرضت لأضرار لا يمكن إصلاحها إن لم تكن قد دُمرت تدميراً كاملاً.  

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