For any observer of Taliban reign in Afghanistan, the images of the collapsing Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 must be emblematic of the high price of war and extremism on humankind’s common cultural past. Likewise, for the current generation that is witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history, the explosion of Palmyra is an unforgettable image that will always remind us of the thousands of other atrocities committed during the Syrian war. The destruction brought by years of armed conflict on the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria is almost unfathomable. The emergence of Da’esh, the term for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria currently used by the U.S. Secretary of State, has exacerbated the threat to cultural heritage in a region considered to be the cradle of civilization, thus international cooperation on its protection remains paramount.
To this end, the Hollings Center for International Dialogue collaborated with the Penn Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Smithsonian Institution to organize a dialogue entitled Protecting Cultural Heritage in Conflict: A Dialogue on Emergency Efforts in Istanbul from 14‐17 October, 2015. The objective of the dialogue was to bridge the gap between laws, statements and action with actionable policy recommendations. The organizers also aimed to create a network of practitioners (preservationists, archeologists, and anthropologists), policymakers, and representatives from international civil society organizations that work in cultural heritage preservation. Read more about these conversations in our Dialogue Snapshot below.
As an extension of this dialogue, we also held a public event on the issue on October 15 in Istanbul. Click here to learn more about the event, or to watch a highlight video from the panel discussion.