Heritage Heroes – Syria
Abdulkarim in the garden of the National Museum of Damascus.
Photography: Saad Yousef, DGAM staff member
Syria, Ancient City of Damascus
(Cultural World Heritage *1979; World Heritage in Danger: 2013 - Present)
"The defence of cultural heritage is a battle for all the Syrians to defend their identity and their memory that brought them together regardless of their political differences."
Since 2012, Maamoun Abdulkarim has been the Director of the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) in Syria and engages together with his 2,500 employees for the safeguarding of Syria‘s 10,000 archaeological sites, 34 museums and 300,000 works of art that are in acute danger by looting and destruction due to the civil war.
Abdulkarim and his employees risk their lives to defend the buildings and objects and preserve Syria‘s culture, such as just a few hours before the ISIS fighters occupied the city of Palmyra. Although three
employees were injured during the risky evacuation, it was possible to rescue hundreds of works of art.
The DGAM is currently working on restorations, as well as the documentation and mapping of destructions. With the country-wide campaign of „Syria is my country“, the DGAM also reports on the current status of works of art stolen from museums and illegal excavations at historical sites. As a result, it successfully stimulates a change in the minds of the people to promote the safeguarding of cultural sites.