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November 26, 2014

Ar-Raqqah Museum in Syria continues to Suffer

Yesterday a report came in from the Syrian Arabic Republic - Ministry of Culture's Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) that a bomb dropped in Raqqa (ar-Raqqa, ar-Raqqah, Raqqa, Rakka), Syria near Arafat Square has done structural damage to the main facades of the Ar-Raqqah Museum as well as damage to the doors, shutters and windows.  To outline the damages we have included photos of the museum prior to and after this bomb strike.

This only adds insult to the already identified injury.  Previously DGAM reported that in Spring 2012 an armed group called Ahar al Sham had moved 527 artefacts under the pretext of protecting them. 

Then in June 2013 robbers seized an additional six containers that had been previously stored in the Raqqa Museum’s warehouse.  Through cooperation and negotiations with members of the local community three of these boxes were later identified in Tabaqa under the control of a group called “Cham free people”.  While the found boxes contained 104 artifacts ARCA hasn't been able to ascertain which pieces from the inventory were recovered.

A report of the archaeological heritage in Syria during the crisis from 2011 through early 2013 written by Professor Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim, General Director of Syria's Ministry of Culture can be read here. The 2013 report is available here.

The Museum of Raqqa was founded in 1981 and has been primarily dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage gathered from excavation research from the Ar-Raqqah province.  Its collection includes objects from Tell Bi’a, Tell Munbaqa, Tell Sabi Abyad, and Tell Chuera, and includes artefacts that date from Roman and Byzantine eras as well as objects from the Islamic period (the epoch of Haroun al-Rachid) and from the period of more recent Bedouin domination.

Situated in north-central Syria near to where the Balikh River joins the Euphrates the city of Raqqa once dominated the northwest corner of the heartland of the Islamic Empire precisely because it was a major stopover point for those traveling through the Syrian desert to other important cities in the region making it integral for commerce.  Because of this strategic location Raqqa has always been hotly contested throughout its lifespan, perhaps now more than ever.   L. Albertson, ARCA CEO


You might want to note that the only party to the conflict with air power capable of bombing the museum is the Assad Regime of which the Syrian Ministry of Culture is a part.

Oh, so the US is not flying any missions against Ar-Raqqa mr Tompa? It is reported that there was a US bombing raid on Monday 24th. Were there any buildings hit? Any civilian casualties then? Of course not, American bombs never hit civilians do they? At least according to your own news sources. Sources on the ground report something else though - but then what do they know, eh, Mr Tompa?

Do you think the money from the sale of all those sculptures from Palmyra (as you say, in Assadist hands, as was Apamea) went to buy those bombs you accuse them of using in this civil war? Or gas? Did any of your readers buy any of those antiquities? What "observations" does CPO offer them? I see none, just sniping.

Any war is a terrible thing, whoever has the bombs and guns. Just look at those photos of the city and imagine that was 'Friendship Heights' turned into something looking like that. Instead of trying to use the misfortunes of these people, ordinary people like you and me, only to 'score points' against conservationists in this entirely childish way Mr Tompa, as the representative of both the IAPN and PNG, perhaps might like to think of the dignity of those organizations and exercise a little restraint.
As for texts like "Giving Assad an Ass?" (we know what you meant), "caught with their trousers round their ankles, 'in flagrente', trying to deny they were not about to be involved in what some people might regard as an unnatural act"... Really, you sjhjhould be ashamed to publish something like that. People are dying there Mr Tompa and you are using your sponsors' money to publish only such scurrilous homophobic, xenophobic snipes at conservationists and heritage professionals. Yes professionals Mr Tompa. How do you think that looks? Shame on you and your contributors, Shame on the ACCG, Shame on the IAPN, PNG and the ADCAEA none of which have cut themselves off from your disreputable hate-blogging.

Sorry Lynda, but really somebody has to say something against all this, and antiquities collectors and dealers are obviously not going to.

I'll not dignify responding in detail to Mr. Barford's latest rant but will note that in contrast to US efforts to use precision strikes, human rights organizations are reporting that Syrian Government air power is targeting the area around the museum:

Since the civil war began, and especially since Raqqa fell to IISIL, the city has been bombed a number of times before, not only by Syrians and damage and civilian deaths are a result.

It seems, however, that some in Washington feel that ONLY the USA has a right to bomb rebels holed up in a Syrian stronghold in the Syrian war, and the Syrians had better not fight insurgents on their own soil from now on, but be content to leave it up to the Americans to "do it properly".

What is undignified, Mr Tompa is your continued attempt to cynically use anything you can lay your hands on simply to besmirch archaeologists, conservationists and whole countries (the ones with which the USA has MOUs which involve stopping the smuggling of ancient coins) on behalf of your trade paymasters. I'd say after years of such paid lobbying, it is a bit late to think now about your "dignity".

Not sure about your point here. The report cited above and others from human rights organizations point the finger directly at Assad. Apparently, this was a revenge attack for some battlefield reverses and executions of Assad's soldiers by ISIS.

I also have to say it appears that "conservationists" are using the tragedy in Syria to promote their own anti-collecting agenda what with exaggerated claims about the amounts of money ISIS is supposedly making from looting. Little to no mention of course about looting in areas controlled by the government. If memory serves, some of the worst looting was in Apamea, within a government controlled area. If I'm wrong, I'm sure you will correct me.