Saudi Airstrikes Taking Toll on Yemen Heritage

Saudi Airstrikes Taking Toll on Yemen HeritageSaudi Airstrikes Taking Toll on Yemen Heritage

Over 6 weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes against Yemen has caused significant damage to the country’s heritage sites, UNESCO announced in a press statement Tuesday.

According to several media reports and official sources, the old city of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, was heavily bombed on May 11, causing severe damage to many of its historic buildings. In addition, the old city of Saada, which is included on Yemen’s World Heritage Tentative List, as well as the archaeological site of the pre-Islamic walled city of Baraqish, have also suffered damages.

“I condemn these destructions”, said the director of UNESCO Irina Bokova. “I am particularly distressed by the news concerning air strikes on heavily populated areas such as the cities of Sana’a and Saada.”

In addition to causing terrible human suffering, these attacks are destroying Yemen’s unique cultural heritage, which is the repository of people’s identity, history and memory and an exceptional testimony to the achievements of the Islamic Civilization, she added.

The UNESCO chief called on all parties to refrain from any military use or targeting of cultural heritage sites and monuments, citing international treaties such as the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols, as well as the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

The Old City of Sana’a was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1986. Situated in a mountain valley at an altitude of 2,200 m, Sana’a has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. During the 7th and 8th centuries, the city became a major center for the propagation of Islam. This religious and political heritage can be seen in the 103 mosques, 14 hammams (bathhouses) and over 6,000 houses, all built before the 11th century. Sana’a’s multi-storeyed buildings built of rammed earth (pisé) add to the beauty of the site.

The Old City of Sana’a was restored through a major campaign launched by UNESCO in the late 1980s and early 1990s, thanks to the contribution of numerous countries and the continuous commitments of the Yemeni people and government.

Yemen has two other cultural World Heritage sites: the Old Walled City of Shibam (1982) and the Historic Town of Zabid (1993), inscribed on the World Heritage in Danger list since 2000.