Comparative Analysis of UNESCO’s Approach and Performance towards the Cultural Heritage of Syria and Iraq (2003-2016)

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor, Faculty member of School of International Relations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tehran, Iran

2 Master of International Relations and Diplomacy, School of International Relations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tehran, Iran


This article seeks to analyze and explain the UNESCO’s procedures for the protection of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq through comparative method and use of library resources. Cultural heritage in these countries has been always prone to destruction and theft due to armed conflicts. The terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq seek to eradicate the culture and identity of these two countries through destruction of cultural heritage (cultural cleansing) or illicit trade of cultural heritage. UNESCO has focused on combating cultural crimes within a special procedure, known as “Cultural Heritage Regime”, in order to protect the cultural heritage. According to the analysis of the present paper, UNESCO has failed to prevent the destruction of the cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq. However, this organization has been successful in reconstructing cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq. It also has acted successfully in cooperating with relevant institutions in order to confront with cultural crimes. Having regard to the UNESCO’s legal procedure, most of the rules applied to the status of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq are related to the international rules for the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts, which include the UNESCO’s 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict and its protocols, as well as customary international humanitarian law. Regarding the declarative procedure, UNESCO has played an important role in alerting the international public opinion in order to protect the cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq.


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