ICCROM’s Director-General Dr Stefano De Caro joined Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO in praising Dr Maamoun Abdulkarim of Syria, for his tireless efforts to safeguard the country’s cultural assets during these years of war. Dr Abdulkarim’s five-year term as Syria’s Director-General for Museums and Antiquities coincided with a devastating conflict which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead, and has greatly imperiled Syria’s rich cultural heritage.
“During his immensely difficult tenure, Dr Abdulkarim managed to do the impossible by working tirelessly to protect Syria’s World Heritage Sites and the artefacts exhibited in the country’s museums,” said De Caro. “Syria was lucky to have a man of his stature during such a challenging time, and I personally am honoured to have been able to work with him through these years,” he added.
Dr Abdulkarim became Syria’s top antiquities official in 2012, as the country entered a second year of civil war which left parts of it in ruins. According to UNESCO, Dr Abdulkarim and his staff have managed to save hundreds of thousands of cultural objects from looting and destruction. In a statement released on Wednesday, UNESCO’s Bokova praised Dr Abdulkarim’s “relentless humanist commitment.”
Dr De Caro said he fully shared Mrs Bokova’s sentiment.
“In the middle of the horrific conflict, Dr Abdulkarim understood that saving his country’s cultural assets was an obligation he had toward not only all Syrians but also the world,” said De Caro. He is confident that Dr Abdulkarim’s successor will aptly continue these efforts and has reiterated ICCROM’s willingness to put its expertise and resources at the service of post-war reconstruction, and towards revitalizing Syria’s damaged and destroyed cultural assets, as soon as the situation on the ground becomes stable enough.