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How NGOs are helping preserve Syria’s heritage

Syria’s archaeological sites have suffered great damage, but many organizations are striving to protect what remains, each in its own way.
A view shows the damage at the Monumental Arch in the historical city of Palmyra, in Homs Governorate, Syria April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki SEARCH "PALMYRA SANADIKI" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES - RTSD6WL
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BEIRUT — Some of Syria's endangered antiquities could find a safe haven in Europe. French President Francois Hollande announced Nov. 1 that the Louvre Museum in Paris will host heritage artifacts from Syria and Iraq by 2019. The preservation of Syrian heritage has been a priority for individuals and organizations from inside and outside Syria since the beginning of the country's civil war in 2011.

In 2009, Syrian tourism was a $6 billion industry, or 10% of gross domestic product, and the service industry accounted for 47%. With the war, these sectors have been decimated. For that reason, and more importantly to preserve Syrian heritage, foreign and Syrian archaeologists have drafted since 2011 an incomplete list of endangered sites and how they have been, and still are, threatened. The Association for the Protection of Syrian Archaeology (APSA) highlights the risks incurred by monuments during bombings, premeditated destruction, looting, vandalism and traffic — but also during maintenance work and restoration, or protection measures of the sites led by the Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) in Syria with international archaeologists. The association provides daily updates for the public about historical sites affected via a YouTube channel.

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