World Heritage Sites

I recently learned about World Heritage Sites, and it’s really piquing my interest. Do any of you know much about those? Essentially, they are sites in the world that bear significant meaning, whether natural or cultural. Examples of natural world heritage sites would be like the Great Barrier Reef, various national parks and reservations (in places like Kenya, India, the states, etc.), and the Swiss Alps. Basically, sites that were naturally “made.” Cultural world heritage sites are man made, but bear significance whether in a negative or positive way. Examples of cultural sites would be Robben Island (the prison system where Nelson Mandela was held), the Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, and the Holocaust concentration camps.

Natural or man-made, all of those sites are universally important despite some being less well known than others.

What’s sad is that Syria has six world heritage sites (all cultural sites) and all of them are in danger of being destroyed or has been destroyed. One of the sites is Aleppo. Aleppo, I recently learned, is an ancient city. One that dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. Palmyra is also another city of cultural heritage as it contains monumental ruins of a great city that existed back in the 1st and 2nd century.

If any of you get the chance, go to the World Heritage Sites website and check out all of the world heritage sites that exist in the world. Also, check out the heritage sites of Syria and their pictures – they’re all beautiful and it’s sad to see that these heritage sites are under threat.

And World Heritage Sites are so important that it’s actually a crime to destroy any of them. The International Crime Court handles cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Destroying a world heritage site falls under war crime and so far, the ICC has tried 4 criminals. Three of them committed serious cases of murder, rape and torture, but the fourth had destroyed a world heritage site.

The leader of an Islamist group, Ahmed I believe, was sentenced to 9 years of prison for purposely destroying Timbuktu, a cultural world heritage site in Mali, Africa. Over 500 years of history and culture gone just like that in one day.

Getting 9 years only is measly, but my TA said that this is still, regardless, a good first step toward the future and protecting world heritage sites. I think it’s good that these world heritage sites are taken seriously and that the destruction of one of them is no petty crime, but I still wonder how the ICC will handle the destruction of Syria’s world heritage sites.

Maybe one day when the war ceases and it’s not so bad anymore, the ICC will take measures against it. The pictures of Syria’s world heritage sites are so beautiful and to have thousands of years of culture and history being destroyed is something that just… saddens me.

What do you guys think? I strongly urge you to look at the list of world heritage sites, you’d be surprised at just how many there are – natural or cultural.


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