The Committee of Antiquities in the province of Afrin has documented a series of violations and destruction of the Turkish occupation, against archaeological sites and places within Afrin, and seeks to raise the issue of violation with UNESCO.
The archaeological sites and places that have been the monuments of the history and heritage of the Afrin region, and showcase the civilizations that have gone through for thousands of years have been the most abused and destroyed, but the monuments were the main target of the attacks of the Turkish occupation.
Since the first day of the Turkish attacks on 20 January 2018 against the province of Afrin, strategic archaeological sites have been targeted such as the “Temple of Ain Darah and the Prophet Hori” on the UNESCO list (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).
After the Turkish occupation, Turkey’s mercenaries launched a campaign of destruction against sites, places, and artefacts, through digging, tunnelling, and sabotage of archaeological sites and theft of artifacts which are sold to Turkish traders and removed from the region.
Documentation of evidence
The Archaeological Committee of the province of Afrin has sought to document all the archaeological sites that have been exposed since the first day of the Turkish aggression on Afrin, and send them to the Organization for the Protection of Antiquities.
“The Committee has never stopped seeking the facts and violations that are subjected to the effects of Afrin on a daily basis, and will seek in the coming days to document all violations according to their possibilities, despite the Turkish occupation ban on any party or committee Fact-finding to document what is happening inside Afrin and the effects of theft, looting, destruction and digging. ”
The Committee confirmed that they documented a large number of archaeological sites and hills with video, photos and reports.
Documentation and destruction of 35 of 92 archaeological mounds
Archaeological hills are subjected to the process of bulldozing, destruction, and digging to search for monuments and treasures within the hills by the Turkish occupation and its mercenaries.
In Afrin there are 92 archaeological mounds distributed in various villages and districts of the province, all of which have been destroyed, and the Commission documented the destruction of 35 archaeological hills.
Among the hills documented recently by the Commission in video and pictures, Tel Zrafka (bulldozer works and destruction of a large part of the hill), Tel Ubaidan, Arab Shekho, Deir Sawan, Gendreis, Tel Ein Darh, which was previously bombed by Turkish aircraft, and the leveling of the hills o Tel Esther, Ein Hagar, Kafr Rum, and Kamrouk.
Destruction of shrines, mosaics
Archaeological sites that have been stolen and vandalized include the Marmaron Church in the archaeological village of Brad, which was placed in 2011 on the list of antiquities protection.
This church is one of the most important churches, built between 399 and 402 AD and the oldest known by the architect “Julianos”, it is reported that the founder of the Maronite community St. Mar Maroun was buried in Brad, where a special burial and a stone tomb of the saint seems to have been added to the church.
According to the Commission, the church was vandalized and destroyed by Turkish occupation mercenaries.
Among the pieces and archaeological sites in Afrin, the sabotage of the sabotge and theft of pieces of mosaics were documented, especially in the ruin of Rza in the village of Tarmcha, and the village of Albeiska district Raju, in addition to the destruction of the archaeological site of the Prophet Nabi Hori.
The site of the Prophet Hori was exposed to random excavations and the destruction of archaeological layers using heavy machinery in the pits to accelerate the work and obtain archaeological finds, which means the destruction of many fragile artefacts such as glass, pottery and mosaics.
In addition, there was also the destruction of the Cave of al-Dideriya, which is considered one of the most important sites of global discoveries, where the bones of Neanderthal man more than 100,000 years ago were found.
One of the most important sites that were targeted and completely destroyed was the ancient Ain Dara temple where the temple’s main entrance and the south-eastern hall were destroyed. This site dates back to the classical period.
According to the document, the Turkish occupation carried out the excavation with heavy machinery and bulldozers, which led to the excavation of a collection of statues made of stone basalt stone and white limestone in the Ain Dara temple.
Tel-Janders, located in the south of Janders district, was exposed to excavations to search for treasures and archaeological excavations, especially at the southern side of the hill, not to mention the establishment of military bases above the hill.
Most of the religious shrines, especially the Yazidi and Alawite communities, were also vandalized and destroyed, including “Hanan Shrine, Kulah Berry, Sheikh Hamid in Qastal village, and Iska village shrine in Jandrisah district”.
Although the Antiquities Committee and Human Rights organizations have submitted many well-documented reports to the United Nations, UNESCO and many other organizations, the effects of theft, looting and destruction of Afrin are overlooked.
The Director-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, Mahmoud Hammoud, told the media that Turkey has stolen 16 thousand artefacts from Syria since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the latest from the city of Afrin, and put them in Turkish museums.