Allies of the Assad regime (Iran and Russia) continue to compete for influence in Syria, this time over monuments. Both sides are working to portray themselves as protectors of Syria’s heritage, ready to restore archaeological sites.
On Saturday, Deputy Minister of Heritage, Tourism, and Handicrafts in Iran, Ali Asghar Shalbavian said that his country is strongly ready to rebuild archaeological and touristic areas and monuments in Syria.
“Iran is ready to participate in the reconstruction and restoration of Syria’s archaeological and touristic areas, which have been vandalized. This comes in addition to making tourism investment by building and equipping new hotel facilities,” Shalbavian was quoted by IRNA as saying.
The Iranian official made the remarks during his meeting on Saturday with the Syrian regime’s Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade, Mohammed Samer al-Khalil, at the Syrian pavilion of the Expo Dubai 2020, which began last Friday.
The two sides stressed the need for continued cooperation and joint coordination in their economic and investment fields. Shalbavian and Khalil discussed exchanging visits, with a view to deepening trade, economic, and tourism cooperation between Iran and Syria.
Iran militias endanger Syria’s antiquities
Local sources previously told Syria TV that Iranian militias, led by the Revolutionary Guard, are endangering archaeological and historical sites in the Syrian Badia. They are using them as storage depots for weapons and missiles which they smuggle into Syria.
The sources said that most of the old fortresses and archaeological buildings in the Palmyra area, east of Homs and Deir-ez-Zor countryside, have been turned into weapons depots in order to protect them from airstrikes by Israeli and American aircraft.
In earlier statements, Mohammad Azzam al-Sukhni, a member of the Public and Political Relations Authority of the Homs Badia, said that Iranian militias have begun storing weapons and missiles they brought from Iraq in several archaeological places in the eastern Syrian Badia.
“Many of these archaeological sites have been transformed into huge weapons depots,” he said, stressing that what Iran’s militias are doing to Syria’s antiquities is a violation of the international convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of war.
Iran militias continue archaeological excavations in Syria
Local news networks reported that Iranian militias are supervising archaeological excavation workshops in eastern Syria, particularly in the Palmyra area and Deir-ez-Zor countryside. They are working to smuggle these antiquities in coordination with the Assad regime’s forces.
Since the beginning of this year, Iranian militias have begun excavations for antiquities in the Hambo and Lavensona caves located in the Basateen area west of Palmyra. These excavations occur without any comment or objection from Russian forces deployed in the area, which had earlier begun archaeological excavations there.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.