Exploring Reasons for Divergent Local Community Responses to the Protection of Archaeological Sites during Conflict in northwest Syria
The terrible damage to Syrian cultural heritage inflicted over the war has demonstrated the failure of international organizations and cultural agreements to protect antiquities in Syria, and highlighted the divergent attitudes of Syrians towards their cultural heritage. Although local protection initiatives have been undertaken in certain areas to safeguard archaeological sites, they have been totally absent in others, with Syrians themselves directly involved in both the plundering and destruction of sites. This paper aims to identify the reasons for such stark differences in local community safeguarding responses. Understanding local attitudes towards tangible cultural heritage, including the reasons for its protection or destruction, demonstrates a more complicated picture than the simplistic narratives that all too often focus on the spectacular destruction of cultural heritage by ISIS. It also aids post-conflict community recovery and supports plans to enhance the role of local communities in preserving archaeological sites during conflict.