Syria’s cultural heritage being looted, destroyed — UNESCO

Updated 01 October 2013
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Syria’s cultural heritage being looted, destroyed — UNESCO

PARIS: As the world argues over how to prevent more civilian deaths in Syria, UNESCO warned on Thursday that a rich cultural heritage was being devastated by the conflict now in its third year.
Clashes have damaged historical sites and buildings throughout the country, from Aleppo’s Umayyad Mosque to the Crac des Chevaliers castle dating from the 13th century Crusades.
But the most irreversible damage comes from the illegal looting of artefacts from archaeological sites for export, said the UN cultural arm’s assistant director-general for culture, Francesco Bandarin.
“We had it in Iraq, we had it in Afghanistan, in Libya, in Mali,” Bandarin said. “It is a typical by-product of war. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to stop.”
Organized, armed gangs sometimes involving hundreds of hired men who threaten local residents against retaliation are taking advantage of a lack of security at many archaeological digging sites.
A comparison of satellite images from before the crisis and today at Apamea, known for its extensive Hellenistic ruins, shows clearly the scale of looting and destruction, UNESCO said.
Precious objects have been identified for sale in Beirut and international police agency Interpol has confiscated 18 Syrian mosaics and 73 other artefacts at the Lebanese border, the agency said. It has appealed to neighboring countries to better control their borders against the trafficking of art.
UNESCO’s warning comes as the West considers whether to launch a military strike against Syria in response to last week’s chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people.


Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

Updated 22 April 2018
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Grandma Stories: Saudi storyteller teaches values and critical thinking by letting children speak up

  • Storytelling is not only a fun way to ignite imaginations; it also improves children’s verbal and critical thinking abilities, says Yamani
  • Yamani has read stories in both Arabic and English for more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities all over the Kingdom and the Gulf region

DHAHRAN: You can see children forming a gigantic circle and listening carefully when story time starts. Ghadeer Yamani, the founder of Grandma Stories, found her passion for spreading the love of reading among children and delivering values through her storytelling sessions.
The Grandma Stories initiative started six years ago when Yamani returned home after spending years abroad owing to her husband’s work. Yamani has read stories in both Arabic and English for more than 6,000 children of 15 nationalities all over the Kingdom and the Gulf region, including the UAE and Bahrain.
“The idea of Grandma Stories was not an epiphany; it came to me after I saw how reading was a huge part of children’s life abroad. I used to see children reading in libraries, in bus stops, in hospitals — everywhere. I wanted to help spread reading culture in my society.
“I wanted children back home to love reading! And with the support of my husband and family, I think I was able to do this,” Yamani told Arab News.
With the prevalence of national reading competitions, school contests and reading clubs, awareness among families and society members is growing. “The interaction and excitement of families and children are amazing when it comes to story time,” said Yamani.
About the title of her initiative, she said: “When I was a child I used to visit my father’s grandmother in Madinah who had a phenomenal way of telling stories and riddles. I still remember how the entire family would get around her as she started telling her tales, and in an atmosphere filled with love and contentment.
“No one ever wanted her stories to finish and nothing could ever distract us while listening to her. That is exactly how I want children to feel in Grandma Stories story time.”
Storytelling is not only a fun way to ignite imaginations; it also improves children’s verbal and critical thinking abilities. Yamani allows children to criticize the stories by pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of each one. The advancement in such skills is what inspires Yamani and keeps her going.
“The fondest moments throughout my years in storytelling have been when mothers come and tell me how their children used to be shy and reluctant but have started to become fluent and can express themselves well, and that Grandma Stories is the reason for this great progress.”