Online course with Heritage for peace

Syrian Heritage Law Training project

In response to the catastrophic destruction and loss of Syria’s heritage by Daesh (or the Islamic State), Heritage for Peace with Save Muslim Heritage (SMH) has developed the SHeLTr project. SHeLTr stands for ‘Syrian’s Heritage Law Training’ project

It aims to assist those managing legal cases in the Syrian courts in the Idlib region to understand the legal obligations under international, national and
Islamic law relating to heritage protection.

Heritage for Peace and their partners have researched the intersections between these three branches of law relating to the safeguarding of heritage and we have invited community leaders, heritage professionals and law officials to partake in E-learning training on the legal framework that forbids the destruction of heritage, looting and the illicit antiquities trade.

Funded in March 2016 by Gerda Henkel Stiftung, the project has a planned completion date of 2020.


This project has been funded thanks to the generous support of the
Gerda Henkel Stiftung

The Gerda Henkel Foundation was established in June 1976 by Lisa Maskell in memory of her mother Gerda Henkel as an incorporated foundation under civil law, headquartered in Düsseldorf.

The Gerda Henkel Foundation concentrates its support on the historical humanities. In some of the programmes the Foundation furthermore addresses issues of great relevance to contemporary life and the future, above all as part of its special programme “Security, Society and the State”. As part of the Lisa Maskell Fellowship programme, the Foundation supports young scholars in the humanities in both Africa and Southeast Asia. With its “Patrimonies” funding initiative it promotes the preservation of the cultural heritage, specifically in regions experiencing crisis. Research that places current challenging issues in a greater historical context form the focus of the “Democracy as Utopia, Experience and Threat” and “Lost Cities. Perception of and living with abandoned cities in the cultures of the world” funding programmes. In connection with funded projects, the Foundation also provides assistance for social support measures as part of complementary projects. The Gerda Henkel Foundation can by virtue of its statutes pursue its objectives both inside and outside Germany.

Why is it needed?

Syria holds a rich cultural history. Having witnessed the rise of great empires and the spread of major world religions, it holds six declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as eleven inscriptions on the World Heritage Tentative List.

In addition, there are numerous rare and important collections of antiquities housed in the museums of Damascus, Aleppo, Raqqa, Homs, Hama, Daraa and many others.

In 2015, most of Syria’s cultural sites were located within conflict areas, and are still today affected by the general breakdown of law and order. They have suffered from various threats, resulting in a range of effects from slight damage to total destruction and looting varying from a few holes to wide-scale devastation. 

However, Syria’s heritage is not only about physical remains: it transcends its material significance insofar as it represents the people’s identity and stands as a symbol between society’s past and future.

As the conflict changes, so does the nature of the destruction. Whilst damage from the fighting and looting are still significant threats, today a large amount of damage is connected to mismanagement, and illegal development.

The law courts in the Idlib region of Syria are currently faced with numerous heritage cases on a daily basis. Through this project, Heritage for Peace aims to provide training for court staff and heritage professionals to better handle these cases.







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The E-Learning course consists of online ‘articulates’ designed by DynaMind, an innovative eLearning organisation based in Australia. The ‘articulates’ are a dynamic presentation format with scripted voice-overs to offer an original online training method. The presentations, which are in both English and Arabic, will be supported by practical exercises to enable the participants to apply their learned theory to likely situations. A ‘Train the Trainer’ booklet is being developed to assist the in-situ trainers to deliver the course.

The programme is divided into three parts with a total of 13 online ‘articulate’ presentations and will be delivered in a five-day training course in the UOSSM Centre in Bab Al-Hawa, north Syria.


The training will be divided into three main parts: International Heritage Law, Syrian Heritage Law, and Islamic Heritage Law.
The first part of the course will introduce the participants to the international conventions put in place to protect cultural heritage. This includes the 1954 Hague Convention specifically and customary international law more generally. Other relevant international legal instruments will be discussed together with the role of the International Criminal Court in prosecuting crimes against heritage. The course will conclude with discussions on the relevance and the practical application of these legal instruments within the local Syrian courts.
The second part of the course will look at the role and structure of Syrian cultural heritage institutions, specifically the DGAM (Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums), but also international institutions, such as UNESCO who operate in Syria. It will cover the history of their work, and the role they have played during the conflict. Specific focus will be given to the current Law of Antiquities 222, and its limitations. This will lead on to an analysis of the initiative for the new Syrian cultural heritage law.
Islamic Heritage Law As Islam plays an important role in many communities, the third part of the course will present those parts of Islamic Law that are key in safeguarding cultural heritage. The key principles and concepts of Islamic Law will be discussed, as well as its primary sources. This will be followed by an explanation of cultural heritage in Islam, and a discussion of law relating to movable and immovable heritage. Finally, extremist justifications of heritage destruction will be considered, together with a brief consideration of countering these views using the religious texts of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.

Meet the team

Isber Sabrine

Project Manager

Dr Bastien Varoutsikos

Project Coordinator (Phase 1)

Annis Turner

Project Coordinator (Phase 2)

Joanne Dingwall McCafferty

Project Coordinator (Phase 3)

Hannah Skowronski

Project Assistant

Dr Emma Cunliffe



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