The head of the United Nations agency tasked with safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage today called for the protection of Libya’s Old City of Ghadamès, voicing concern over reports that the town has been the target of rocket attacks.
“I call upon all those involved to refrain from hostile acts that could cause additional damage to this outstanding city, inscribed on the World Heritage List,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova.
The Old City of Ghadamès is situated in north-western Libya and was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1986. Often referred to as ‘the pearl of the desert,’ Ghadamès features a style of domestic architecture which makes it a unique site among a series of pre-Saharan cities and settlements along the northern edge of the desert from Libya to Mauritania.
Clashes between rival groups have been among the challenges facing Libya since the toppling of the regime of Muammar Al-Qadhafi last year and the establishment of the interim authorities.
“During the past year, Libyans have shown their unfailing commitment to the protection of their cultural heritage, demonstrating that such heritage cannot be held hostage to local or international dissent and conflict,” Ms. Bokova said. “Heritage is a foundation of social cohesion and as such should remain a vector for dialogue and mutual understanding,” she added.
During last year’s conflict in Libya, UNESCO repeatedly informed all parties of their responsibility to protect the country’s cultural heritage. The agency has resumed its cooperation with the Libyan authorities and has indicated it remains ready to assist them to effectively protect and conserve the country’s heritage as it recovers from conflict.
UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes 936 properties forming part of the planet’s cultural and natural heritage considered to have outstanding universal value.