Following the destruction of some of the world’s famous UN heritage sites, including Palmyra in Syria, the United Nations has taken a bold move to protect all the sites which are at a risk of possible subsequent attacks. Through a statement released to the media, Dario Franceschini, the Italian culture minister, announced that the United Nations will be moving to protect heritage sites with the help of blue helmets. He further expressed his concerns on the issue, stating that the international community wouldn’t sit back and watch the persistent terrorist attacks, especially after the images of Palmyra were released. According to him, 53 countries, including the permanent members of the Security Council, fully supported the proposal and consequently voted for it.
The United Nations, which has already deployed peace-keeping troops to the war torn region, will add important heritage sites to its protection list. Therefore, in addition to protecting potential war victims, the United Nations will now have to position troops around and within the sites which are relevant to the world’s heritage. This is after mapping out the sites in the war zone which are at a significantly high risk of being destructed by Islamic State fighters.
Minister Franceschini further expressed the urgency of the matter, calling for the UN to “immediately define the operational aspects of this task force”
The blue helmets, otherwise popularly referred to as United Nations Peace-Keepers, are a specialized troop of soldiers who are deployed in natural disaster and war zones to take charge and prevent further destruction and loss of lives. As they prepare to undertake the mission, the Italian Minister indicated that they will largely benefit from Italy’s cultural and heritage police expertise, which has repeatedly come in handy during training missions in different parts of the world.
The United Nations’ intervention comes at a convenient time, considering the anxiety and international fears triggered by the IS control of Palmyra in May. They caused a lot of irreversible damage on the UNESCO World Heritage listed city. Other heritage site destructions by the militants include the Temple of Baal Sharmin, which came down in August after being blown up; Nimrud and Khorsabad, an ancient Assyrian capital; and Hatra. All these sites are located in Syria and Iraq, a region that has predominantly witnessed successive IS militant attacks.
This is not the first time UNESCO world heritage sites have been threatened by Islamic Militants. In fact, they are accused of carrying out attacks in Timbuktu, consequently demolishing ten historic and religious monuments in the world famous ancient city.
It’s now up to the UN Blue Helmets to prevent further destructions, as the United Nations continues to assess the crisis and strategize on additional measures to restore peace in the troubled region. At the moment, refugees continue trickling into Europe as they flee from the warzone, where more than 200,000 people have lost their lives.