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Nour Munawar

Nour Munawar is an archaeologist and heritage expert and currently, a visiting research fellow at UCL Qatar. He is a finishing his PhD project at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Netherlands. His PhD research investigates (post-)conflict reconstructions of cultural heritage affected by armed conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Munawar has several publications in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes in the field of heritage in (Post-)conflict zones. Before coming to Doha, Munawar pursued his education at Aleppo (Syria), Leiden (Netherlands), and Warsaw (Poland), Amsterdam (Netherlands) Universities. Munawar is a UNESCO expert on Safeguarding Syrian Cultural Heritage and Member of several international organizations, such as ICOMOS.

The Politics of Heritage in Post Conflict Contexts: The case of Syria

Traces of war and violence simulate a scar after an accident. It can be removed using aesthetic surgery, for the sake of forgetting. Conversely, a scar can be preserved, for the sake of remembering and learning lessons from the past. In the context of the Middle East, the decision of forgetting or remembering the memory of war times is often controlled by the ruling entity of the state, who is responsible for curating and promoting the public memories and heritages as parts of the national identity. The Arab Spring public movements, started in 2010 in Tunisia and continues to this day in Sudan and Algeria, have been characterised by the destruction of cultural heritage sites, monuments, and facilities. Heritage destruction in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has infuriated and saddened local people as well as Western observers, academics and organizations. Consequently, international community has rapidly responded to the globally increasing atrocities of heritage destruction in the Arab region, e.g. Aleppo, Palmyra, Sana'a, and Mosul. These universal reactions are aiming to generate funds to rebuild what war and violence have destroyed, such as the rebuilding of the ancient city of Aleppo. Reconstruction of cultural heritage is a long-lasting process. Physical reconstruction of material heritage is just one of its stages. It is worth noting that an ill-conceived reconstruction can be as destructive as an act of destruction, and such reconstruction has the capacity to prolong the conflict after the war ends. This paper explores the politics of heritage and archaeology in colonial Syria and how archaeology played a role in changing the geopolitical map of the MENA region. This paper goes beyond and examines how Ba'athism used narratives and remnants of the past in the present. I argue that the ongoing reconstruction works of Aleppo, such as the rebuilding of the Great Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, are acts full of meanings and political gains for the people in- power. Finally, this paper sheds light on how Pan-Arabism and Ba'athism played a key role in the (re)production, presentation, and promotion of Syria's past into heritage and public memories since the second half of the Twentieth century till present.

 

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