Cultural heritage of Yemen, people’s identity at risk
Since March 2015, the ongoing conflict in Yemen has resulted in unimaginable suffering for the people and the devastation of the country’s infrastructure and cultural heritage. Yemen’s cultural heritage is among the most highly affected sectors of the Yemeni scenario, due to the vulnerable and fragile nature of historical monuments and their connected communities as well. Islamic monuments are regarded as the most endangered monuments and they are in need of urgent damage assessment and documentation. A large number of South Arabian archaeological sites have also been severely damaged and many of these could be lost forever. As Yemen’s cultural heritage has been heavily targeted during these years of war, and the people of Yemen itself is now seeing its own identity at risk, there is, therefore, an urgent need to assess the condition and later restore and promote such cultural richness due to its deep connection to the National identity of the most ancient civilization in the Arabian Peninsula. It will take several years to fully document all the monuments that have been affected by the conflict. As a first step, thanks to a prodigal and forward-looking funding from the Aliph Foundation (International alliance for the protection of heritage in conflict areas), a project is starting, aiming at responding to the urgent needs of Yemeni institutions such as the Social Fund for Development (SFD), the General Organization for the Preservation of the Historical Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY) and the General Organization of Antiquities and Museums (GOAM), that have been drafting a first target list of monuments in danger. Importantly, this formalized assessment methodology would also provide the basis for planning the future restoration/reconstruction of Yemen’s National properties. The main objective of the project is to enable Yemeni experts to complete a full survey on the state of conservation of a number of Islamic monuments that have been severely damaged, in order to provide a standard assessment tool for future sites and provide the basis for prioritizing and planning recovery and conservation efforts.