By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 18 March 2015:
With extremists destroying ancient cultural artifacts and sites in Iraq and local sufi shrines in . . .[restrict]Tripoli, many experts are worried about the future of Libya’s significant sites such as Cyrene, Leptis Magna and Sabratha.
This week some of Libya’s most prominent archaeologists and historians came together in the main hall of the Cyrene historical complex to discuss ways to protect Libya’s treasures from vandalism and destruction.
In a letter sent to UNESCO at the conclusion of the workshop, the attendees expressed their deep sadness over what has happened to cultural heritage sites in Iraq and their concern that the same might happen in Libya.
They identified the main threats facing Libya’s historical treasures. The potential for Islamic State-affiliated extremists to destroy artifacts is not the only threat. Over the years these sites have suffered from a lack of protection. Looting and common vandalism have been common. Looters, especially, make big money selling off valuable artifacts.
Additionally, according to participants, the local people do not understand the value of these ancient sites. In Cyrene locals have built homes on the ruins, albeit on the edges of the site.
Regarding the religious “mandate” cited by the extremists as a reason for destroying the sites, Sufi Sheikh Mohammed Salal Lajeel declared, “Islam never ordered us to destroy our own history.”
The attendees called upon the Libyan government to take action to prevent extremists from destroying Libya’s heritage. They also asked for international institutions such as UNESCO to help them prepare to “ward off these threats and risks.”