Protecting Cultural Objects

The Threats to the World's Cultural Objects (3/3)
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Recent military conflicts have exacted a heavy toll on the cultural heritage. The catalogue of losses includes the museums, monasteries, and religious shrines in Cambodia which were destroyed deliberately by the Khmer Rouge;17 the National Museum in Kabul, Afghanistan (devastated and looted);18 the Musée de Beirut, Lebanon (reduced to a burnt-out shell by 15 years of civil war);19 and the World Heritage Site of the city of Dubrovnik, Croatia (badly damaged by bombardment).20

In 1992 the Croatian government reported that 470 monuments (121 of which are of national or international importance) had sustained damage in the war with Serbia.21 Religious buildings were the worst-affected category of monument. Of the 241 churches and monasteries listed as casualties, 61 were destroyed and 75 heavily damaged.22 The conflict in Bosnia has been even more devastating, with recent reports claiming that 1,470 mosques have been damaged or destroyed in what has been described as a campaign of "cultural cleansing."23 During the Gulf War, Kuwait notified UNESCO of the removal of thousands of cultural objects by the occupying Iraqi forces.24 Iraq, in turn, has circulated lists of objects taken from a number of its regional museums.25 Fifty years after its end, World War II continues to cast a shadow over the cultural property debate. Recent disclosures that major works of art taken from Germany by the Red Army have been stored in Russian museums -- coupled with revelations about the scale of the organized looting carried out by the Nazis in occupied Europe -- have brought the impact of war on cultural objects back into the public eye.26

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