Dr. Bastien Varoutsikos | 06.12.2016 | 2022 Aufrufe | Artikel

SHELTr, a legal training program to preserve cultural heritage in Syria

Across Syria, the conflict has disrupted the judiciary institutions and new court staffs may lack proper training, especially in matters of cultural heritage. This project addresses legal frameworks currently relevant in Syria

The SHELTr (Syrian Heritage Law Training) is an e-course in development by Heritage for Peace with the assistance of Save Muslim Heritage, in order to provide legal training to court staff in the opposition-held Syria on matters pertaining to cultural heritage. The program was born out of research carried out by Heritage for Peace on the current judicial landscape in the opposition-held areas of Syria. Questionnaires were completed with various stakeholders including imams, lawyers, heritage experts, and local council members - results emphasized three key points:

  •  the large majority of the legal affairs in the opposition-held areas of Syria are handled by Islamic courts, or local courts basing large amount of their ruling on Islamic jurisprudence, while also including aspects of Syrian National Law on an ad hoc basis.
  • cultural-heritage-related questions were addressed on average 1 to 5 times a week.
  • an increasing portion of these courts’ staff lack proper legal training, especially in matters of cultural heritage

SHELTr relies on the development of a curriculum addressing legal aspects of cultural heritage protection in three legal frameworks relevant in Syria: Syrian National Law, Islamic Law, and International Humanitarian Law. This training program is organized as a 5-day e-learning workshop that will be hosted in a regional training center early 2017. As of February 2016, this program is funded by a grant from the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Our objectives are:

  • Research interaction of IHL and Islamic Law around the theme of cultural heritage for applications in Muslim countries worldwide.
  • Promote use and implementation of IHL and foster productive interactions with other existing legal frameworks such as Islamic law and Syrian National Law in courts in the opposition-held territory.
  • Remind local legal stakeholders about their duties regarding protection of cultural heritage.
  • Reach out to community leaders and decision-making actors in the opposition-held territory to influence behaviours and good practices towards cultural heritage across Syria.

The project is divided into 5 phases (preparation > content development > e-course formatting > e-course > evaluation-assessment). We’re currently entering the third phase of the program as we are formatting our content into a teachable e-course. 

For any questions or inquiries, please contact Dr B. Varoutsikos at

Looting damage, Ebla, Nov. 2015

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