The Syrian Observatory For Human Rights

Ongoing sabotage of Syria’s civilisational heritage | Iranian-backed militias loot artifacts in Palmyra

Very reliable sources have informed SOHR that Iranian-backed militiamen, escorted by a group of National Defence Forces (NDF), transported, in the past few days, several ancient statues from the archaeological city of Palmyra to unknown destination.


According to SOHR sources, the Iranian-backed militias dug two caves in the southern cemetery in the archaeological area in Palmyra city and extracted several artifacts, including a statue of two camels. The statues were transported in vehicles of Iranian-backed militias.


In early February, reliable sources reported that Iranian-backed militias in Palmyra in the eastern countryside of Homs, in central Syria, redeployed in new locations, where they were stationed at “Meridian Palmyra Hotel, Zenobia Hotel and Ghassan Saad Hotels,” all located in the archaeological area. Meanwhile, a checkpoint was established at the entrance of the area hosting these hotels.


It is worth noting that Iranian-backed militias in regime-held areas periodically changed their positions, fearing possible attacks.


On 27 January, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published a detailed report on the deployment of Iranian-backed militias in Palmyra’s archaeological areas, which states:


“With its strategic location between the east and the west of Syria, capturing Palmyra city became the goal of all conflicting powers in Syria. The historical city had been under the control of ISIS for years, before the Iranian-backed militias, particularly the Afghan Liwaa Fatimyoun and Iraqi militias, imposed their influence on the city and settled hundreds of non-Syrian families in the houses of civilians who had been forced by ISIS and non-Syrian militias loyal to Iran to displace to other areas.


SOHR sources documented the most prominent neighbourhoods that are inhabited mainly by Afghan and Iraqi families in Palmyra city, and they are as follows:


  • Al-Tamrid school street which is inhabited by families of Afghan militias.


  • Residential buildings near Rouwaida roundabout.


  • Al-Ma’alif neighboruhood which is inhabited by nearly 80 Afghan and Iraqi families.


  • Some houses and buildings nearby the weddings hall on the opposite side of Al-Badiyah Housing Association are inhabited by some Afghan families.


  • Buildings behind “General Mohamed Wasef” house.


  • Residential buildings and houses in a street nearby “Basel Al-Assad National Hospital” in Palmyra.


  • A mosque that has been turned into a “hosayniya”, a congregation hall for Twelver Shia Muslim commemoration ceremonies, for their proxy militiamen, where the Shiite Azan (call to prayers) is used and Shiite rituals are practiced, nearby Al-Qadmous roundabout, where some militiamen and their families frequent to this mosque.


  • Section of Al-Jam’yat neighbourhood nearby Aby Zer Al-Ghaffari Mosque has been inhabited by more than 200 Afghan families, after a new main gate was built in that section allowing people to enter this neighbourhood only after obtaining security approvals by these factions.


  • A mall that is located in a street between Al-Jam’yat and Al-Motqa’deen neighbourhoods was allocated for only Afghan families in Palmyra.


  • Several leaders of Iranian-backed militias have returned back to Mouzah Palace.


  • Dozens of centres and positions where Afghan militiamen are stationed in Palmyra city and its surroundings in east Homs.


It is worth noting that a group affiliated with the Lebanese “Hezbollah” stationed in the branch of Al-Badiyah Intelligence services in the city is responsible for securing the Afghan and Iraqi militias loyal to Iran.”