Art imitates life with alarming regularity, especially in our twenty-first century, but it is rarely seen whereby life returns the favour. Unfortunately the ongoing civil war in Syria is doing just that.
The Crusaders’ castle, Krak des Chevaliers has withstood (relatively) unscathed the storms of time and regional geopolitical hardships since it was first raised in the early middle ages. Now in a mere five years it has sustained severe damage to its walls and redoubts. The Krak is located in Homs, the home of some of the fiercest fighting in the Syrian insurgency against the despotic leadership of President Bashar al Asad. The rebels, like countless others before them, readily realised the strategic value of the high ground on which the castle was situated and quickly made the fastness their base of operations in the region.
The Krak, like its more famous cousin Kerak (Al Karak in Arabic) which was brought into the popular consciousness through the Ridley Scott epic Kingdom of Heaven, served as a Crusader citadel and has changed hands multiple times since then. The army of the great muslim leader Saladin was among many that laid siege to the Krak during its lifetime, with the two-thousand strong occupying forces regularly resisting efforts to breach their defences.
However the Crusaders who survived attacks with trebuchets and ballistae would never have envisaged the terrible effect which modern artillery and aerial bombardment could have on a defensive position. The forces of the Syrian president and rebels have been engaged in a series of offensive and defensive attacks both in and around the fortification, often with the numerically and technologically superior government forces causing the greater damage to the structure, in an attempt to render it useless to the rebels. Mortar shells, MLRS rocket systems, MiG fighter-bombers, tanks, Heavy Machine Guns, Artillery shells and missiles have all been used to reduce the grandeur of Syrian architectural heritage to dusty shreds of its former glory. If the fighting does not end soon, it may be difficult to assess what the sides were fighting for in the first place.
A story providing greater detail on the destruction waged upon these priceless sites during the Civil War can be viewed here. Thanks to the BBC for the link. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-28191181
UNESCO Krak de Chevaliers http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1229
Al Kerak http://www.alkarak.net/