Pity the Nations

Krak de Chevaliers in the strategic position guarding the path to the Beqqa Valley, being bombarded by Syrian government forces, March 2014

Krak de Chevaliers in the strategic position guarding the path to the Beqqa Valley, being bombarded by Syrian government forces, March 2014

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.


Krak des Chevaliers prior to the Syrian Civil War

Krak des Chevaliers prior to the Syrian Civil War


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.


A Rebel fighter hiding in the ruins of the Krak

A Rebel fighter hiding in the ruins of the Krak


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.


The recent destruction visited upon the medieval Krak is readily apparent


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/

About eamonntgardiner

Dr. Eamonn T. Gardiner, is a Consulting Historian. He has previously conducted research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans of the First World War serving as Auxiliary Policemen, during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. He has written extensively on British central and colonial administrative responses to popular insurgencies. In 2009 he published 'Counterinsurgency and Conflict: Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War (CSP, 2009).' Published papers include; 'The training of the Irish Volunteers, 1913-1916' (The Irish Sword, 2017); 'Scattered, Ambushed and Laid Out: War and Counterinsurgency in the greater Tuam area, 1919-1921' (JOTS, 2015). Research interests include De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism; Insurgency, Police/Military Histories; Institutional Histories; Modern Irish/World History; History of Conflict, Protectorates and Peace-Keeping; Hegemony; Old and New Terrorism.
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