Back in March I found an article in my local newspaper reporting that in war torn areas in Syria and Turkey, where civil war has been raging since before last year, the people have been using the old citadels and fortresses of the ancients for shelter from air raids, bombing and crossfire. Foreign visitors and even tourists are surprised to find that many of these medieval buildings and castles, in a ruinous state, have become the only refuge for those who want to stay loyal to their country but are unhappy with the war going on in the northern hills. Their children, in many cases, have been shipped over to other countries where they have been victimized into slavery and not given proper asylum in the cases of orphans. Rebels, soldiers and just regular civilians standing their ground in the war ravaged country of Syria are trying to survive by making homes and shelters in strategic spots where these buildings are especially strong or provide outlooks over towns and roads.
It is interesting that some of these medieval fortifications were once citadels in which Christians and Muslims fought for control to strengthen their respective empires. Back in December of 2012, a hilltop fortress in the town of Harem, rebels took possession of the citadel which was once used by the Byzantines who allied themselves with Saladin warriors against the Crusaders. In December a bloody battle took place trying to keep the citadel a possession of Syrian nationals.
In the town of Maaret al-Numan, the plains below Jebel al-Zawiya, a Roman shrine still exists and is also being used for safety. The rebels below have taken over a 17th century caravansary which is supposed to be a museum but is now being used as a castle with solid fortress-like walls. They have withstood modern daily rockets and mortar strikes for months. Even in Aleppo, a 12th century citadel, seated 1400 feet high above the Valley of Kuwaik, (a UNESCO World Heritage Site for many years now) is being used in the same manner with the results that a fire back in September of 2012 destroyed most of a medieval souk which was the living historical heart and soul of the ancient town.
The archaeologists are quite concerned that the use of such buildings will bring about irreparable damage to these historic structures. The tourism that many of these old fortresses and tombs brought in has of course been eroded by the fighting and in the absence of tourists these citadels have again become a refuge for those fighting for freedom. It will be a true test to the workmanship of medieval times and shows a resourcefulness not often seen in the modern technological age. I would remind one and all that this was the original purpose of those citadels although the destruction of places such as Aleppo’s marketplace is unfortunate and saddening and the looting which has taken place at Aleppo and other heritage sites is alarming.
It is proof that prayer is for one and all in these perilous times.
Pray for Peace,
The Castle Lady