A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 9, 2014

Homs: "Ubi Solitudinem Faciunt, Pacem Appellant."

"Where they make a desert, they call it peace."
— Tacitus, Agricola

Civilians are re-entering the Old City of Homs after the truce and the evacuation of rebel forces. It will be claimed as a victory by the Syrian regime and certainly be welcomed by the civilian populace whatever their allegiance, but at huge cost.

It may take some time to fully count the cost. This ancient city, dating back to Seleucid times (as Emesa), has borne the brunt of fighting for some time now. The Old City has been under government siege since the beginning of the year and has reportedly been devastated.

The human loss is devastating, but the losses to Syrian heritage are also tragic. As early as 2011 I noted that the great mosque-mausoleum of Khalid ibn al-Walid had been damaged by artillery.

2011 Damage to Mosque of Khalid ibn al-Walid
Khalid, the great general of the Arab Conquests who became known as "the Sword of God," took Homs in AD 637 and was buried there. t is claimed that Homs was the first city in Syria to become majority Muslim. (His present mosque, which contains his grave, dates from the late Ottoman period, but is a gem of Ottoman architecture. Or was.)

This video shows the main body of the mosque-mausoleum under artillery fire in 2013:

Each side blamed the other. Here's a 2013 Free Syrian Army video of some of the damage.
I suspect that as more photos and videos emerge from Homs, we'll have a clearer idea of the extent of the damage to heritage sites, which have also suffered heavily in Aleppo, Palmyra, Krak des Chevaliers, and elsewhere.

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