Why is Palmyrene Voices necessary?

Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered one of the most beautiful ruined cities in the Middle East. Palmyra’s outstanding universal value is a testimony of the unique aesthetic achievement of the wealthy caravan oasis from the Roman period. The grand colonnade is just one example of the many structures that represent major artistic development. It illustrates an important example of architecture and urban layout at the peak of Rome’s expansion in and engagement with the East. The great Temple of Ba’al is considered one of the most important religious buildings of the 1st century AD in the East and is of unique design. The funerary monuments located in the Valley of the Tombs and the necropolises represent distinctive decoration and construction. Palmyra is a symbol of Syrian identity, thus it represents a value that extends beyond the purely cultural and artistic dimension
During the Syrian conflict, ISIS controlled Palmyra from May 2015 until March 2016, and again from December 2016 until 2 March 2017. when it was retaken by the Syrian army. During the period in which ISIS occupied Palmyra, the archaeological site was exposed to military occupation, intentional destruction and collateral combat damage, looting, and it was also used to stage executions. ISIS’s abuse of cultural heritage began when they staged executions in the theatre, before moving on to later destroy the Temple of Baalshamin and the temple of Bel. In September 2015, satellite imagery analysis revealed they had destroyed numerous tower tombs, including the three of the most well-preserved. The destruction continued: in October 2015, news agencies reported that ISIS had destroyed the Arch of Triumph, and during their second occupation of the city they went on to destroy the tetrapylon and part of the theater in January 2017n going so far as to mine the city. Palmyra became a symbol for a memorial for cultural loss in the international press where it was presented n icon of global cultural heritage, embodying values shared by all humanity. The destruction led to an international outcry and social media frenzy; images of piles of disjointed architecture became clickbait, and all the international media outlets talked about the destruction – but little talk was about the people from Palmyra. Nobody mentioned the possibility of giving concrete support to the people of Palmyra, with its 80 thousand inhabitants. Many of them have fled the city and now they have to return to their homes and lands. They need material support. The Palmyrene Voices Initiative was created to give a voice to the Palmyrene people and to support them.

Our team

Dr Isber Sabrine

CEO of Heritage for Peace, and co-founder of the Palmyrene Voices of Initiative

Isber is a Syrian archaeologist, specializing in cultural heritage management, as well as a certified National Tourist Guide in Syria. He has been a member of the Syrian Spanish team of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) since 2005. Since 2011, Isber has been a Researcher at the Institución Milá y Fontanals of the Spanish National Research Council and has been involved in projects and studies on the protection of cultural heritage during conflicts. He is currently chair and co-founder of the international NGO Heritage for Peace and the Arab Network of Civil Society Organizations to Safeguard Cultural Heritage. Since 2015, he has been involved in cultural initiatives for refugees and immigrants in Europe. He is leading the Abuab Initiative, which is a social project that works on using cultural heritage as a tool for intercultural dialogue with refugees and immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

Hasan Ali

Director of Projects and Co-founder

Hasan Ali is from the city of Palmyra. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Archaeology from Damascus University, Syria (2003). He worked for the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, in the Palmyra Museum in excavations and documentation works for the archaeological sites and buildings in the Syrian Badia (desert). In 2015, like many local residents, Hasan Ali fled from Palmyra to Turkey due to the ISIS invasion of Palmyra. He was greatly affected by the incidents of destruction, looting, and sabotage of the heritage of his city Palmyra, and was determined to cause a change in the course of events when he began working to document and record memories of the former residents. He became a steward of cultural heritage at the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul in 2016, through which he got the chance to intensify his fieldwork among the Tadmuri community in Turkey.

Dr Matteo Berzi

GIS expert

Matteo Berzi holds a PhD in Geography with a background in Humanities and Spatial Planning. His research is focused on the impact of European Territorial Cooperation (CTE) with a specific interest in local and regional cross-border cooperation, multi-level governance, Euroregions and local development processes along European borders. He is affiliated to the APTA Research Group (Dept. Geography, University of Girona, Spain). Since December 2018 he joined the Office for the Development of the Mediterranean Corridor in Spain as Cross-Border Cooperation expert and GIS specialist.

Othman Al Karkokli

Translator and social media manger

Othman comes from Palmyra, Syria. He is a graduate of Damascus University, with a Bachelor’s Degree in English-Arabic translation. He moved to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2015 and since then he has worked in the humanitarian field as a program coordinator and community liaison officer in an NGO that helps Syrian refugees (small projects Istanbul). In 2020, he started working as a translator for Josoor International Solidarity in Istanbul. Othman believes that handicrafts are part of the human heritage that we must support and preserve, and he is interested in contributing by helping to support projects related to preservation of the heritage of his hometown, Palmyra.

Ahmed Alkhanee


Studied business and accounting in damascus University and worked for a decade as finance. Then a huge career shift to digital content creation especially videography and editing. Since 2015 his work had been improved to a corporate level and in 2019 involved in many archaeological and heritage contents.

Advisory committee

Dr Michel Al Maqdissi

Dr Al Maqdissi holds a PhD from the Sorbonne in Oriental Archaeology (1994). He taught oriental archaeology and Phoenician civilization at the University of Damascus and at the Saint Joseph University in Beirut. He was also a visiting Phoenician Archaeology Professor at Paris I Panthéon – Sorbonne University, a Middle Eastern Archaeology Professor at Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, and recently a Professor at Louvre School of Levantine Archaeology.

In addition to his academic career, and since 2000, Dr Al Maqdissi has directed excavations and archaeological studies at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums of Syria. Lastly, he was also the project manager and a scientific researcher at the Oriental Antiquities department at the Louvre Museum. He has published the bulk of his archaeological research in three series of articles: Notes on Syrian Ceramology, Notes on Levantine Archaeology, and Material for the Study of the City in Syria. In Damascus, he has founded a newspaper (Studia Orontica) and a collection (Syrian Archaeology Documents) to publish recent research in several languages (Arabic, French, and English).