(WASHINGTON, DC) — The International Association to Save Tyre (AIST) hosted a full-day symposium on Wednesday at the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, DC to discuss the group’s efforts to protect the historic site.
Founded in 1980 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, AIST’s primary mission is to raise awareness of the cultural site in south Lebanon, which dates back to 2750 BC.
“Although many may just consider Tyre another piece of real estate in Lebanon, there are critical interests at stake here – especially moral and cultural.” said David Killion, former U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO.
Tyre was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984, but developmental threats have long endangered the natural archeological history in the area.
Construction sites in 2011 came under fire for reportedly interfering with “archeologically-sensitive” areas in Tyre, including a highway project that would directly impact the site.
During the 2006 war, UNESCO’s director-general launched a ‘heritage alert’ for the site to prevent hostilities between Israel and Lebanon from damaging the ancient city.
The DC-symposium said Tyre was vulnerable to potential construction projects and future violence that could damage the city’s ancient ruins.
Dr. Maha el-Khalil Chalabi, who founded AIST, said preserving the Phoenician history of Tyre calls for global support.
“I will use my position as the head of the International Association to Save Tyre to preserve the city’s Phoenician legacy in every possible way,” she said. “This includes the rehabilitation and the promotion of its cultural and economic history.”
The ancient Phoenicians created one of the world’s first alphabets and the first democracy in the world with a parliament and senate elected directly by the citizens. Tyre is the legendary birthplace of Europa, the daughter of the King of Tyre, the namesake of Europe.
U.S. Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA) spoke at the symposium, which expected 1,000 guests from around the world. The five-day conference includes visits to the White House, and a private dinner hosted by Lebanese Ambassador to the United States Antoine Chedid.