in the line of fire: cultural heritage in hybrid warfare – occupation, destruction, trafficking, espionage and propaganda

At the seminar on archaeology in occupied territories and in zones of armed conflict, I (Сем Харді) explored cultural heritage in hybrid warfare – occupation, destruction, trafficking, espionage and propaganda.

I was delighted to be invited to participate in the great effort, and to witness the great work, of my friends and colleagues in Ukraine. Happily (and generously, on the part of the Norwegian Institute in Rome, University of Oslo), I was able to participate as part of my post-doctoral research fellowship on heritage and conflict in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, insofar as we discussed (as we had discussed and have continued to discuss) problems and practices in one place that might inform cultural heritage management in the other.

This point emerged in an interview with Hanna Tregub for the Ukrainian Week (Український тиждень) (which was conducted in English, then edited and published in Ukrainian; this extract is basically a Google translation of the Ukrainian publication).

The Ukrainian case is not unique in this context. In Yemen, where there is now an armed conflict, Saudi Arabia not only commits many crimes against civilians every day, but also causes the greatest destruction of buildings and destruction of property, whatever that may be. Obviously, the Saudi military cannot be considered the defenders of the local civilians. So, in order to look better than their opponents in the eyes of outside observers, they decided to blame the[ir opponents] for the pillaging and smuggling of cultural property from the country.

[Український випадок у цьому контексті не унікальний. У Ємені, де нині триває збройний конфлікт, Саудівська Аравія щодня не лише скоює чимало злочинів проти цивільного населення, а й призводить до найбільших руйнувань будівель та нищення майна, хоч би яким воно було. Очевидно, саудівські військові не можуть вважатися захисниками місцевих мирних жителів. А щоб в очах сторонніх спостерігачів мати кращий вигляд, ніж їхні супротивники, вони вирішили останніх звинуватити у викраденні та вивезені культурних цінностей з країни.]

(To be clear, as I am in a piece of research that I am writing now, according to eyewitness testimony that has been recorded by the Mwatana Organization for Human Rights, at least one museum has been pillaged by (the Houthi organisation) Ansar Allah; at least one other museum has been pillaged by Salafist Abu al-Abbas Brigades, which are backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; and at least one archaeological site has been looted while under military occupation by Popular Resistance Forces, which are allied to the government’s armed forces.)

Equally happily (and even more generously), Serhii Telizhenko or Sergey Telizhenko (Сергій Теліженко) translated the text of my talk and provided a simultaneous translation alongside my presentation at the event. Obviously, I am going to release the English-language and Ukrainian-language texts.

My presentation was recorded and shared by Wild Fox, on Facebook as well as YouTube.


Hardy, S. 2019: “In the line of fire: Cultural heritage in hybrid warfare – occupation, destruction, trafficking, espionage and propaganda [На лінії вогню: культурна спадщина в гибрідній війні – окупація, руйнація, торгівля, шпигунство та пропаганда]”. Paper presented at the Seminar on Archaeology in Occupied Territories and in Zones of Armed Conflict [Археологія на окупованих територіях та у зонах збройних конфліктів], Kyiv, Ukraine, 16th May. [YouTube, 9th June.] [Paper translated by Serhii Telizhenko (Сергій Теліженко).] Available at:

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