HERITAGE experts in the Capital have been awarded £1.2 million to help restore and repair historic cities in Turkey which have been badly damaged by the Syrian conflict in recent years.
It is hoped Mardin and Diyarbakir, which are both close to the Syrian border, will be “preserved for future generations” under the British Council-funded project.
The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust will help create a register of “buildings at risk”, help local communities develop conservation skills and instigate a restoration programme.
New training programmes for local teachers and tour guides will be set up to raise awareness of the cultural heritage in the two cities, while special summer schools will be run in Turkey and Edinburgh as part of the project.
The backing from the British Council’s cultural protection fund will allow the conservation charity to run a three-year programme in Mardin and Diyarbakir.
An initial conservation project on the Saint Benham community building in Mardin is aimed at helping local stonemasons and architects gain new skills.
The Turkish initiative has been unveiled months after Edinburgh World Heritage confirmed it had offered support to help restore several ancient cities in Syria, including Aleppo, Damascus and Bosra.
The trust, which was set up after Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns were awarded world heritage status in 1995, has supported and advised more than 20 other cities around the world over the last 10 years.
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “Helping to protect cultural heritage at risk is important not only in Edinburgh, but also in the world’s conflict zones.
“In both Mardin and Diyarbakir, the historic buildings and archaeology are a daily reminder of the richness and diversity of the region’s culture, and must be preserved for current and future generations. We look forward to getting started with this important work.”
Krzysztof Jan Chuchra, international programme manager at Edinburgh World Heritage, said: Edinburgh has always been an outward-looking, international city, and this project is part of that rich tradition.
Professor Eva Sarlak, of the Turkish cultural heritage body Kültürel Mirasi Koruma Dernegi, said: “The two cities of Mardin and Diyarbakir are home to a diverse cultural heritage which has suffered as a result of recent conflict and political uncertainty.
“Many historic buildings and neighbourhoods, much loved by the local community, are in a very poor state of repair, and risk being lost. This project is a first for Turkey.
“The support of Edinburgh World Heritage will enable us to begin the work of conservation and training so that the cultural riches of these two cities may be enjoyed safely by everyone – residents and visitors alike.”