Activists march against the Culture Ministry\'s decision
Scores of people marched Saturday in protest of the Culture Ministry’s decision to allow the remains of Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome to be incorporated into a new building development
The protest, organized by the Association for the Protection of Lebanese Heritage, kicked off at Minat al-Hosn, located near the site of the ruins of an Ottoman port, which is also set for reconstruction.
Demonstrators carried banners that urged the government to approve a draft law to protect old building and historic sites.
Others carried banners urging for the protection of both the port and the hippodrome.
Internal Security Forces were deployed at the scene of the protest and monitored the march.
Earlier this week, the Culture Ministry defended its decision and said that integrating archeology was the optimal method of preserving ancient structures.
“Integration with the historic building does not include any changes to the hippodrome’s stadium; there will only be the dismantling of the middle wall, but this will be rebuilt after restoration of the building,” the Culture Ministry said in a statement.
It added that the owners of the building must notify the Directorate General of Antiquities two months before any proposed changes and must receive the directorate’s approval before beginning the project.
When an artifact is found, Culture Ministry’s Director General of Antiquities (DGA) has four possible options. The first is to transfer their finds to a dedicated location such as the National Museum, reincorporate the finds within the building and maintaining public access to it, integrate the find into the design of the building, or the final option is that of acquisition by the DGA depending on the value of the discovery.
The last case usually means a total halt to any further real estate development on the historical site.
The ministry\'s statement came hours after three former culture ministers held a news conference objecting to Culture Ministry Gaby Layyoun\'s decision to reverse a previous ministerial decision to designate the Roman Hippodrome as a protected heritage site and allow a private company to build there.