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Abstract

Although the right to culture has been widely recognized under international human rights, its reach and practical application has been limited in cultural preservation efforts. Individuals and communities that attempt to be part of the decision-making process in preservation efforts often face barriers to access in that process. The need to re-conceptualize the right to culture is vital for its protection and preservation. This article proposes that the right to self-determination must be utilized as a core fundamental principle that enables a disenfranchised individual or community to have ownership in preservation efforts and decide how to shape their identity. It further illustrates how incorporating the “ownership” element of the right to self-determination will strengthen the application of the right to culture in preservation efforts. The article utilizes the destruction of Syrian cultural heritage to discuss the need for further protections under international human rights law. Because Syrian cultural heritage is in peril, it is imperative that the right to culture of Syrians is strengthened for the survival of their culture and identity. Syrian cultural heritage must be preserved by the Syrians and for the Syrians, thus allowing them to directly shape who they are as a people.