Friday, 13 May 2011

Interpol to Publish Photos of Recently Stolen Egyptian Artefacts

Apparently the Interpol mission representative to Egypt, Stephen Tifaut and Egypt antiquities minister, Zahi Hawass, met on 12th May to discuss "how to help find and return the 1228 missing objects from museums and archaeological sites in the aftermath of the January 25 Revolution". This follows a recent series of meetings with UNESCO officials who visited the country in the wake of the recent break-ins in the Egyptian museum in Tahrir (28th January) and several archaeological storehouses in Egypt (see the Egyptological Looting Database 2011). It is interesting that we are at last seeing the quoting of an actual specific number of items, 1228 - this will include the thirty or so still missing from the Egyptian Museum.

"Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, the general supervisor of the minister’s office told Ahram Online that Interpol will publish photos of the missing objects in the international market, a measure that will help in recovering these objects". Let us hope it is not just "photos".

Abdel Maqsoud, and Gihan Zaki, MSAA director of international organisations, a number of police detectives as well as a representative from the tourism and antiquities police attended the Interpol meeting held on the Zamalek premises of the Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs. May 12th Interpol to publish photos of Egyptian artefacts missing post-revolution
The meeting with Interpol, according to Hawass, "is a security measure to help recover objects, if any were smuggled out of the country" but "Hawass tells Ahram Online that he doesn’t think that any objects have left the country, as security is tight at seaports and airports". Well, of course these objects are only missing because the security at the places they were permanently stored was not as adequate as it had been assumed to be. So why should places of transit be any the more "secure"?

Hawass' suggestion is a tacit admission that despite the laws and measures, there is an internal market in Egypt that can without any disruption accept 1228 stolen artefacts (including several as instantly recognizable as the Tutankhamun figures). Is that really what he wants to say?

Nevine El-Aref, 'Interpol to publish photos of Egyptian artefacts missing post-revolution', Al-Ahram, 12 May 2011

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