Thursday, 6 August 2015

Naumkin: 'Saving Middle East relics needs less talk, more action'

Vitaly Naumkin (director of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences) says more effective international action is required to stop the plundering of Middle Eastern treasures and the devastation of historic sites ('Saving Middle East relics needs less talk, more action' Al-Monitor August 6, 2015)
Initially, barbaric and disorderly archaeological digs in IS-controlled territory were conducted by criminal gangs, but the situation seems to have changed over time. Efforts to maximize the proceeds from this criminal activity have made it somewhat systematic. The IS militants established a ministry of artifacts after they took control over the city of Tadmor in May. А webpage, created under the name “Syria’s Artifacts for Sale,” displays some of the precious artifacts that were looted from museums in Halab, Deir ez-Zor and Qalamoun — statues, jewelry, precious stones and coins. A researcher from Tajikistan, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor that IS emissaries are recruiting archaeologists in the region, and probably in other countries as well, to conduct illegal excavations in IS-occupied territories in Iraq and Syria. According to the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, experts from neighboring countries, including Turkey, are recruited to conduct excavations in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib, while metal detectors and archaeological extraction tools are brought from along with weapons. Organized excavation teams are formed from Syrian militants.
"What we are witnessing today is an intolerable situation that calls for concerted and resolute action by the entire international community to stop the destruction and looting of humankind’s cultural heritage in the Middle East', he says, trouble is there is no real concrete indication of how.

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