Monday, 27 April 2009

Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir - Antiquity Smuggling "Finances Terrorism"

Iraqi commandos recently smashed a smuggling ring and arrested a gang of seven men who were preparing to smuggle the objects out of Iraq. The authorities were tipped off by Iraqi citizens, residents in the southern Iraqi towns of Abu al-Kahsib, Bab al-Tawael and al-Amir who obviously have had enough of the plunder of their cultural heritage for the entertainment and profit of foreigners. (Caroline Alexander "Iraq Troops Bust Smuggling Ring, Recover 235 Looted Artifacts", April 24 Bloomberg).

The objects 235 looted Babylonian and Sumerian artifacts recovered in the raids were turned over to the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, they included gold jewellery, ceramics and stone figurines. They were not marked with museum serial numbers, suggesting they were illegally dug up from one of Iraq’s estimated 40,000 archeological sites. Hopefully the questioning of the smugglers might lead the authorities back to the actual looters and those who mediate with them. Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir said in a statement.“The Iraqi Army is putting extraordinary pressure on smuggling gangs that steal Iraq’s history to finance terrorist operations.”

US dealers and collectors involved in the no-questions-asked market of portable antiquities from Europe, the near East and North Africa dismiss the information coming from Iraq that the sale of antiquities is being used to purchase weapons and explosives for use in furthering the civil unrest in that country which has been initiated by the 2003 US-led invasion. I suggest though if they wish to contradict the Iraqi Minister of Defence's assessment of the siutuation in his own country, they might like to demonstrate to us what other kind of activities the money raised by the illegal sale of Iraqi antiquities on the foreign markets is being used to finance.

Caroline Alexander, 'Iraq Troops Bust Smuggling Ring, Recover 235 Looted Artifacts', Bloomberg April 24, 2009.

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