Wednesday 29 February 2012

'Educating the locals" about the True Nature of Smuggling

Getty's Tim Potts says the way to deal with antiquity smuggling is to "educate" the Ignorant Darkies of the Source Countries to stop them "allowing" this to happen. He should tell that to the farmers of Siwa Oasis in Egypt. There smuggling has reportedly been going on under the noses of the authorities, who seemed unconcerned unless it involved drugs or weapons. Yesterday the locals ("parents and religious leaders") were planing to organize a protest meeting outside the police checkpoint. At three in the afternoon about 50 people had gathered and stood there waiting for the rest of the residents and the elders of the oasis to arrive. The meeting never took place, the assembly learnt of the outbreak of a small fire in the fields. The wind helped it to spread aggressively, and the farmers were busy fighting the resulting conflagration into the middle of the night. Many hectares of arable land with standing crops were ruined, farms were burnt. It seemed the smugglers wanted to send the villagers a message concerning what would happen if they tried to stop them.

In this case the main commodity passing through the oasis near the Libyan border is cigarettes, but other goods probably travel with them.

Smugglers are criminals. Very often the organized criminal groups behind this trade act in various ways - including the ruthless use of violence - to ensure that the officials who should be vigilant at the borders 'look the other way' and nobody interferes. People who buy smuggled goods of any kind, antiquities included, are dealing with criminals. Dealers who sell artefacts which were smuggled out of source countries may mislead their clients into thinking the artefacts are "rescued" from the Oriental "ignorance" and "corruption" of the "Natives". They are instead selling the proceeds of a criminal activity, often knowingly - for how can it be otherwise?

The people of Siwa do not need the Getty or Dr Potts "educating" them. They need help fighting the criminals. Among other things, the concerned citizens of the plundered antiquities source countries need collectors and institutions to exercise more discretion and STOP the n0-questions-asked trade in dodgy antiquities.

Vignette: "Educating the locals": Siwa on fire

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