Sunday 18 May 2014

Stolen Heritage: Cultural Racketeering in Egypt

Deborah Lehr from the Antiquities Coalition at the Middle East Institute April 24, 2014:
Cultural racketeering, the systematic theft of art and antiquities by organized crime, has increased at Egyptian archaeological sites by as much as 1000% in the past three years, with devastating consequences for the country's priceless cultural heritage. The Middle East Institute is pleased to host Deborah Lehr, founder of the International Coalition for the Protection of Egyptian Antiquities, for a discussion about the sharp rise of looting and racketeering, the damage it is doing to Egypt's critical tourism sector, and what Egypt and the international community can do to address the problem. posted on You Tube on 7th of May.
There is some really interesting and sensible stuff here not only about the looting itself, but the context and most importantly methods of dealing with it. It would repay listening to a couple of times.

Note that a lawyer lobbying for the dugup antiquities dealers sat through this at the back and seems not really to have understood a word of it. His questions are here (is looting motivated only by anti-establishment attitudes) do people loot and here ('one measure fits all' approach to antiquity trade regulation - look at the expression on her face both times).  Note also that Mr Tompa did not give a report of his attendance of this meeting and the "cultural property observations" he made at the time. Why not? Could it be that to do so honestly would weaken the position of the people who pay him to lobby on their behalf?

It seems to me that the title of this delivery was inadequate, its not just the cultural racketeering IN Egypt that is a problem, but the main issue is the integral parts of the same rackets situated outside Egypt which exacerbate the problem and make it more difficult to combat.

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