Saturday 30 August 2014

Collectors and Syria: "get Stuffed"

Over on Wayne Sayles' Ancient Coin Collecting blog, he has published a comment on the passage of enabling legislation by the UK government [The Export Control, Syria Sanctions Amendment Order 2014 SI 2014 1896] to enforce trade sanctions in accordance with Article 11c of Council Regulation (EU) No 1332/2013 of 13 December 2013 amending Regulation (EU) No 36/2012* concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria:
The salient points in this masterful piece of diplomacy as I read it, hangs on the interpretation of the two words, ... 'If' and 'reasonable', a la, "[...]If there are "reasonable grounds" to assume that an object came illegally out of Syria,..[...]" On the one hand Her Majesty's Government (HMG) looks to assuage the concerns of the likes of [Paul Barford], while on the other, encrypts the message to legal collectors and dealers that it's business as usual and to be mindful of the key words. It assumes too, that the likes of [Paul Barford] [h]as the nous to realize he's been told to get stuffed. Well done HMG.
Collectors seem not really to be able to cope with more complex texts and apparently have problems understanding the legislation. As can be seen above, coin collectors and metal detectorists simply reduce everything down to a personal level. It is not just 'the likes of Paul Barford' who are concerned about the situation in Syria. The Executive Director of the Ancient Coin Collectors' Guild cannot see further than the end of his own nose and seems unwilling to develop the argument which he published, so somebody else will have to put him straight to prevent him, and his, misleading people.

The rest of us can see that 'Council Regulation (EU) No 36/2012' is not a document produced by 'HMG' (Her Majesty's Government) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is Brussels phrasing the collector considers 'masterful'. Secondly the subordinating conjunction is not "if" but "where" ("Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the goods have been removed from Syria without the consent of their legitimate owner or have been removed in breach of Syrian law or international law" - what the collector fails to note is that paragraph two of the amended article requires the importer to demonstrate the status of the goods).

Frankly, it seems to me that with the massive and, by now, well-known destruction at the hands of antiquity looters of sites like Apamea (PACHI Saturday, 4 May 2013, 'Looting and Conflict in Syria - do you KNOW where those antiquities have come from?') and Dura Europos (PACHI Monday, 23 June 2014, 'New Imagery of Archaeological Site Looting in Syria'), any artefacts legally exported by a responsible dealer turning up at any country's borders should have some kind of documentation demonstrating licit origins and export. It is the no-questions-asked trade which is allowing the antiquities onto the market bought by some dodgy 'middleman' dealer from a man at the Syrian border in a jeep with the dessicated impaled head of a young Kurdish boy on the front. That is what the 'likes of Paul Barford' are trying to combat. It is precisely that inability to actively differentiate between items subject to a licit and illicit trade exhibited by the crass comments of a blinkered collector on Wayne Sayles' blog that is the problem.
The commentator is wrong. The British government is not merely 'assuaging' and whims of conservationists as he suggests. The British government, acting in the interests of all the country's citizens, is growing concerned more than ever about the financing of terrorism in Syria and northern Iraq. The British government is very concerned about the British link in ISIS terror and human rights abuse. It would be good that collectors and dealer step in line with those concerns, and did their best to help stop the mindless slaughter, or at least do their (real) best not to contribute to it in any way.  I see very few signs of a willingness ("get stuffed") for that to happen in the comments published on Wayne Sayles' blog. Blinkered collectors persist in denial and insist on taking the public debate to a very personal level, and simply refuse to step back and look at the wider picture.

* Council Regulation (EU) No 36/2012 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Syria and repealing Regulation (EU) No 442/2011

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