Saturday, 12 June 2021

Stolen heritage: The illegal and rising trade in Yemen’s rare manuscripts

The devastating war in Yemen has been accompanied by the unscrupulous plunder and smuggling of the country's cultural heritage, with illicit trafficking in ancient Islamic and Jewish manuscripts on the rise (Najm aldain Qasem, 'Stolen heritage: The illegal and rising trade in Yemen’s rare manuscripts' The New Arab 10 June, 2021). While the smuggling of Yemeni manuscripts is not new,

it has increased markedly over the last six years since foreign forces have taken control of the country’s ports. [...] The smuggling of stolen manuscripts and other cultural artefacts predominantly takes place across Yemen’s land borders. Before 2017, during a period of Saudi-UAE control over ninety percent of the country’s border crossings, trafficking in such items had occurred via the seaport of Mocha. [...] Frequent smuggling attempts also used to take place across Yemen’s eastern border with Oman [...] It was apparent that some members of the security forces were routinely paid bribes to allow certain packages to go through the crossings unchecked.

Vignette: one of the many manuscripts from Yemen being offered by an Israeli dealer on I wrote about this a while ago, the dealer is still there and doing business.  "It originates from a synagogue", "Please write us if you are interested in any specific Fragment".

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