Museums draw up ‘red list’ to help spot stolen Iraqi antiquities
PARIS – Agence France-Presse
AP PhotoMuseum experts from around the world on June 1 issued an “emergency red list” to help authorities identify Iraqi antiquities at risk of being looted and illegally exported, as the country battles a surge in jihadist violence.
“The threat to cultural objects posed by the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, as demonstrated by the recent intentional acts of destruction, call for an immediate response from the international museum community.
The list from ICOM highlights objects that are popular on the black market such as sculptures, stone tablets, vases and coins, and tells customs and police officers how to spot stolen ancient treasures.
“In recent months we have witnessed massacres of minorities in Syria and Iraq but also the destruction of priceless works of cultural heritage,” the head of Paris’s famed Louvre Museum, Jean-Luc Martinez, said at a press conference presenting the new list.
“These are two parts of the same strategy that has been described as ‘cultural cleansing’ which seeks to erase entire segments of human history,” he said.
Items on the list range from millennia-old Mesopotamian goods to 19th-century artifacts from the reign of the Ottomans.
ICOM’s president Hans-Martin Hinz said that since 2000, the organization has published red lists for over 25 nations. “It is a solution with proven results,” he said, adding that art dealers should “stop buying objects that come from Syria and Iraq.”
Other attendees of the conference were Fleur Pellerin, French Minister of Culture and Communication; Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General; Hans-Martin Hinz, ICOM President; and Richard Stengel, U.S. Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs as well as the international experts who contributed to ICOM’s efforts to draw up the list.
Created in 1946, ICOM brings together over 35,000 members including museum professionals in 137 countries and cooperates with UNESCO, the World Customs Organization and Interpol to fight against the illicit trafficking of antiquities.
Iraq’s cultural heritage is protected by national laws and international conventions.