Archive for October, 2014

October 30, 2014

‘Virtually none of them have a provenance that says where they were dug up or when’

Paul Barford noted today, amongst other items, Wayne G. Sayles’ Antiquarian e-store on V-coins offers ‘Artukid coins (from the present Turkey/Syria border area), a Byzantine coin struck in Homs (now a bombed out town) and other items from Syria, and quite a few from regions in and around modern Turkey’, but rarely displays documentation that proves the antiquities’ licit origins. Why not?

October 30, 2014

Islamic State destroyed the Shia Shrine of Imam al-Daur (Samarra, Iraq, 23rd October 2014)

Iraq’s first muqarnas-domed mausoleum [from 1085 C.E.], the tomb of the Shia ‘Uqaylid amir, Sharaf ad-Dawla Muslim, is no more. It was destroyed last week, on the 23rd of October, but identifying information came out piece by piece, alongside false evidence.

October 29, 2014

Islamic State has destroyed yet another Yezidi shrine (Sinjar, Iraq, by 29th October 2014)

Acid Jordi (@Aceeeeeed) shared video frames that showed that ‘#ISIS destroyed another ancient #Yazidi #Ezidi Shrine in the #Sinjar area’. They were taken from an official release of the Nineveh Mandate of the Islamic State. It was yet another advertising brochure for death and destruction. Êzidî Press (@EzidiPress) is still trying to confirm whether or not it is Quba Memê Reşan (Meme Reshan Shrine), but the building has distinctively Yezidi architecture, and the images are not fake, so the Islamic State is continuing its programme of genocide.

October 29, 2014

The making of the making of an urban legend?

Regarding the claim that the Islamic State has made $36m from the illicit trade in Syrian antiquities, Cultural Property Observer – and antiquities collecting lobbyist – Peter Tompa has rightly condemned the making of an urban legend, questioned both the reliability of the source (an official under a government with a ‘questionable reputation and desperate need for international support’) and the usefulness of the data (which may refer to the value of looted antiquities, but may refer to the value of any and all looted assets), and noted that I identified the two original reports of the data as contradictory.

But he is wrong to say that ‘[o]ne of the main justifications for the purported need for “emergency import restrictions” on Syrian artifacts is that ISIS has netted $36 million from the sale of artifacts from just one area in Syria alone’, to dismiss the evidence as an urban legend, and to allege that I have (in my Reuters analysis and opinion piece) ‘now latched onto it because [I] think it will help give [the archaeological community’s] demands to suppress all trade in undocumented artifacts some additional traction’.

October 28, 2014

Under-employed archaeologists and under-policed borders in Turkey

Hyperallergic have just published my news report on cultural heritage workers’ imminent hunger strike in Turkey. It may not immediately appear to be a subject for Conflict Antiquities, but much of the trade in conflict antiquities from Syria and Iraq goes via Turkey, and Turkish police and customs agencies are committed to cutting that supply line, yet work-hungry antiquities specialists remain unemployed. Soon, I hope to bring out connections between archaeologists’ resistance, the Gezi Uprising and the policing of antiquities trafficking.

October 27, 2014

How the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror)

Reuters have just published my analysis and opinion piece on how the West buys ‘conflict antiquities’ from Iraq and Syria (and funds terror), where I explain how the antiquities market, antiquities trafficking and cultural destruction are interlinked, how paramilitary profits from looting and smuggling underwrite the cost of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide.

October 24, 2014

Syria/Lebanon: antiquities-for-arms – have fakes been added to the real deal ‘or is the whole thing staged’?

Paul Barford ‘note[d] the large (I’d guess fake) “Syracuse dekas”‘ in a Russia Today (RT) video report on Relics for Rifles and rightly asked: ‘What’s going on? Have they been added to a real haul of dugups to make it more photogenic? Or is the whole thing staged?‘ It’s a good question and a difficult one.

October 24, 2014

Is there a conflict antiquities trade in Qurans from Libya via Malta?

A ‘group of gunmen’ looted the Karamanli Mosque on the 7th of October and the Sufi Othman Pasha Madrassa on the 11th; only local civilian protectors saved the Darghout Mosque from the same fate. (At the time, they were said to have taken ceramic tiles, marble architectural elements and the floor from the Karamanli Mosque; but not many details were released.)

October 15, 2014

I did report the allegation that Kurdish nationalists had burned the Ziya Gökalp Museum. But I did not accept it.

‘Kurdish nationalists are alleged to have been involved in the looting and arson of the Ziya Göklap Museum [Ziya Gökalp Museum] and other cultural sites during widespread unrest throughout Turkey, Conflict Antiquities reports’ (artnet news reports). To be crystal clear, I did report the allegation, but I did not accept it. As I noted in the title, ‘the Ziya Gökalp Museum might have been burned by Kurdish anti-Turkish nationalists, but not the Mordem Cultural Centre’.

As I concluded, while we need more evidence to know what really happened, while Kurdish protesters against persecution may have burned these buildings in their outraged protests against the Islamic State, while activists from both sides may have burned these buildings, it seemed most likely that the buildings were burned by Islamists in order to defame and discredit the [anti-IS] protesters‘ and ‘to punish and disadvantage local communities for their disobedience’.

October 12, 2014

Destruction during Kobani unrest in Turkey: the Ziya Gökalp Museum might have been burned by Kurdish anti-Turkish nationalists, but not the Mordem Cultural Centre…

Siirt Province Director of Culture and Tourism, Cengizhan Başaran, said ‘our library was set on fire in unpermitted protests. Regarding our stock, nothing remained, our computers, our chairs and our tables burned. [İzinsiz gösterilerde kütüphanemiz ateşe verildi…. Demirbaşa ait hiçbir şey kalmadı, bilgisayarlarımız, sandalyelerimiz ve masalarımız yandı.]’

Allegedly, a number of other cultural sites ‘were both looted and burned by protesters [göstericiler tarafından hem yağmalandı hem de yakıldı]’. But the circumstantial evidence suggests that the protesters against the Islamic State’s assault on Kobani in Syria (and against the Turkish state’s inaction regarding the looming massacre on its border) were not responsible for the arson.

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