Shut the Artifacts-for-Arms Market Doors
Posted: 11/04/2015 10:43 am EST Updated: 52 minutes ago
Co-authored by Marion Forsyth Werkheiser, managing attorney of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, a law and policy firm based in Washington, D.C. that serves clients in the cultural heritage field domestically and internationally.
Co-authored by Ryan Rowberry, Assistant Professor at the Georgia State University College of Law and co-author of Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell.
United States citizens who buy looted Middle Eastern antiquities might provide cash to ISIS, which in turn uses the cash to terrorize people and destroy ancient heritage sites too large to move to market. Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries could deal a deathblow to ISIS's artifacts-for-arms trade within a year if they aggressively pursue two strategies.
First, MENA countries must form a regional coalition to block all imports and exports of antiquities from one another for the foreseeable future. Second, those nations must approach the U.S. Department of State with a single, unified demand to prohibit importing antiquities from their countries for several years.
Before explaining how these two strategies could succeed, let us understand the scope of the problem. While ISIS destroys for propaganda purposes, monumental sites like the Temple of Bel at Palmyra, it encourages and intimidates locals to loot archaeological sites for objects to sell internationally. ISIS even accepts religious tax payments, "khums," in the form of looted antiquities.