Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns

12 Sep 2012 3:22 PM | Anonymous

Syria’s Looted Past: How Ancient Artifacts Are Being Traded for Guns

The ongoing civil war in Syria, a land brimming with history, has led to a dangerous, tragic surge in the looting and smuggling of Syrian antiquities
Nelofer Pazira
The badly damaged outer gate of Aleppo's Citadel after government opponents try to blast their way into the ancient fortress. Aleppo, Syria.

Abu Khaled knows the worth of things. As a small-time smuggler living along the porous border between Syria and Lebanon, he has dabbled in antiquities as much as the cigarettes, stolen goods and weapons that make up the bulk of his trade. So when a smuggler from Syria brought him a small, alabaster statue of a seated man a few weeks ago, he figured that the carving, most likely looted from one of Syria’s two dozen heritage museums or one of its hundreds of archaeological sites, could be worth a couple thousand dollars in Lebanon’s antiquities black market. So he called his contacts in Beirut. But instead of asking for cash, he asked for something even more valuable: weapons.

(MORE: Treasure huntundefinedthe quest for Afghan antiquities.)

“War is good for us,” he says of the community of smugglers that regularly transit the nearby border. “We buy antiquities cheap, and then sell weapons expensively.” That business, he says, is about to get better. Fighters allied with the Free Syrian Army units battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad have told him that they are developing an association of diggers dedicated to finding antiquities in order to fund the revolution. “The rebels need weapons, and antiquities are an easy way to buy them,” says Abu Khaled, who goes by his nickname in order to protect his identity.



Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/09/12/syrias-looted-past-how-ancient-artifacts-are-being-traded-for-guns/#ixzz26HjG1I00
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