Syrian artifacts in European black market, as world coalesces to protect endangered heritage

Syrian unique artifacts have been up for sell in the European black market, Director-General- of the Antiquities and Museums [DGAM] confirms.

Ma'amonAbdulkarim told yesterday the Damascus-based al-Watan newspaper that several Syrian unique artifacts were seized in the black market in Britain, indicating that the artifacts were smuggled via a Lebanese merchant.

"This proves that some Arab merchants are involved in smuggling Syrian antiquities to the European black market," he said, indicating that Culture Ministry hired a lawyer to pursue the measure of restoring the antiquities found in the European states, especially those that were up for sale in the black market in Britain.

"We are cooperating with the Interpol [The International Criminal Police Organization] to find the smuggling gangs and mafias," Abdulkarim said, adding that European delegations are due to come to Syria to reach mechanism to find the smuggled antiquities.

"The Syrian state has done its utmost to convey the artifacts from museums in flashpoint areas to safe areas. But the problem lies in looting the archeological sites and absence of border controls with neighboring states, such as Turkey and Jordan, through which most artifacts have been smuggled," he clarified.

Project for rehabilitating archeological sites

The director-general pointed out that the competent authorities seized during the crisis period over 6.500 stolen artifacts, while the state secured 300.000 artifacts.

"About 15.000 artifacts are still in Idleb Province,"  He said.

Add to that, Abdulkarimreferred to a projectfor rehabilitating the Syrian archeological sites under the auspices of the EU. "The project aims at training cadres in Syria and exchanging information as well as rehabilitating destroyed sites."

The project comes with the framework of cooperation between the UNESCO and the EU to protect the Syrian antiquities.

The Syrian archeological sites have been main target for terrorist organizations over the past four years. They have been gouged and lacerated with illegal excavations, often carried out by mafia-like gangs using heavy equipment, resulting in the plunder of artifacts that in turn are smuggled out of the country, ending up in many cases in auction houses in places in London and New York.

'Grisly crimes'

Blatant violation of international laws occur, while officials in the countries of transit or final destination often turn a blind eye, according to the US Professor Frankiln Lambs.

He called the destruction of many archeological sites in Palmyra at the hand of ISIS terrorists as grisly crimes, stressing that all humanity loses in these crimes.

Regional and international backers of ISIS terrorists delude them to believe that these actions will somehow collapse the current Syrian government and usher in a dark “pure” caliphate. 

"Among core lessons I have learned from my travels in Syria and meeting many of her wonderful people the past few years is that the Syrian people are not caliphate fodder or material but rather that they are broadly secular and  naturally inclusive of many beliefs," Prof. Lambs told us via e-mail.

He asserted that the continuing cultural cleaning crimes in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere and the murders of Khaled al-Assad and QassimYehya, who I was honored to have met and will never forget, are consistent with ISIS progenitor, al-Qaeda, which has long tried to eliminate intellectuals, technocrats, tribal leaders and public opinion makers who oppose them.

"Indeed they have eliminated literally thousands intellectuals in this region as these psychopathic fanatics with their death wish virus, continue to metastasize. For now."

Revulsion from ISIS crimes

"I am beginning to believe that the expanding global revulsion from ISIS murders and iconoclastic extremism, and this month’s murders of two scholarly gentlemen who were Syrian national treasures in the service of all of us, may well have the opposite effect from what was intended by some who want to weaken, divide and control the Syrian Arab Republic," he said.

The professor added: "I am inclined toward this view because as the world unites in condemnation of this barbarity, and is beginning to coalesce in wanting to protect and preserve our endangered heritage, even many people who had sought  to use ISIS to overthrow the Syrian government are switching and are condemning ISIS and their backers whose massive crimes convince both Syrian and global public opinion that these unadulterated terrorists-and their backers- have no place in Syria’s future.

He sees that even those who had hoped ISIS might ‘open doors’ for foreign hegemonists may well soon be shown to have fundamentally misunderstood and miscalculated the Syrian people and will be among the political and moral losers.