A senior Iraqi official has accused the West of ignoring the obviously thriving trade of smuggling antiquities out of the country.
These historical artifacts are unceremoniously auctioned off in houses across Britain, America and Europe and though many artifacts have been returned to the Iraqi museum, the progress is slow. The devastation on archaeological sites in Iraq has been blamed on organized smugglers and foreign troops.
Speaking at the British Museum Dr Bahaa Mayah, a special adviser to Iraq’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, called for an immediate global ban on the sale of at least 100,000 artifacts that have been stolen since the invasion.
The aim of the ban would be to render the plundered, some 5,000 years old and often of inestimable worth, virtually unsellable.
Mayah said it was the responsibility of the occupying forces to retrieve the valuable artifacts that had been plundered from southern Iraq’s archaeologically rich sites since 2003, some dating back to the first Mesopotamian Empire, about 2300BC.
Professor Elizabeth Stone, a specialist in southern Iraqi heritage at Stony Brook University in New York, says Iraq has been depleted of 15 per cent of its ancient artifacts.