Skip to main content

Saving Middle East relics needs less talk, more action

International action is required to stop the plundering of Middle Eastern treasures and the devastation of historic sites.

The international community is appalled by the scale of destruction of unique ancient monuments of Middle Eastern cultures and the shameless trafficking in cultural artifacts pillaged in territories controlled by the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups. Irreparable damage is also taking place in areas that have become war zones where combat aircraft and artillery are used in the course of coups, interventions and internal conflicts.

Archaeological landmarks of unique value to humanity have been destroyed and looted in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. It would be a mistake to believe that this process did not start until after the Arab Spring of 2011. Coalition forces failed to prevent the destruction and looting of valuable relics by militants in Iraq after a 2003 invasion that created a power vacuum there. According to Mostafa Amin, chairman of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, more than 170,000 Iraqi artifacts have been stolen and smuggled during the conflict in Iraq since that time.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.