As I sat down to have a drink in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, a tall man in his early 20s came in. He approached a nearby table, and in broken Arabic, introduced himself as Ahmad to the head of the family seated there. He then asked if they might be interested in seeing some of Syria's ancient history. The conversation ended promptly, as the family left the coffee shop. Ahmad then approached me, saying, “Americans are the best customers for art, would you like to look at some photos?” I asked where the antiquities were from and where they were being stored. He said he did not know. He would take my phone number, and his friends could help me.
Ahmad, an ethnic Kurd from Iran, said that this was the only type of job he could find. A credible phone number would earn him $200. When I asked if he was afraid that I might report him, he replied, “I am undocumented.” Then, pointing to his head, he continued, “I am also not well up here, and no one will bother questioning me. All I have are photos. Plus, I am not selling drugs. If [the objects] are not sold, the Islamic State [IS] will destroy them.” Rattled by my questions, Ahmad left in a jiffy.