The FBI is warning U.S. art dealers against selling artifacts purchased from the Middle East as they could have been plundered by ISIS. Evidence collected shows that these artifacts and ancient antiquities are quickly finding their way to U.S. soil and sold openly to consumers who are unaware they are indirectly sponsoring the terror group.
Concerned that art lovers in the U.S. may be inadvertently supporting terror networks, the FBI warned in a statement read by Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, the head of FBI’s Art Theft Program, “We now have credible reports that U.S. persons have been offered cultural property that appears to have been removed from Syria and Iraq recently.”
Gardiner urged buyers to be vigilant by checking for the importation documents on an artifact’s provenance and other documents. She said, “What we’re trying to say is, don’t allow these pieces that could potentially support terrorism to be part of the trade.”
ISIS, a terror group fighting to establish a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, has grown from obscurity to become the richest terror organization in the world. The feat has been achieved through the control of vast oil reservoirs in northern Iraq and recently, through the sale of ancient artifacts on the black market.
Syria and Iraq form part of Mesopotamia, the ancient cradle of civilization. The region is a giant archaeological site. It is where the first cities were built and the region is overflowing with treasures from the ancient cities of Rome, Greece and Byzantium.
ISIS fighters, since taking over, have photographed themselves on numerous occasions pillaging and destroying the ancient artifacts in UNESCO sites including the Roman era Baal Shamin Temple in the old Syrian city of Palmyra. UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, has condemned these destructions, calling them war crimes.
Not all ancient artifacts are destroyed. Most are sold in the black market to fund the group’s terror activities. Though authorities have tried stemming the flow of these artifacts now labeled “blood antiquities” in the U.S. and Europe, their efforts have proven to be ineffective.
Neil Brodie, from the Scottish Center for Crime and Justice Research reckons destroying the networks will be ineffective as new ones always emerge, spurred by demand. He opines the solution is permanently blocking demand. He said, “If no one was buying, people wouldn’t dig it up.”
The sale of blood antiquities in the U.S. and Europe is funding the terror activities of the ruthless group and inevitably leading to the loss of thousands of live. Citizens can play a role in fighting the group by stopping the purchase of undocumented artifacts from the Middle East.