21 Years After U.S.-Led Invasion, Iraq Strives To Retrieve Looted Antiquities

(MENAFN- Nam News Network) BAGHDAD, May 19 (NNN-NINA) – As the world celebrated International Museum Day yesterday, Iraq remains haunted by the poignant scars of looted antiquities, in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion.

Boasting an ancient civilisation of thousands of years, Iraq has abundant archaeological treasures. However, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ensuing chaos and instability, created an opportunity for robbers and lawbreakers to plunder and smuggle Iraqi antiquities from museums and unprotected archaeological sites.

In the first days of the U.S.-led coalition forces' Occupation of Baghdad in 2003, thousands of priceless artefacts were systematically looted from the Iraq Museum.

Adel al-Mubarak, an archaeologist and history teacher at Baghdad al-Iraqia University, said, U.S. forces were stationed in the Alawi district in downtown Baghdad, where the museum is located.

“They did not protect the museum from organised gangs and thieves,” al-Mubarak recalled.

According to al-Mubarak, there are approximately 15,000 lost objects, many of which have yet to be returned.

The irresponsible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, led to a sudden security vacuum, offering a respite for the Daesh extremist group to develop and grow, which took control of large swathes of land in northern and western Iraq in 2014.

Following its expansion, media video showed Daesh fighters destroying the Mosul Museum and the ancient cities of Hatra and Nimrud, in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, where they also smuggled numerous historical relics.

These years, through concerted efforts of relevant domestic institutions, and coordination with other nations, Iraq managed to regain some of the looted and smuggled antiquities.

“Through effective international cooperation with friendly and brotherly nations, and the mobilisation of our diplomatic missions in various parts of the world, Iraq has been able to reclaim thousands of archaeological pieces, manuscripts, books, and illustrious paintings,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Despite the achievements made in the past years, al-Mubarak said, there are still major challenges facing the Iraqi authorities, including continued thefts and random excavations, especially in archaeological sites far from urban areas, in places unregulated by the government.

“The protection of the archaeological sites also requires financial, personnel, and logistical support from the government,” the archaeologist noted.– NNN-NINA


Nam News Network

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