Appeal to halt illicit trafficking of cultural objects from Iraq and Syria

‘We have been horrified at the wanton destruction of ancient cultural treasures in Iraq and Syria in recent weeks. The Norwegian Government is therefore launching an appeal to Norwegian collectors and experts in the field to exercise caution and help to prevent the illegal trade in cultural artefacts from the region,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

The wave of looting and smuggling of antiquities and historical material in and around Iraq and Syria is very serious. Historical sites and monuments are being destroyed, while smaller cultural objects are being sold on the illegal market to fund and support the activities of extremist groups such as ISIL and Al-Qaida. Such actions are considered to be war crimes. 

‘It is vital that all countries comply with binding UN decisions. Irreplaceable cultural artefacts and unique historical objects are being stolen from museums and libraries or looted from archaeological digs before being smuggled across borders for sale in Europe and elsewhere. We must do all we can to prevent this. Experts in the field and the general public must support the ban on importing or trading in cultural objects that have been illicitly exported from Syria and Iraq’, said Minister of Culture Torhild Widvey. 

Norway has a general prohibition on imports of and trade in cultural objects that have been unlawfully exported from other countries, and this also applies to objects from Iraq and Syria. In addition, the Government has recently provided financial support for UNESCO’s Emergency Response Action Plan to safeguard Iraqi heritage in order to prevent illicit trade in cultural objects.