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UNESCO has warned that ISIS is looting and selling ancient artifacts on the black market to finance their terrorist activities, the AFP reported. These latest findings contribute to growing evidence that ISIS continues to raise money by selling stolen antiquities.

Experts gather at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters to discuss the effects on cultural heritage caused by the crisis in Iraq, and other missing antiquities. UNESCO chief Irina Bokova condemned what she called the “cultural cleansing” of Iraq and revealed that UNESCO had alerted museums, Interpol, and the World Customs Organization to be vigilant “over objects that could come from the current looting of Iraqi heritage.”

According to Baghdad Museum director Qais Rashid, “Assyrian tablets were stolen and suddenly found in European cities.” He added that “the Mosul Museum, the second most important in Iraq, suffered an attack from Daesh [an alternative name for ISIS] and they also attacked the staff from the museum.”

Describing another incident Rashid said “Daesh gathered over 1,500 manuscripts from convents and other holy places and burnt all of them in the middle of the city square.”

The extremists have also destroyed shrines and churches throughout the country (see “ISIS Destroying Iraq’s Cultural Heritage One Site at a Time“), including the Nabi Yunus shrine in Mosul, the tomb of the Prophet Jonah which was revered by Muslims as well as Christians (see “ISIS Militants Demolish Jonah’s Tomb in Iraq“). “There were explosions that destroyed buildings dating back to the Assyrian era,” Rashid lamented.




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In the United Kingdom, there have been renewed calls to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the event of Armed Conflict,[10] which strives to protect all forms of cultural property during wartime.


The United Kingdom is far behind much of the world on this measure, as the only major nation not to have signed the convention in over 60 years since its creation.[11] However, calls have been made for the ratification of the Convention since the escalation of violence in Syria beginning in 2013,[12] with no substantive movement taken to achieve this step.


In 2014, the United Kingdom did enact some trade restrictions on Syrian antiquities coming into the country.[13] In December of 2013, the European Union also applied restrictions to Syrian cultural property entering the European Union.[14]


Finally, in February of 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2199 that condemns the destruction of cultural heritage and adopts legally binding measures to counter illicit trafficking of antiquities and cultural objects from Syria and Iraq.[15]


The United Kingdom is also thought to be the drug money laundering capital of the world, according to multiple sources. Recent statute (2022) aimed at property (land & houses) acquisition from overseas investors, demands proof of tax paid money status, on pain of forfeiture.

The United States appears to lag the farthest behind of any of the major countries. A proposed bill has been in Congress since July, which would directly address cultural property entering the country. In June, the House passed the Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, which would prevent objects stolen or looted since the beginning of the conflict in Syria from entering the United States borders.[16] However, this bill has only just left the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as of January 28, 2016.

A set of complete trade statistics shows that the importation of Syrian antiquities into the United States had remained similar to the pre-2012 sanctions.[3] This is a stark contrast from all other Syrian goods, which have sharply declined from $429.3 million worth of declared goods, to just $12.4 million in declared goods.[4]


Yet, in 2014, the importation of “Antiquities over 100 years old,” “Worked Monumental Stone and Mosaic Cubes” and “Collector’s Pieces of Archaeological, Historical or Numismatic Objects” represented $6,633,903, or 54%, of all U.S. imports from Syria.


[1] Rajendra Abhyankar, Syrian “Blood Antiquities” Proliferate Urgent Need for an International Agreement, Huffington Post (Nov. 3, 2014, 12:18 PM),

[2] Ana Swanson, How the Islamic State makes its money, Wash. Post (Nov. 18, 2015),

[3] Rick St. Hilaire, “Antiques” from Syria: U.S. Cultural Property Import Stats Raise Suspicion, Cultural Heritage Lawyer (Dec. 19, 2015),

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] See Abhyankar, supra note 1.

[7] Justine Drennan, The Black-Market Battleground, Foreign Policy (Oct. 17, 2014), (quoting a German team of investigative reporters who believe that the link between ISIS and the sale of antiquities is tenuous at best).

[8] Steven Meyer and Nicholas Kulish, ‘Broken System; Allows ISIS to Profit from Looted Antiquities, N.Y.Times (Jan. 9 2016) some of the most famous sites in Syria show the telltale pockmarks of looters holes, including the site of Mari and Dura-Europas.)

[9] UNESCO Res. Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property 1970 (Nov. 14, 1970),

[10] UK’s New Emergency Heritage Management Project, Institute of Art and Law Blog (Nov. 18, 2015),

[11] UK to adopt Hague Convention to protect artefacts in war zones, BBC News (June 21, 2015),

[12] Id.

[13] Export Control (Syria Sanctions)(Amendment) 2014, SI 2013/2012 (Eng.),

[14] Council Decision 2013/760 O.J. (L 335),

[15] S.C. Res. 2199 (Feb. 12 2015),

[16] H.R. 1493 114th Cong. (2015-2016),

[17] Bill to Halt ISIS Antiquities advances to the Senate, U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (Jan. 28, 2016),




























Cleopatra poisons herself in her mausoleum tomb near Alexandria



The mystery surrounding Queen Cleopatra has been the inspiration for many films and TV series

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