Syria's stolen archeological artifacts worth US$2 bln

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 15, 2012
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At a time when the Syrian administration and the rebels are involved in a tug of war for controlling hotspots in the country and driving each other out of them, some people are busy in smuggling the country's centuries- old artifacts and relics.

The on-line Syria Steps website has warned Sunday that the Syrian artifacts, some of which go back to more than 6,000 years ago, have been pillaged at the hands of a well-organized mafia that smuggles them outside the country, especially to Syria's arch- enemies or the countries that overtly support the Syrian rebels.

The on-line report said the artifacts which were plundered from the Syrian museums and smuggled to the museums of Tel Aviv, London, the United States and other countries are estimated at two billion U.S. dollars.

It deplored the Syrian government's dereliction in protecting its monuments and its failure in taking precautionary measures to prevent looting, indicating that the government should have taken its archeological treasures to safer places.

The report urged the government to work immediately to look after its treasures to prevent the repetition of the Iraqi scenario in Syria.

"At any rate, some say that the value of the looted Syrian artifacts is two billion U.S. dollars, and we say what has been stolen is priceless," said the report.

Since the outbreak of protests in Syria 19 months ago, the two conflicting sides have been trading blames for the damage that has been inflicted on some archeological citadels and other historical monuments, the most recent of which was the fire that has gutted at least 600 shops at the Aleppo's Medieval covered ancient market or souk that has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Archeologists warned against ruining Syria's archeological monuments that include Greek, Islamic, Roman and Aramaic artifacts, and pleaded with concerned international organizations to safeguard them.

Some activists claimed that Syrian tanks and personnel carriers have been stationed amidst archeological sites, and that several ancient citadels have been transformed into military sites.

Few months ago, some Syrian intellectuals, journalists, writers and artists implored the international community to protect domestic archeological sites.

The Syrian government, on its part, accuses the opposition of looting and damaging the country's monuments.

It has said that some old mosques have been turned into field hospitals in various hotspots and that some rebels barricaded inside historical citadels, like the Crac De Chevalier in Homs, to flee the Syrian army's shelling.

UNESCO believes that five of Syria's six World Heritage Sites, which include the ancient desert city of Palmyra, the Crac des Chevaliers crusader fortress and parts of old Damascus, have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict.

In July, the Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria stressed that several museums and archaeological cities in Syria were pillaged of treasures or partially damaged. 

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