Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Destruction and Looting of Antiquities in Yemen

Yemen is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and national museums that house priceless artifacts.

Bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen resulted in the complete destruction of the museum of Dhamar in the southwest, which contained thousands of artifacts from the Himyarite Kingdom.

Mohanad Ahmad al-Sayani, chair of Yemen’s General Organization of Antiquities and Museums in Sana’a, has lamented "Our immortal history has been wasted by wars."

The Yemeni cultural losses are noted by archaeologists. Although the country has been far less studied than Mesopotamia, it played a critical role in the rise of empires and economies in the region starting around 1000 B.C.

According to archaeologist Sarah Japp of Berlin’s German Archaeological Institute, "The destruction seems deliberate." She stated that, “The Saudis were given information on important cultural heritage sites, including exact coordinates"by UNESCO.

Japp was based in Sana’a before the war. UNESCO intended to protect the sites, but she fears that the data may instead have been used for targeting. “There is no reason to say all of these [bombings] are just accidents.”

There is evidence of al-Qaida raids on museums in Yemen and evidence in Europe of dealers who have been selling these antiquities. A special forces raid of one of the complexes of the chief financial officer of ISIS, receipts of about $5 million worth of antiquities sold over the course of a year were found.

At least 100 artifacts from Yemen have been successfully sold at auction for an estimated $1 million in the U.S., Europe and the United Arab Emirates since 2011, according to a Live Science investigation into the country's so-called "blood antiquities."

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