More than 17,000 looted antiques recovered in the United States and other countries were handed over to the Iraqi Ministry of Culture on Tuesday, a restitution described by the government as the largest in the country’s history.
The majority of the artifacts date back 4,000 years to ancient Mesopotamia and were recovered in the United States during a recent trip by Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Other coins were also returned from Japan, the Netherlands and Italy, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said at a joint press conference with Culture Minister Hasan Nadhim.
Nadhim said the recovery was “the largest in Iraqi history” and the product of months of effort between the government and the Iraqi embassy in Washington.
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“There is still a lot of work to be done in this case. There are still thousands of Iraqi artifacts being smuggled out of the country,” he said. “United Nations resolutions support us in the international community and the laws of other countries into which these artifacts are smuggled are on our side. “
“Smugglers are trapped day after day by these laws and forced to hand over these artifacts,” he added.
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The artefacts were handed over to the Ministry of Culture in large wooden crates. A few have been on display, but the ministry said the most important pieces will be examined and then exhibited to the public at the Iraqi National Museum.
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Iraqi antiques have been plundered during decades of war and instability since the 2003 US invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein. Since then, the Iraqi government has been slowly recovering the looted antiquities. However, archaeological sites across the country continue to be neglected due to lack of funds.
At least five shipments of antiques and documents have been returned to the Iraqi museum since 2016, according to the Foreign Ministry.
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