x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Culture vultures

Tomb Raider is a popular video game and movie franchise, but it shouldn't be a model for how historical artefacts are treated and traded.

Tomb Raider is a popular video game and movie franchise, but it shouldn't be a model for how historical artefacts are treated and traded. A consignment from Iraq confiscated in Dubai last week included items from Alexander the Great's reign in Mesopotamia more than 2,400 years ago. And as we report today, the evidence suggests that this is just one of many shipments of artefacts smuggled through the UAE on their way out of Iraq.

While Dubai authorities interdicted 128 stolen artefacts last year, they are engaged in a constant game of cat-and-mouse with smugglers. This contest is all the more difficult for the UAE to win because there is not a uniform federal law and set of practices to prevent the country from being a transit point for stolen culture. This plague is not new to the region. Egypt, Jordan and Turkey remain tempting targets for professional antiquities thieves. In recent years co-operation between local law enforcement and UN agencies has helped to curtail these activities.

Iraq has endured too much for so many of its treasures to be pillaged. The UAE has already become a leader in assisting Iraq to build a more secure future; it is now called upon to help protect Iraq's past.