30,000 archaeological pieces still missing since 2003-U.S. invasion

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By Kadel Kadhem

Azzaman, June 6, 2014

The government has done nothing to trace the artifacts that have gone missing since the 2003-U.S. invasion of Iraq, among them 30,000 archaeological pieces representing Mesopotamia’s various epochs, according to the Parliamentary Commission on Tourism and Antiquities.

Husain Shakir, a commission member, said Iraq’s heritage suffered from neglect and the government has not shown any interest to work hard to have them preserved and the items that were stolen during the U.S.-led invasion returned to the country.

“The government is obviously neglecting Iraqi antiquities and artifacts. It has failed to pursue 30,000 pieces which were stolen during the American invasion of Iraq,” said Shakir.

Shakir said U.S. invasion and occupation of the country which continued from 2003 until it completed its withdrawal in 2011 did a lot of harm to Iraqi antiquities and ancient heritage.

“Ancient mounds were destroyed by heavy U.S. vehicles and armor and the use of certain weapons,” Shakir said.

Shakir said conditions did not improve following the U.S. withdrawal.

“The government is not concerned about the country’s (ancient) civilization. It does not allocate funds to protect Iraqi antiquities. Ancient sites are target of illegal digging and smuggling,” he added.

Antiquities experts are calling on the government to embark on constructing new museums not only to house ancient antiquities but also to protect relics from other periods including those representing the country’s modern monarchy, whose rule came to an end in 1958.

“It is essential that the government build specialized museums for every (cultural) sector in the country. It is important that the government renovates the palaces and offices Iraqi monarchs used as well as their possessions,” said Abdulzahra al-Talaqani.

Talaqani is an antiquities expert and author. He urged the government to set aside allocations to enable the Antiquities Department to purchase relics and artifacts in the possession of private citizens and house them in specialized museums.

Government ministries and departments have already issued inventories of their possessions belonging to Iraqi monarchs. They include documents, presents and limousines the monarchs used as well as their personal belongings.