How can we stop ISIS and the trafficking of our cultural heritage?


How can we stop ISIS and the trafficking of our cultural heritage?


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A bespectacled octogenarian archaeologist being tortured and murdered, reportedly to make him disclose the secret location of cultural treasures from the cradle of civilization. It sounds like a storyline from an Indiana Jones film but, tragically, it is what happened in Syria, days before ISIS blew up an ancient temple at Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Such crimes come in stark contrast to the millions of people who spent their summer holidays honouring our past and those who preserve it, visiting world landmarks, monuments and museums such as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, Mount Rushmore, the Louvre, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. Tourists from around the world didn’t just take pictures, they also took pride in the cultural foundations that underly our common human civilization, that bring us a sense of belonging, history and knowledge.

And while the world’s governments, institutions and scholars spend their energy and resources on preserving our cultural history, ISIS is engaging in a propaganda campaign against ancient Mesopotamia. With methodical persistence, the extremist group is demolishing the culture and heritage of the people of Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Pillaging for profit

While many of us were visiting cultural sites on our summer holidays, ISIS murdered Khalid al-Asaad, the prominent Syrian historian and archeologist who spent a lifetime preserving Syria’s culture. UNESCO and the FBI suspect ISIS of planning to profit from the looted antiquities, thus financing their reign of terror with treasures of the past. The 82-year-old Syrian scholar had dedicated his life to the study and care of the city of Palmyra, known for its beautiful Roman-era columns and rich history.

Just days after Asaad’s murder, ISIS was reported to have blown up Palmyra’s ancient temple of Baalshamin, built almost 2,000 years ago. This act against our collective cultural heritage follows the destruction of other important historical sites, including the ancient city of Nimrud and Jonah’s Tomb (think whale), which now deprives future generations of seeing culturally priceless architecture, sculptures and scriptures.

ISIS is not only destroying these UNESCO-protected sites, but also plundering them. Since taking control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria last year, the extremist group has actively worked to establish a monopoly on the trafficking of artefacts. ISIS has even established a “ministry of antiquities” to administer the process. The Telegraph newspaper claims to have obtained ISIS-stamped licences from Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor allowing residents to “excavate” archeological sites for blood antiquities. Professor Amr Al-Azm of Shawnee State University reports that ISIS collects a 20-50% “tithe” on the proceeds of antiquities sales. Based on reports of looted antiquities being trafficked throughout Europe, and a recent warning by the FBI concerning efforts to sell such blood antiquities in America, it seems that ISIS’s plundering of archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria has become a successful transnational business.

Billions in blood money

ISIS is a highly pragmatic and diversified criminal organization, which has systematically looted antiquities to finance death and destruction. According to UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, the black market for such blood antiquities is estimated to be worth billions of dollars, and a recent report by the Wall Street Journal notes that for ISIS and its terrorist financing operation, looting is second only to oil.

Christopher Marinello, director of Art Recovery International, told the Times that collectors stay away from highly valuable and unique items because they could expose them to increased scrutiny. Marinello explains that the current trade consists of “middle-value objects that don’t stand out”.

After the destruction of Nimrud and antiquities at the Mosul Museum, one can infer that ISIS is pursuing a simple strategy: smaller antiquities are smuggled to raise money, while larger pieces (which are difficult to transport and would attract too much international law-enforcement attention, making collectors wary) are destroyed in a propaganda-film format, to create an international spectacle.

This mass-scale looting and destruction must be stopped before ISIS successfully obliterates all traces of Syria’s cultural heritage. But as the international community is reluctant to send troops to the region, it should be quick to adopt practices to ensure that participants and consumers in the antiquities market think twice before indirectly assisting ISIS. While blood antiquities are being used to help finance killings in Syria and Iraq, the coordinated attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait demonstrate how this kind of terror is no longer contained within the borders of Syria and Iraq.

Cultural cleansing

World leaders have been vocal in condemning these acts. In response to Palmyra’s temple destruction, UNESCO’s Bokova observed: “The systematic destruction of cultural symbols embodying Syrian cultural diversity reveals the true intent of such attacks, which is to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history.” She added that those responsible “must be accountable for their actions”. UNESCO has categorized the destruction of historical sights as “cultural cleansing” and a war crime.

In May 2015, the UN General Assembly, representing the world’s governments, unanimously adopted a resolution to combat the cultural threat to Iraq. While this resolution is non-binding, it demonstrates that there is a broad international condemnation against cultural cleansing in Iraq and it signifies a turning point in the global effort to combat the destruction.

The resolution, Saving the cultural heritage of Iraq, “affirms that attacks intentionally directed against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art … or historic monuments, may amount to war crimes”. And since the resolution “stresses the importance of holding accountable perpetrators” who directly attack cultural property, it takes us another step towards possible prosecution of these perpetrators for crimes against cultural property.

Indeed, a month earlier, the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva called on the Human Rights Council to urge the UN Security Council to tackle “in the strongest terms, information that points to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes”, and to refer alleged crimes committed in Iraq to the International Criminal Court for investigation. This call has been echoed by Deborah Lehr, chair of the Antiquities Coalition.

Lessons from history

Twenty years after the Srebrenica genocide, there are lessons to be learned from the world’s belated response to the dissolution of Yugoslavia. In Prosecutor v Strugar, a case dealing with purposeful destruction of historical sites during armed conflict in Dubrovnik, Croatia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) affirmed that perpetrators would be held accountable for such war crimes in international tribunals.

The trafficking of blood antiquities needs to be addressed, through law enforcement, pro-active market regulations and collaboration. Collectors, archaeologists, museums, dealers, insurance companies, transport companies, freeports, governments and related parties should work together (perhaps through the World Economic Forum in Davos) to create a public-private initiative to help crack down on this lucrative illicit market.

In concert, public-awareness campaigns, stronger international/domestic regulations and cooperation between stakeholders may be able to create a positive momentum and make a difference, thereby helping save lives and our collective cultural heritage.

PDF of article here

FBI Issues Rare Warning to Art World: “Terrorist Loot” from ISIS Reaching US Market

In response to growing evidence that the illicit antiquities trade is directly financing terrorist networks — especially the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known by its acronyms ISIS or Daesh — the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a rare alert to the art market.

The FBI Asks for the Art Market's Help Distributing this Flyer
The FBI Asks for the Art Market’s Help Distributing this Flyer

Organized criminals, armed insurgents, and terrorists have long profited from such cultural racketeering. However, under ISIS’ black flag, it has become not just a side enterprise, but a massive illegal industry. In yesterday’s statement, the FBI reveals it has now received “credible” reports that artifacts looted by ISIS are reaching the US, and cautions that collectors and dealers who purchase them may be funding weapons of troops that seize cities, slaughter soldiers, and behead civilians. The bureau calls on the art world’s leaders to help them keep these conflict antiquities off the market. It also warns that those dealing in such items may be subject to sanctions under the Iraq Stabilization and Insurgency Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR part 576), and more seriously, prosecution under 18 USC 2339A for providing financial support to terrorist organizations.

This commendable action by the FBI — which to our knowledge is unprecedented — further confirms that the illicit antiquities trade is funding crime and conflict around the globe. The FBI is not alone in recognizing the severity of this threat to our heritage and security: the Antiquities Coalition was first created to combat this crisis. As part of this work, next month we will join the Asia Society, Middle East Institute, and UNESCO in hosting a high level forum on terrorist financing. “Culture Under Threat” will convene during the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, and bring together the very policy makers and experts who can cut off ISIS profits from cultural racketeering.

Read the FBI’s Warning In Its Entirety Here


Images Provided by the FBI Show Syrian Looters' Pits in 2012 and again in 2014
Images Provided by the FBI Show Syrian Looters’ Pits in 2012 and again in 2014

Credit: State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Credit: State Department
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Having Rebounded from Decades of War, Cambodia’s Angkor Tops “Must See” Travel List

By: Tess Davis

Lonely Planet, the world’s largest publisher of guidebooks, has just ranked the planet’s 500 must see destinations, in what it is calling “the definitive bucket list for every type of traveler.” Coming in at number 1? Not Giza’s pyramids, or Rome’s Colosseum, or Peru’s Machu Picchu — or even more modern destinations like New York City — but Cambodia’s Temples of Angkor.

That Cambodia’s ancient capital was, in Lonely Planet’s own words, the “undisputed champion” of “the ultimate travel list” did not surprise those of us who already know and love the Southeast Asian kingdom. Its crowning achievement — the 12th century temple of Angkor Wat — still rivals the Egyptian pyramids in scale and the Sistine Chapel in detail. And Angkor Wat is just one of the many such monuments awaiting that await visitors within the 400 square kilometers that make up the current UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Twelve years ago, when I first visited Angkor Wat, I knew I was seeing one of the world’s wonders… whether the world recognized that yet or not. But Lonely Planet’s announcement will no doubt further introduce the site — and the rest of Cambodia — to the more general public, especially since it comes on the heels of a similar ranking by Travelocity just last June. The “secret” that is Angkor is definitely out.

This news was rightfully celebrated in the kingdom, although it has also led to many an archaeologist suffering nightmares of an eventual “Angkor Disney.” The site may have survived centuries of abandonment and war, but can it survive its own popularity? Despite the best efforts of the Cambodian government, and teams of conservators from around the world, the never ending stream of visitors is visibly wearing away at the temples. Tour buses scrape (literally) past ancient gates, pounding feet polish stairs into dust, and the occasional vandal even carves initials into bas reliefs. The infrastructure of Siem Reap, a once sleepy town that now serves as the gateway to Angkor, is also suffering from the strain as its roads fill with traffic and its water table drops precipitously.

Tourism to heritage sites like Angkor Thom bring great costs as well as benefits (Tess Davis, 2003)
Tourism to heritage sites like Angkor Thom bring great costs as well as benefits (Tess Davis, 2003)

The potential costs of tourism are obviously high, but so too are the hoped for benefits, especially in a developing country like Cambodia. Still there are valid questions about how much the Khmer people have actually benefited from tourism thus far. Despite the millions of visitors to Angkor, and millions of dollars accompanying them, Siem Reap remains among the poorest provinces in a poor country. Some economists estimate that as few as $7 of every $100 tourist dollars stay in the pockets of the local people — with the rest going to foreign hotel, restaurant, and tour owners.

With the Lonely Planet ranking, the need for responsible and sustainable tourism is now greater than ever, for both Angkor and the people who live in its shadow. Cambodia’s temples have (for better or worse) become an economic resource, and just like any other economic resource, they must be properly conserved or they will be exhausted. Angkor may have topped Lonely Planet’s list this year, but it won’t stay there if the site becomes more theme park than ancient wonder.

Despite the possible risks that come with Angkor’s newfound popularity, Cambodia is to be greatly and sincerely congratulated for this recognition, which would have been unthinkable just decades ago. While Iraq and Syria are the global hotspots today, from the 1970s and onward, it was Indochina and indeed Cambodia. The country’s bloody civil war erupted in 1970, and would not end until 1998, when the Khmer Rouge finally surrendered. During this period of genocide and destruction, an estimated 3 million people died in the “Killing Fields, millions more left as refugees, and the country’s many temples (included Angkor itself) were plundered on a scale rarely before seen in history.

In 1970 — even in 1998 — one could no more imagine Angkor topping a list of vacation destinations than we can Palmyra today.

And that is why, as someone who has dedicated much of my life to helping preserve Cambodia’s heritage, Lonely’s Planet’s title is more than just a title. With the terrible news coming out of the Middle East — most recently the murder of archaeologist Khaled Asaad and reported destruction of Baal Shamin — it is also a cause for hope. For like the so-called “Islamic State” of Iraq and Syria, the Khmer Rouge also marked scholars for death, razed sacred places of worship, and plundered antiquities by the truckload. But they did not win. Cambodia, with its rich culture and history battered but unbroken, was able to survive one of the worst conflicts of the twentieth century and come back stronger than ever.

I hope that within my lifetime, we can say the same about Iraq and Syria.

Tess Davis is Executive Director of the Antiquities Coalition

Condemning ISIS Atrocities Against Syria’s Dr. Khaled al-Asaad

Dr. Khaled al-Asaad
Dr. Khaled al-Asaad, Photo Source: The Guardian

The Antiquities Coalition strongly condemns the recent murder by ISIS of the world renowned scholar, Khaled al-Asaad. Dr. al-Asaad died protecting the very history that he has worked his whole life to excavate and conserve. His pioneering work in Syrian archaeology led to uncovering the treasures of Palmyra’s rich past for Syria and the rest of the world to enjoy. This deplorable action is yet another aspect of ISIS’ continuing campaign to use cultural heritage as a means to intimidate those that practice different faiths and share different ideologies. It is important that the international community stand together in the fight against cultural terrorism and cultural cleansing. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the Dr. al-Asaad’s family, friends and colleagues.

Remembering Barbara Mertz

By: Deborah Lehr, Chair and Founder, The Antiquities Coalition

Two years ago this week, the prolific best-selling author and dedicated Egyptologist Barbara Mertz, fondly known by her pen name Elizabeth Peters, tragically passed away, from cancer. Dr. Mertz was a true trailblazer — both as a writer of popular fiction and as a serious scholar.

At the young age of 25, she obtained her doctorate in Egyptology from the renowned Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, but struggled to find work at a time when women were viewed as secretaries, not scholars.

Dr. Barbara Mertz and Amb. Yasser el Naggar at the Egyptian Embassy
Dr. Barbara Mertz and Amb. Yasser el Naggar at the Egyptian Embassy

So Dr. Mertz, a freshly minted, brilliant archaeologist chose a different career path. She picked up a pen and began writing fiction, where she achieved tremendous success. Ironically, it is through her writings that she has educated more people about archaeology, the history of Egypt and its meaning to the world than she ever would have as an archaeologist.

Dr. Mertz’s most beloved series is about the adventures of Ms. Amelia Peabody and her loving but fierce Egyptologist husband, Dr. Radcliff Emerson. Amelia and Emerson, as he is known, entertain readers as they fight against antiquities traffickers who are robbing archaeological sites and selling antiquities into international markets. Rich collectors, museums and auctions houses are all part of the intrigue — and, in many cases, they are the clients of the “Master Criminal, Black Hand” who is behind many of these capers. Through her storytelling, Mertz brings to life the excitement of that golden age of archaeology, sharing gripping, true-to-life exposés of the founding of King Tut’s tomb and the political theatrics of the time between the European and Egyptian governments. Her stories illuminate Egyptian history vividly, with lavish and mysterious dinners hosted by princes and a queen in Sudan, travels back in time to an intact ancient Meroitic-Ancient Egyptian civilization, and many more adventures.

In addition to popularizing the history of Egypt through her novels, Mertz also used her platform to raise awareness about a persistent problem that continues to this day – cultural racketeering. This systematic looting of antiquities by organized crime, or, in modern times, by terrorist organizations such as ISIS, has increased severely in the Middle East since the Arab Spring.

Dr. Mertz was a vocal advocate against the trafficking of illicit stolen antiquities from her cherished Egypt. Just after the January 2011 Revolution in Egypt, when reports of mass looting of key archaeological sites started flooding in to the archaeological community, Dr. Mertz was part of a “call to action” requesting the U.S. government to take proactive measures to prevent U.S. citizens from inadvertently supporting these criminal activities by purchasing looted antiquities.

Dr. Mertz was highly respected and admired in the antiquities community. In a moving presentation at the Egyptian Embassy on April 14, 2011, Judy Woodruff, the PBS news anchor, interviewed Dr. Mertz about her experiences, her novels and her love for Egypt’s past. At an event sponsored by the Antiquities Coalition and the Egyptian government, The Egyptian Deputy Chief of Mission and now the Deputy Minister for Investment, Yasser el Naggar, served as her host. Ambassador el Naggar has become a strong voice about the importance of protecting Egypt’s past and fighting against antiquities thieves and terrorists. The Egyptian Ambassador at the time, who is now Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, introduced Dr. Mertz at the event. Minister Shoukry has been an active supporter of the fight against antiquities trafficking in the Middle East region, and views this as a critical part of Egypt’s war against terror, since organizations such as ISIS are using the sale of these looted antiquities to fund their nefarious causes.

Deborah Lehr, Dr. Barbara Mertz, Mrs. Shoukry, Ambassador Shoukry
(Left to Right) Deborah Lehr, Dr. Barbara Mertz, Mrs. Shoukry, Ambassador Sameh Shoukry

Elizabeth Peters, the fiction writer, is still missed by those longing to read another mystery novel about Amelia Peabody and Radcliff Emerson. Peters tragically died while writing another one of their adventures. Yet her creator, Dr. Barbra Mertz, continues to influence those she has inspired, including myself, to fight against those who would use theft of our history to rob future generations of their past. Her recognition by the Egyptian government is a reminder that one individual can truly make a difference.

This piece was cross posted on The Huffington Post.

Statement by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi On Cultural Racketeering

The Italian Mission to the United Nations has now posted the full statement of its Permanent Representative, Sebastiano Cardi, from the roundtable discussion hosted by Italy and Jordan on June 3rd.

“Countering Destruction of and Trafficking in Cultural Property: From Lessons Learned to Implementation” brought together international experts from government, law enforcement, and the nonprofit sector — including the Antiquities Coalition, the Carabinieri, INTERPOL, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Below are the full remarks of H.E. Ambassador Cardi, a career diplomat with over three decades of service in Italy and abroad, who has been a tireless advocate for heritage preservation:

“At the outset, I thank the Permanent Mission of Jordan and Ambassador Dina Kawar and the UNESCO Office in New York for joining us in promoting and organizing this event. Your cooperation and input have been extremely helpful.

A sincere thank you and a welcome to all the panelists who have accepted our joint invitation. We look forward to hearing your thoughts, and to the interesting debate we know we can expect from the floor in the second half of the meeting.

As the concept note for today’s event points out, there has been a recent spike in the barbaric destruction of and terrorist attacks on the cultural heritage of countries affected by armed conflict. This, together with the unprecedented scale of organized looting and illicit trafficking in cultural objects. Such crimes seek to erode our collective cultural and historical heritage and are being used to intimidate populations. In addition, these acts are meant to generate income for terrorist groups, to support their recruitment efforts, and to strengthen their operational capability to organize and carry out terrorist attacks.

This risk is particularly high in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean – although not limited to these regions – where the multiethnic and multi-religious character of the societies is under severe threat. As a close friend and member of the region, Italy is a staunch believer in preserving inclusiveness and diversity and is ready to deploy the necessary political and practical tools to address this challenge through international cooperation.

Today’s roundtable offers the panelists an opportunity to discuss innovative and practical ways to protect and preserve cultural heritage. We will also be briefed by UNESCO, INTERPOL, the Italian Carabinieri, UNODC, and other experts on practical measures for addressing this threat and implementing the established international legal framework.

In 1969, Italy became the first Country in the world to create a police division specialized in the protection of cultural heritage and the fight against illegal trafficking of cultural property. Building on this experience, we are very active in this field at both the political and the technical levels, as you will hear shortly from a representative of the Carabinieri corps.

Allow me to mention some of our political initiatives.

In the framework of the Anti-ISIL Coalition, Italy is co-chairing with the USA and Saudi Arabia the “Counter ISIL Finance Group,” whose aims include promoting swift implementation of UNSCR 2199 (co-sponsored by Italy).

This Group has already met twice: the first time in Rome in March and then in Gedda at the beginning of May. In Rome the members of the Group adopted an action plan with concrete proposals to counter ISIL/DAESH’s economic sustainability. The Action Plan identifies four main areas of enhanced cooperation: 1) prevent ISIL’s use of the international financial system; 2) counter the extortion and exploitation of economic assets and resources that transit, enter, or are derived from ISIL-held territory; 3) deny ISIL funding from abroad; and 4) prevent ISIL from providing financial or material support to foreign affiliates in an effort to expand its global ambitions.

It was at Italy’s request that reference was made in the action plan to countering the smuggling of archeological and cultural goods. During the second meeting of the Group, held in Gedda, three sub-groups were established to pursue specific items of the action plan and devise operational proposals. Italy will be chairing the sub-group on illegal trafficking in cultural property.

The sub-group will provide investigative cooperation in detecting international smuggling routes and foreign facilitators, middlemen, or buyers, and in tracking down stolen or looted cultural property, including archaeological objects. It will also support and enhance implementation of the INTERPOL’s international database, in order to facilitate identification and recovery of cultural and archeological goods, also by strengthening existing tools such as the Protection System for Cultural Heritage (PSYCHE) project.

Three final remarks. First, our national action is expressed most prominently at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, and we appreciate DG Bokova’s participation in yesterday’s meeting of the anti-Daesh Coalition and the proposals she made during the meeting. At the initiative of Italy and Spain, in April the UNESCO Executive Board adopted resolution 196 on culture in areas of conflict. The resolution underlines that damage to the archaeological, historical, cultural and religious tangible and intangible heritage constitutes damage to the cultural heritage of humanity as a whole, and that, according to international law, intentional attacks on buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes and historic monuments may be considered a war crime.

Second, it is time to translate into practice the resolution on the protection of cultural items in Iraq.

The last one is on accountability, fighting impunity and promoting justice. As Vice President of the Assembly of State parties of the International Criminal Court, allow me to recall the importance of prevention through justice.

Protecting the cultural heritage and integrating the cultural dimension into the prevention and settlement of conflicts is not only an emergency measure: it is also a political and security imperative. I am confident that today’s event will contribute to our common cause.

Thank you.”

The Asia Society Announces September Summit with the Antiquities Coalition to Tackle Cultural Racketeering

Press Release from the Asia Society

NEW YORK, August 4, 2015 — Asia Society is pleased to join UNESCO, the Antiquities Coalition and the Middle East Institute in a special high-level forum in New York City on September 24, 2015 titled “Culture Under Threat: The Security, Economic and Cultural Impact of Antiquities Trafficking and Terrorist Financing.”

The forum is part of a major new initiative to find regional solutions to the recent surge in the destruction and looting of antiquities across the Middle East. UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova, His Excellency the Foreign Minister of Iraq Dr. Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd will deliver remarks. Asia Society President Josette Sheeran and Antiquities Coalition Chairman Deborah Lehr will serve as co-chairs and hosts of this historic event, which will feature delegations from the nations most affected by the theft and destruction of these treasures, as well as the heads of leading cultural organizations. The forum will feature the keynote addresses, public discussion, and a private dialogue to chart action for the future. All events will be held from 8:30am-11:30am at Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue in New York.

It has been a time of particular turmoil in the Middle East. While the loss of human life resulting from instability is tragic, so are the attacks by militants and organized criminals on local cultures, and the damage done to some of the great treasures of antiquity. The destruction of historic sites and looting of antiquities are now widespread across the Middle East, from Egypt to Iraq to Syria and Libya – the region on which the foundations of human civilization were laid. These attacks constitute a form of “cultural terrorism” – indeed some are calling them “war crimes” – and the illicit trafficking of these antiquities is being used to fund the causes of terrorist and criminal networks.

What can leaders in the region, international agencies, and the heads of global cultural organizations do to reverse these attacks against our shared history and heritage? This gathering will focus on answers that question – whether they involve diplomacy or law enforcement, education or military action, or some combination. The forum will convene the finest minds and most effective policymakers to the table, to at least begin to find answers to this pressing global problem.

Beyond the guests listed above, among those already confirmed for the “Culture Under Threat” forum:

Ahmed Abdulkariem, Chairman, Department of Antiquities, Libya; Roger Bagnall, Leon Levy Director, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University; Anita Difanis, Director of Government Affairs, Association of Art Museum Directors; Amy Freitag, Executive Director, J.M. Kaplan Fund; Charles J. Henry, President, Council on Library and Information Resources; Josh Knerly, Partner, Hahn, Loeser & Parker; Amy Landau, Associate Curator of Islamic and South Asian Art, The Walters Art Museum; Edward Liebow, Executive Director, American Anthropological Association; Ken Lustbader, Program Director of Historic Preservation, J.M. Kaplan Fund; David MacKay, Partner and Head of U.S. Operations, Portland Communications; Emily K. Rafferty, President Emerita, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Maggie Salem, Executive Director, Qatar Foundation International; Patrick Sears, Executive Director, Rubin Museum of Art; Brigadier General Hugh Van Roosen, Director, Institute for Military Governance (IMSG), U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School; and Karol Wight, President and Executive Director, Corning Museum of Glass.

“Culture Under Threat” will build on issues raised at a conference in Cairo in May, 2015, at which officials from the Middle and Near East pledged to take several initial steps:

• The creation of a “Cultural Racketeering Task Force” consisting of senior representatives from various countries to coordinate regional and international efforts to protect cultural property and prevent smuggling and repatriate stolen artifacts;

• The establishment of an International Advisory Committee to provide advice and support for the task force on ways to fight cultural destruction and illicit trafficking;

• The launch of an awareness campaign in so-called “demand countries” to discourage purchases of looted antiquities;

• Various possible regional and international partnerships to address various aspects of the problem.

For further information about this event, contact