Daesh Destroys Ancient Iraqi Al Nuri Mosque

Destruction Part of Ongoing Campaign of Cultural Cleansing and Racketeering


WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2017—The Antiquities Coalition strongly condemns the latest attack by Daesh (ISIS) against the people of Iraq and their cultural heritage. On June 21, Daesh intentionally destroyed one of the country’s most iconic monuments, the 12th century Al Nuri Grand Mosque and its ancient leaning minaret, as Iraqi forces closed in during the ongoing Battle of Mosul. This targeted demolition is particularly poignant, as it took place in the holy month of Ramadan, and on one of the holiest dates in the Islamic calendar.

The destruction of the Al Nuri Grand Mosque marks a tragic continuation of Daesh’s campaign of terror across the Middle East and North Africa. The violent extremist organization has razed countless archaeological, historic, and sacred sites—including the Tomb of Jonah and Sunni mosque of the Prophet Younus (also in Mosul), entire temples at the ancient ruins of Nimrud in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, and countless Shiite and Sufi places of worship throughout the region. The Antiquities Coalition has been closely monitoring this cultural cleansing through our #CultureUnderThreat Maps, which track deliberate destruction throughout the Arab League nations.

We stand with the people of Iraq against this brutal assault on our shared cultural heritage and continue to call on the international community to prosecute these atrocity crimes through the International Criminal Court.


About the Antiquities Coalition 

The Antiquities Coalition unites a diverse group of experts in the fight against cultural racketeering: the illicit trade in antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organizations. This plunder for profit funds crime and conflict around the world—erasing our past and threatening our future. The Coalition’s innovative and practical solutions tackle crimes against heritage head on, empowering communities and countries in crisis. Learn more at theantiquitiescoalition.org.


Laurie Kusch, Director of External Relations
202.798.5245 (T)

A New Solution to Protection Against Illicit Antiquities Looting and Trafficking

A New Solution to Protection Against Illicit Antiquities Looting and Trafficking

The theft and sale of stolen artifacts from Syria and Iraq is reported to provide large sums a year towards the financing of terrorism and determining the origin of stolen artifacts on the international market is extremely difficult — until now.  The SmartWater Foundation is a not-for-profit that provides cutting edge liquid forensic ‘nanotechnology’ with encrypted data that is being used by law enforcement agencies worldwide and has profound implications for the protection of the world’s cultural heritage that is currently under threat.

The SmartWater Foundation hosted a briefing on June 13 called Future-Proofing our History which showcased their work to help protect Syria’s cultural heritage. SmartWater CEO Phil Cleary and Colette Loll, Senior Advisor to SmartWater Foundation, Dr. Amr Al-Azm, founder and board member on The Day After project (TDA) and coordinator for the Heritage Protection Initiative (HPI), and Dr. Michael Danti, Academic Director of the American Schools of Oriental Research Cultural Heritage Initiatives (ASOR-CHI), provided compelling data on their work in the cultural heritage field and how using SmartWater helps protect antiquities being looted in Syria. Ms. Loll, Dr. Al-Azm, and Dr. Michael Danti are all members of the #CultureUnderThreat Task Force spearheaded by the Antiquities Coalition where experts are gathered to address the current crisis of cultural heritage looting and destruction and offer specific recommendations to address this ongoing threat.

Not to be confused with the smartwater that we drink when thirsty, SmartWater is an odorless, colorless liquid that when applied to an object—or person—is invisible to the naked eye. This traceable liquid is coded with a patented forensic technology that contains a unique set of imprints (at least a billion datasets, similar to DNA) and when brushed or sprayed on, is completely undetectable by sight or feel—except by a special green UV light. It is permanent under all conditions and can stay on skin for months and clothing for years. SmartWater was formed with the chief aim of providing free or subsidized access to cutting edge SmartWater® forensic technology to hard-pressed communities without the necessary financial resources.

Initially focused on assisting law enforcement agencies secure convictions in court, SmartWater has been proven, both operationally and academically, to be a most powerful deterrent to crime. In London communities, SmartWater has been used as a household break-in deterrent and the area has seen a 27.5% drop in burglaries versus a 5% drop elsewhere in the city. This assists police in combating burglary crimes, reducing victims, saving money, and freeing up their hours to focus more on counter terrorism efforts.  In Florida, neighborhoods and homes are saturated with SmartWater and labeled with warning signs out front (like an alarm company alerting outsiders that a home is guarded) which provides the atmosphere of psychological warfare that deters a burglary from the start. It also has been used to protect war memorials from metal theft in the U.K. and applied to ivory pieces to combat poaching in Africa.

This technology is used for more than just home break-ins and for the first time, SmartWater creates a viable and profound solution to protection against illicit antiquities looting and trafficking. When applied to archaeological sites, artifacts, and other heritage property, any object moved from its resting place and found elsewhere can be linked back to its place of origin, just by shining the green light and reading the code. Syrian antiquities have been hand-marked with SmartWater by the on-the-ground team from The Day After and if or when these items are looted, scientists only need a speck to be able to decode and provide law enforcement agencies and the courts with absolute proof of where it came from and when it was applied. Though this is new to antiquities trafficking, it comes at a critical time for the cultural heritage of Syria, Iraq, and other countries facing conflict. It provides hope for the protection of antiquities from future trade on the illicit market and not end up in global art markets where the high demand for artifacts means it may never be seen again.

The Antiquities Coalition is proud to support innovative solutions like SmartWater and looks forward to seeing how this initiative develops.

In addition to career-long focus on U.S-China relationship, alumna takes on global fight against trafficking in “blood antiquities”

In addition to career-long focus on U.S-China relationship, alumna takes on global fight against trafficking in “blood antiquities”

by Mary Denny

Monday, June 5, 2017

Deborah Lehr, left, whose Antiquities Coalition leads the campaign against cultural racketeering, addresses the Culture Under Threat Conference in Cairo, Egypt.

Deborah Lehr ’86, B.A International Studies

Mick Jagger may not be able to get it, but Deborah Lehr can and does. For her, satisfaction derives from “conceiving ideas and projects—large and small—and seeing them implemented successfully.” For Deborah, small might be mastering a new recipe; large might be formulating trade policy with China or leading the fight against cultural racketeering.

A creative, purposeful, and passionate “doer,” Deborah grew up in England and Germany, spending summers with her English grandmother in a thatched-roof seaside cottage. She started university in Paris as her parents moved back to the U.S. and San Antonio. During a visit to them, a family issue impelled her to stay. Learning that a friend from Germany was attending Trinity, she visited the campus, decided to transfer and the ensuing experience “changed my life—literally.”

The catalyst was political science professor John Stoessinger and his vivid recollections of his time in Shanghai, where he had fled with his family as the Nazis entered his native Austria. Intrigued and already fluent in several European languages, Deborah decided to go east and study in China. “It was not a popular thing to do at the time,” she recalls. “Soviet Studies was the trend, as was learning Russian.” Over protests from her father, who had trepidations about “Red China,” Deborah attended a summer program in Beijing. She has spent the rest of her career focused on China where “the potential of the country” has held her interest.

“I’ve been exceedingly fortunate to have served in fascinating positions during interesting times,” Deborah says modestly. Indeed. She was Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council as the U.S. was rebuilding a bilateral relationship with China after the Tiananmen Square incident. She was Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative just as America’s trade policy with China was taking shape and worked on all major trade negotiations, including their accession to the World Trade Organization. When Henry Paulson took office as Treasury Secretary, she helped conceive and launch his Strategic Economic Dialogue with China. Transitioning from government to Wall Street, Deborah was Senior Advisor to John Thain at the New York Stock Exchange and when he moved from the NYSE to become CEO and Chairman at Merrill Lynch, a period that afforded her first-hand insights into the financial crisis.

Currently, Deborah is a Vice Chairman at the Paulson Institute, a nonprofit founded by Secretary Henry Paulson, which promotes relations between the U.S. and China at the nexus of economics and the environment. She works with Secretary Paulson on leadership strategies as well as oversees a Green Finance initiative working with the G20, United Nations, and the Chinese government to advise on innovative financing vehicles to promote green growth. She is also a founding partner and CEO of Basilinna, a Washington, D.C.-based business consulting firm that focuses on China and the Middle East.

During the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, as reports of mass looting lit up archaeological hotlines, Deborah recognized the need for an international effort to tackle head on the “crimes against our heritage.” She led negotiations to conclude a historic public-private partnership with the Egyptian government in March 2014 to provide better support in protecting our shared heritage.

Egypt, unfortunately, is not the only country at risk. To counter the illicit trade in antiquities—one of the top five global crimes—Deborah founded and chairs the Antiquities Coalition, a nonprofit that expands their work to other countries in crisis from the Middle East and Africa to Latin America and Asia. At the Antiquities Coalition, which she considers her most rewarding role to date, “we are leading the global campaign against cultural racketeering: the looting and trafficking of ancient art. This illicit industry is financing organized crime, armed conflict, and violent extremism around the world. It is erasing our past and threatening our future,” she warns. Employing independent research and outside collaborations, the Antiquities Coalition is “developing and implementing innovative and practical solutions, empowering communities and even countries in crisis.

“Despite her frequent work-related travel, Deborah still loves to visit new places. Her family, which includes two college-aged children, four dogs and a cat, especially enjoys summers in Italy. Because she loves to cook, she always takes cooking lessons in the countries where they vacation. That’s one source of satisfaction she can share with lucky family and friends.

June 2017 #CultureUnderThreat E-Newsletter

The Antiquities Coalition’s June 2017 #CultureUnderThreat E-Newsletter is out! Read our latest headlines including:

  • Original Practicum Presents Innovative Solutions to Combat Cultural Racketeering
  • Whiting Foundation Awards Major Grant for Creation of Digital Library of the Middle East
  • The Antiquities Coalition Welcomes Two New Advisory Board Members to our Team
  • Council of Europe Criminalizes the Illicit Trafficking and Destruction of Cultural Heritage
  • China’s Power of Culture in Promoting Perceptions: Lessons From the Qin and Han Dynasties
  • Screening of The Destruction of Memory and Panel, Highlights Global Impact of Culture Crimes
  • Archaeology Channel Conference Explores Relationship Between Media and Cultural Heritage

You can read all of our past e-newsletters in our E-Newsletter Archive. To get our e-newsletters and stay on top of our latest efforts to combat looting you can sign up on our website here and follow us on Twitter @CombatLooting.