U.S. Government Imposes Emergency Import Restrictions on Yemeni Antiquities

From NPR: “In Yemen, thousands of civilians have been killed, but in the backdrop of this bloodshed and destruction is another tragedy: the looting of the country’s history. Its precious antiquities plundered by criminals and violent extremists.” (Image Credit: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Government announced earlier this month that it would impose “emergency import restrictions on certain archaeological and ethnological material from the Republic of Yemen”—a major victory for both the country’s cultural heritage and its people.

In accordance with the U.S. Cultural Property Implementation Act, these new regulations, which went into effect on February 5, require those importing at-risk Yemeni cultural material into the United States to provide proof that it left the country before that date or legally after it.

Yemen officially requested such emergency import restrictions as well as a full memorandum of understanding with the United States in September 2019, shortly after gaining the eligibility to do so by becoming a State Party to the main international treaty to combat cultural racketeering, the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

In Yemen’s case, the bitter civil war between Houthi rebels and Yemeni forces has made it easier than ever for thieves to loot archaeological sites and pillage museums. These criminals have stripped the country of countless priceless artifacts, more than 1,500 of which appear in a report released by the Antiquities Coalition and Yemen in March 2019.

Ambassador Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak from the Republic of Yemen and Antiquities Coalition Chairman and Founder Deborah Lehr called attention to this dilemma in a January 2019 Washington Post op-ed, urging the Treasury Department to “issue an emergency executive order adding Yemeni antiquities to the list of sanctioned items prevented from import to the United States.”

With these emergency import restrictions, the United States has taken similar action, and in the process closed the world’s largest art market to conflict antiquities.

We commend both the U.S. State Department and the Republic of Yemen on this important step.

Review: Blood Buddhas, Featuring Deborah Lehr, Successfully Dives into Theft of Priceless Indian Antiquities

Blood Buddhas
Blood Buddhas, Nikhil Singh Rajput

Blood Buddhas, a documentary about the theft of Indian antiquities, gives viewers an inside look at the smuggling of antiquities, many of which are used to fund terrorist organizations. The film features Deborah Lehr, Founder of the Antiquities Coalition, and other experts who explain the magnitude of the situation and the consequences of inaction. 

A recent article, written by Ashish Dhar for OpInida, reviews the film and applauds it for aptly showing how deep societal ignorance runs on just how valuable these pieces are to India’s society and culture. 

Although the documentary deals with a grim subject, it does give us many reasons to smile, primary among which is introducing the viewers to the phenomenal work done by India Pride Project in bringing the gods back home,” Dhar states.  

“This is significant because not only does the organization identify artefacts, track their current location and coordinate with intergovernmental agencies to bring them back to India, they are absolutely clear about the fact that getting the murtis back to India is only half the battle won if they end up being relegated to the neglect of dilapidated warehouses of the ASI.” 

To read more about Blood Buddhas feature in OpIndia, click here.