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Tess Davis Speaks Across the Country on Combatting Cultural Racketeering

June 28, 2016

Tess Davis Speaks Across the Country on Combatting Cultural Racketeering

Over the last three months, Executive Director Tess Davis has embarked on a busy speaking schedule, touring the United States to raise awareness about cultural racketeering and terrorist financing at museums, think tanks, universities, and even the United Nations

From Athens, Georgia, to Portland, Oregon, New York City, and at several events in Washington—where the Antiquities Coalition is headquartered—Davis has spoken to diverse audiences about the cultural, economic, and security crisis facing the Middle East and North Africa. In the region, since the 2011 Arab Spring, culture has become a weapon of war and terrorist financing tool for violent extremist organizations like Daesh (also known as ISIS). Millions of archaeological, historic, and religious sites are now at risk from armed conflict, targeted destruction, and organized plunder.

This current crisis shares many parallels with that suffered by Cambodia, where Davis has worked since 2004—first researching the country’s trade in “blood antiquities,” and more recently, assisting the kingdom’s efforts to recover its plundered masterpieces. As is happening now in Iraq and Syria, the Cambodian Civil War triggered organized looting and trafficking, which in turn further bankrolled the conflict. In her lectures, Davis has stressed that Cambodia’s story thus offers valuable lessons for how the international community should respond to the threat of Daesh today, as well as a stark warning for what will happen if it does not act.

Through lectures like these and its other outreach efforts, the Antiquities Coalition is working to raise public awareness to help policymakers, the private sector, and the general public better understand cultural racketeering and its implications.

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