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Yemen Gains Ground in Fight Against “Blood Antiquities” Trade

September 3, 2019

Joins Main International Treaty Combatting Cultural Racketeering 

WASHINGTON, DC (September 3, 2019) — Today, the Republic of Yemen became a State Party to the main international treaty to combat cultural racketeering, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transport of Ownership of Cultural Property. The Antiquities Coalition applauds Yemen for taking this critical step, which demonstrates the government’s commitment to fighting the illicit trade, even in the midst of a civil war. Yemen’s ratification will do much to strengthen its cooperation with the agreement’s 139 other State Parties, particularly the countries that are providing the market demand for its conflict antiquities, like the United States. 

By joining the UNESCO Convention, Yemen is now eligible for a host of legal protections, including a bilateral agreement with the United States under the U.S. Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act. Such an agreement could restrict the U.S. import of Yemeni cultural material, absent proof that it left the country legally. The United States now has 19 of these agreements. 

A bilateral agreement between the United States and Yemen would protect unsuspecting American buyers from purchasing conflict antiquities,” says Deborah Lehr, Chairman of the Antiquities Coalition. “It would also increase much-needed law enforcement and counterterrorism cooperation between our two countries. Now that Yemen has taken the important step of joining the UNESCO Convention—even amid the many challenges it now faces—we call on the international community to do its part to help protect the country’s rich heritage for future generations.” 

Yemen’s ratification comes at a critical time. Its government and international experts have long warned that cultural racketeering is financing the Houthi insurgents, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and opportunistic criminals. As reported earlier by the Antiquities Coalition and the New York Times, Yemen still needs the public’s help to recover thousands of priceless artifacts that have been looted amid the ongoing fighting. The Embassy of Yemen has launched a 24-hour hotline for the public to report any of its stolen artifacts, which can be reached at +1 (202) 717-1066 or


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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 Follow us on Twitter @CombatLooting.