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UMAA meets with State Department on cultural preservation of relics in Iraq and Syria


(WASHINGTON DC – February 12, 2016) Last week, UMAA met with the State Department, and representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, and a multitude of interfaith groups that focus on Iraq and Syria to discuss cultural and religious sites at risk of destruction due to regional violence.

The meeting was lead by the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South and Central Asia, Knox Thames, and featured reports from the State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A presentation on US military training regarding cultural preservation was also delivered.

Following reports of widespread damage and looting at cultural heritage sites in Syria and Iraq, the International Council of Museums decided to publish the Emergency Red List of Cultural Objects at Risk with the aim to help art and heritage professionals and law enforcement officials identify Iraqi and Syrian objects that are protected by national and international legislation. In order to facilitate identification, the Emergency Red List illustrates the categories or types of cultural items that are most likely to be illegally bought and sold.

Museums, auction houses, art dealers and collectors are encouraged not to acquire such objects without having carefully and thoroughly researched their origin and all the relevant legal documentation. Due to the great diversity of objects, styles and periods, the Emergency Red List of Cultural Objects at Risk is far from exhaustive. Any cultural good that could have originated from Iraq or Syria should be subjected to detailed scrutiny and precautionary measures.