“What period it’s from is not important. I just care how much it’s worth,” says Abu Khader, a smuggler in Majdal Anjar, a small Lebanese town on the Lebanon-Syria border. Smuggling everything from cigarettes to arms has long been a family business. But Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters low on cash have started offering alternative payment for the guns they crave — stolen Syrian antiquities.
Cuneiform tablets, Roman friezes and statues, and Byzantine coins are particularly popular. “They give me antiquities, and I give them guns,” Abu Khader puts it simply.
An AK-47 can set you back $1,200 on the black market today, and the more desirable M4 carbine can cost around $4,500. Selling antiquities can help finance these purchases. “I have moved at least 100 objects,” Abu Khader says.
In addition to the Syrian civil war’s horrible human and economic costs, the conflict has also devastated Syria’s cultural heritage. At a February UNESCO conference, the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM) called the looting more damaging than the fighting that is ravaging mosques, old houses, and Crusader castles.
Happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, … these countrie’s own nationals selling our heritage for nothing.
Yes. I said it right. Nothing.
And I said it right: OUR heritage. Because it belongs to all of us. Mankind. It’s a record of what Humans have been doing since 1000’s of years ago.
Nations come and go. People come and go. Politicians and doctrines come and go. This war will be over, same as these regimes, or what comes after them… (The Republic of Syria itself is less than 100 years old, for God’s sake… what can the whole area be in another 100? )… and those antiques are a proof that it happens as this.
They remain there to make us notice of the empty value of so much useless bloodshed. For centuries. Because at the end it was worth nothing.
How many fights, wars, killings… through centuries. Only to leave that legacy to future generations: Antiques. Whatever they fought for, their wishes and hopes, their dream… got lost with them.
Our old, delicate precious records of the lessons we should keep from the past.
In 1936-1939, during our Spanish Civil War, staff from El Prado Museum saved all the treasures they could from there, packed it on trucks and sent it out of that chaos of battles and bombings thru the french border, to save it from destruction.
Because it belonged to all spaniards. Not them only. Also those on the enemy side.
After the war finished, all those paintings from Velazquez, Goya, Greco, Zurbaran, Murillo… returned home.
… The value of those artifacts destroyed or (hopefully) only lost and smuggled ilegally from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria… is infinitely higher than those treasures from El Prado Museum.
Not just in terms of money value. Not even in terms of uniqueness… It’s more valuable because it is linked not only to a single nation.
The ground we are talking about has links to East and West. Its loss is a robbery that affects us all, same as those lost Buddhas in Bami-Yan.
What does it take to Middle Easterns to notice that they are in our same club, whatever the hell they believe in?
Maybe the answer lays in that to the question: What would have they done in 1936 in Madrid?