The Looted Iraqi Antiquities Essay

Submitted By tedd19
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The Looted Iraqi Antiquities Should be Returned to Iraqi People
When the United States invaded Iraq in April 2003, some of the oppressed Iraqi people under the authoritarian ruler of Saddam Hussein attacked and looted the Iraqi National Museum. Amid the turmoil of the Iraq War, the antiquities of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization at the museum were massively stolen, and the plundered antiquities have been found and traded in foreign countries. The repatriation and recovery of the stolen Iraqi antiquities are now under discussion in the countries which have some of these antiquities. However, some curators and experts of the countries have claimed that the Iraqi antiquities should not be returned to the Iraq for plausible reasons. The assertions are based on the security and thought that cultural heritage belongs to the world. In spite of the assertions, it is the right time for Iraqis, who suffered dreadfully during the recent wars, to restore and enjoy their stolen heritage as a legitimate owner. Looted Mesopotamian antiquities belong to the world, but it does not mean that the world has the ownership. The world is able to just enjoy the cultural heritage with Iraqis. Consequently, all the stolen antiquities should be repatriated to Iraq because they were Iraqi treasures and Iraqis have the right to preserve and enjoy their ownership of the cultural property.
The demand of cultural antiquities has been exceeding supply due to their attributes of their scarcity, art, and property value. Dr. Cohan (2004) stated that trafficking in antiquities is closely related with looting, and antiquities trafficking in black market are mainly run by the supply of looted treasures, which leads to the vicious circle of the antiquities trafficking. That is, antiquities collectors want more artifacts, and antiquities traffickers loot and excavate more artifacts, especially during wartime (Cohan, 2004). These looted antiquities are laundered several times until obtained by institutional collectors (Cohan, 2004). The problem of ownership comes to sprout in the vicious circle of antiquities as well. There have been two ways of thinking over the ownership of cultural property as described by Merryman (1986) who stated that one way of thinking is that cultural property is part of a common human culture, regardless of their location and national territory, it is called cultural internationalism, and the concept leads to the Convention of Hague 1954. On the contrary, the other way of thinking is that the cultural property belongs to a national cultural heritage, and it reflects the national characteristic; it is called cultural nationalism, and the approach results in the Convention of UNESCO 1970 (Merryman, 1986).
The advocates of cultural internationalism claim that cultural heritage belongs to all mankind and the world. However, it overlooks a critical point that the value and the meaning of cultural heritage should be preserved on the land of its creator with its people. The cultural heritage has formed the beliefs, values and lives of the creator’s descendants, and they have the right to enjoy and own it. Cultural property is compatible with the spirit and pride of a nation. Therefore, it seems absurd to state that any cultural property could have its spirit and meaning independent of the creator and location. It cannot be understood without the cultural context of the indigenous which created it. The cultural heritage inspires a nation to the unity and identity. Mesopotamia was the earliest civilization of mankind. It is true that Mesopotamia, where most of the antiquities the Iraqi Museum had originated, carried an important meaning in the history of mankind as well as Iraq. Nobody could deny the importance and meaning of the Mesopotamian civilization for mankind. However, it is also true that the region of Mesopotamia was on the land of modern Iraq, and all the stolen antiquities were found there in Iraq. The assertion that the cultural