August 29th, 2015

Antiquities in Palmyra, Syria.  Photo: courtesy UNESCO.

Antiquities in Palmyra, Syria.
Photo: courtesy UNESCO.

Courtesy of ArtNews, written by Sarah Cascone

The FBI is warning collectors that buying Iraqi and Syrian artifacts could help fund ISIS activities, as the militant group has been plundering important historic sites and selling stolen items on the black market.

In October, UNESCO confirmed that ISIS was partially funding its activities through the sale of such stolen artifacts, the blood diamonds of the Middle East. The following month, US lawmakers proposed creating a cultural property protection czar position, that would look to preserve the world’s endangered cultural sites.

“This is the greatest scale of looting we have seen since the Second World War,” former Christie’s director Robert Jenrick told the Art Newspaper in January, as the UK looked to crack down on smuggling following the discovery of $58 million-worth of stolen Middle Eastern artifacts.

UNESCO’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199, passed in February, is attempting to place new legal measures in order to stop ISIS from funding itself through antiquities trafficking.

“Every person needs to know that the purchase of property from Iraq is punishable, but also that it supports and finances terrorist activities,” German state minister Maria Boehmer told the UN this May, during a General Assembly meeting.

Art and antiquities dealers in the US are being asked to spread the FBI’s message in the hope of cutting off a lucrative income source for the jihadist group.

“Check and verify provenance, importation, and other documents,” Magness-Gardiner told the FBI. “What we’re trying to say is, don’t allow these pieces that could potentially support terrorism to be part of the trade.”