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Yemeni Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Efforts underway to Stop Sale of Smuggled Relics

Yemeni Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Efforts underway to Stop Sale of Smuggled Relics

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 10:00
People look at a mummy dating back to an ancient Yemen era displayed at a museum at Sanaa University, in Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)
Jeddah - Saeed al-Abyadh

Yemeni Minister of Culture Marwan Damaj said that Houthi militias are involved in smuggling many antiquities to fund their agenda.

In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Damaj stated that the militias have destroyed many historic sites in areas that fall under their control.

“They even looted and smuggled relics, historic manuscripts, artifacts and collections dating back thousands of years BC in a systematic way through the land and sea ports of Yemen,” he explained.

He added that the militias have seized very important relics, a large part of which are not registered in the records of the Yemeni museums or classified by the General Authority for Antiquities. This makes it difficult to determine the number of relics and manuscripts that have been smuggled and sold by the militias in foreign markets.

The minister confirmed that the Houthis have sold many pieces and sought to carry out other sale operations, noting that the value of the smuggled artifacts is worth millions of dollars and has become an important source of funding for the militias.

He said that national museums were incurred great and direct damage during the war, which has left some completely destroyed.

The ministry was unable to retrieve a large part of the collections at these museums after the coup against the legitimate government because the militias used their weapons inside the major cities, he further noted.

Trading with smuggled antiquities and selling them is conducted almost publicly and without any prevention, follow-up or monitoring by supervisors in Houthi committees, Damaj told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He added that the ministry has not yet been able to estimate the status of the antiquities and manuscripts in the cities and areas that fall under Houthi control.

The Minister of Culture said that the Houthi militias deliberately fortify their fighters in very important archaeological sites, which happened in Jawf province before it was liberated.

He added that the militias plant mines at historic and archaeological sites, while UNESCO said it is preparing to withdraw a number of cities that fall under the militias’ control from the World Heritage program because they have become neglected.

Faced with this situation, the Yemeni government expressed its concern and appealed to international organizations, but the latter were unable to intervene despite their concern.

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