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French President Says Country Will Take in Antiquities Threatened by ISIS

“The right to asylum applies to people … but asylum also applies to works, world heritage.”

ISIS destroyed the Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra, Syria, in the summer of 2015. Via Wikimedia Commons user Wnt

French president François Hollande said Tuesday his country would establish a French “refuge” for Middle Eastern antiquities threatened by the Islamic State. The move comes just days after a devastating terror attack on the French capital of Paris, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility.

“The right to asylum applies to people … but asylum also applies to works, world heritage," Hollande said at a UNESCO conference. The United Nations’ cultural and educational organization oversees World Heritage sites—including the Temple of Baalshamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra, which ISIS blew up earlier this year.

Though ISIS’s most prominent contribution to world culture has been the destruction of sites like Baalshamin, Hollande noted that the Islamic State also loots heritage site of important cultural artifacts to sell them on the black market. (Artnet News reports that one Syrian-born American professor was recently offered a $250,000 Mesopotamian vase by text message.) The profits from the looting and selling of artifacts go on to fund the group’s terror activities.

The Temple of Baalshamin before it was destroyed by ISIS this summer. Via Wikimedia Commons user Bernard Gagnon

Hollande said he would propose a legal framework to allow France to hold important artifacts for safekeeping, and would work with archaeologists and art experts to move objects to secure locations. The French president also said France would step up customs procedures to identify smuggled antiquities.

The artifacts must be protected from “fanatics who are attacking the living and the dead, all who have humanity today and tomorrow, and those of yesterday,” Hollande said.

(Via Artnet News)

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