The description is submitted to:


Session R4434 (The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Yemen and Current Preservation Efforts), 2016
The record of cultural heritage protection and destruction shows similarities in the way in which archaeological sites and standing monuments have been protected/destroyed in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. The history of each country and the ability of each government to enforce antiquities laws have determined the amount and longevity of looting of sites. Iraq had, and enforced, the strictest antiquities law in the Middle East, and there was a relatively low level of pilfering from sites from 1936 on, and especially from 1958 until 1991. The looting of museums is similar in Iraq and Syria, in that it has happened when there has been a revolt against the government. But looting of government and even private entities has had a long tradition in those two countries. When the British invaded Iraq in the First World War, iany city or town that the Ottomans left was immediately subjected to looting, which the British were unable to stop. The looting of provincial museums in Iraq in 1991 was only part of a generalized looting of government-connected institutions. The 2003 looting of the Iraq National Museum did involve a group of professional thieves who selectively targeted some collections, but most of the damage was done by a mindless mob interested more in electronics and other useful items, and only secondarily in antiquities. Syria, which had a fairly strong Antiquities Law, but not as strong an enforcement of it, suffered from the proximity of Beirut, one of the key nodes on the illegal antiquities trade. The Yemeni government, although it had made great progress in implementing its antiquities law, allowed dealers to trade in artifacts, and its porous border with Saudi Arabia allowed antiquities to flow freely to the Gulf. The strength of the tribes in the Yemeni countryside made it impossible to deter the quarrying of sites for building materials. Now, the deliberate destruction by ISIS of museums and archaeological sites in Iraq and Syria is unprecedented, but is part of a more generalized wiping out of cultural memory. The deliberate targeting by Saudi Arabia of cultural sites in Yemen, using US equipment and logistical support as well as a list of heritage sites that the U.S. gave the Saudis (presumably with all the best of intentions), appears to be an extension of ISIS thinking.