In the picture H.E. Dr. Hisham Al Alawi, Ambassador of Iraq.
By Tereza Neuwirthová
On May 6th, the Embassy of Iraq in The Hague organised a special ceremony for the return of seven archaeological objects from a Dutch private collector to the Iraqi government.
During this ceremony, the artefacts were handed over by H.E. Mr Arjen Uijterlinde, Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Barbara Siregar, Director of the Information and Heritage Inspectorate to the Iraqi ambassador, H.E. Dr. Hisham Al Alawi.
All of the objects are expressions of Mesopotamian culture, and are of great value given that the region Mesopotamia was recognised as the cradle of modern civilisation.
The cultural remnants include foundation cones, or large clay tablets that used to be placed in the walls of buildings or buried in the foundations of temples, as well as two very rare figurines. One is a representation of a ram and was used as an amulet, a stamp or a seal, and the second is a figure of Halaf –the mother goddess– that was used in sacrifice rituals.
The items appeared in an auction house, where they were offered by a Dutch private collector. Following an inquiry, The Information and Heritage Inspectorate, jointly with an expert from the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities led an investigation that confirmed that the objects came from Iraq.
The private collector gave up the items as he was not aware of their exact origin, and is now glad to see their return to Iraq.
A safe restoration to the country is essential, since all of the returned objects are protected under Iraqi cultural heritage legislation, as well as listed on the International Council of Museums’ red lists.
These lists include objects that are vulnerable to theft, plundering and illegal export from their countries of origin. In the Iraqi case, the ban on trade in its heritage prohibits selling the objects of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance that were designated as protected.
Similarly, in line with the UN Security Council resolution establishing a system of sanctions to protect Iraq’s cultural heritage, these objects are protected under the Iraq Sanctions Order 2004 II. This system has been implemented in European law, and therefore the Iraqi government requested the Dutch government to return the artefacts of high historical and cultural significance.
This return, which took place during the ceremony held at the Iraqi embassy in The Hague, was authorised with a transfer document that was signed by the Ambassador HE Al-Alawi and Mr. Uijterlinde.