Al Mayadeen Net follows up on the Turkish mafias' theft of Syrian antiquities
Al Mayadeen Net sources in Idlib have indicated that all famous archaeological sites in the governorate were subjected to vandalism, excavations, and theft by armed groups.
Idlib Governorate contains about a third of the Syrian antiquities and is home to more than 1,000 archaeological sites; more than 700 of them and about 40 archaeological villages are registered on the World Heritage List.
These sites have been greatly damaged by several attacks, and they were subjected to excavations and looting, turning into a source of funding for the armed groups controlling the area, especially Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
Al Mayadeen Net is reporting about the activities of the Turkish mafias in Idlib Governorate, such as drug dealing, human and organs trafficking, as well as antiquities theft.
Archaeological sites in Syria looted on an astonishing scale
The Turkish mafias have turned archaeological areas in Syria into a source of excavation, theft, and sale of antiquities in the global market.
At a 2015 conference held in Bulgaria to discuss ways to confront the looting of Syrian antiquities, the director of the United Nations Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, pointed out that archaeological sites in Syria are being looted on an astonishing scale.
Al Mayadeen Net sources in Idlib indicated that all the famous archaeological sites in the governorate, especially in Jabal Al-Zawiya, were subjected to vandalism, excavations, and theft by armed groups.
In addition to excavations near the ancient town of Sarmada and the theft of some columns using cranes, the militants turned some ancient tombs in the town into weapons and ammunition storage.
Excavation work with the help of experts brought in through Turkey
The militants also deployed guard points and raised earthen mounds in the surroundings of the archaeological sites. All archaeological monuments disappeared as a result of the excavations and sabotage activities.
The sources indicated that the mafias started excavation work with the help of international experts brought in through Turkey, as several trucks transported large paintings that were discovered near Sarmada.
It indicated that the mafias offer a lot of money in exchange for individual excavations carried out by some of the residents of those areas, including militants affiliated with Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham.
This was documented by activists who were within the areas of influence of armed groups. A radical shift was noted in the economic situation of hundreds of antiquities excavators after selling archeological findings to mediators working for mafias for a minimum of $2,000 and sometimes more depending on the age of the artifact.
Price of stolen ancient statues ranges between $10,000 & $100,000
The activists quoted an antiquities dealer in Idlib as saying that the price of the ancient statues stolen by mafias ranges between $10,000 and $100,000, while the price of one Romanian currency is about $1,000.
The smuggled antiquities are smuggled to Turkey through the crossings of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, in exchange for obtaining 5% of the value of each antiquity.
Turkish army & its agents sabotaged archaeological sites
More than a year ago, the Director-General of Antiquities and Museums in Syria, Mahmoud Hammoud, told Sputnik that Syria has documents proving that the Turkish army and its agents have sabotaged archaeological sites, excavated and destroyed them, and looted their contents.
Hammoud noted that the Turkish authorities confiscated more than 30,000 pieces and refused to return them to the Syrian government, despite Syrian complaints to the relevant international institutions and organizations in this regard.