Türkiye returns smuggled artifacts to Iraq 

Ancient coins from the Abbasid and Fatimid periods and a stone artifact smuggled abroad from Iraq and discovered in Türkiye were returned to Baghdad on Friday.

Gökhan Yazgı, director of cultural assets and museums at the Türkiye Ministry of Culture and Tourism, personally presented the artifacts to Khalel Ibrahim Mahmood, charge d’affaires at the Iraqi Embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara. A ceremony was held at the Museum of Archeology in Istanbul to mark the handover, during which the artifacts were shown to the press.

Mahmood said he was honored to attend the ceremony and applauded Türkiye’s efforts to return the artifacts smuggled out of Iraq. “This is not the first time. Since 2008, Türkiye has returned 81 artifacts confiscated in the country to our embassy,” he said, recalling that the last such ceremony was held in southern Hatay province for the return of artifacts by “our friend” Türkiye. “These artifacts are global and cultural heritage for both Iraq and Türkiye. It is our responsibility to protect them in their homes. The Republic of Türkiye is successful in this task. We thank everyone involved in finding these artifacts and ensuring their return,” he said at the ceremony.

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Five gold coins brought back to Iraq on Friday were found in the possession of two suspects during a recent police operation in Istanbul, according to authorities. The stone artifact was owned by a collector who had auctioned it off in another country. It was part of a stone statue that came from Iraq. Yazgı said at the ceremony that it contained Sumerian inscriptions, and a study by experts from the Istanbul Archeology Museum found it belonged to an artifact of Iraqi origin. He said the collector was unaware it had been smuggled out of Iraq and agreed to return the artifact once informed of its provenance.

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“We live in a region that is home to ancient civilizations and a wealth of different cultural assets. It is our duty to preserve this legacy. Every artifact is part of the identity of the countries from which it comes. Therefore, Türkiye must return all artifacts illegally taken from the country of origin to their country of origin. We are trying meticulously to that extent,” Yazgı said, referring to international conventions in which Türkiye is a party for the return of smuggled artifacts. “Since 2002, we have ensured the return of 9,036 artifacts originating from Türkiye, and we have the same sensitivity when returning artifacts to other countries. Aside from Iraq, we have returned artifacts to countries like China, Kazakhstan and Egypt,” he said.

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