Antiquities and Archaeology
Who will save Yemen’s heritage?
With smugglers fined just $28, laws are too lax to protect the country’s antiquities
By Garry Shaw. Web only
Published online: 17 March 2014
Yemen is creating an independent council to protect the country’s embattled heritage. The initiative was announced at the end of January during the final session of the National Dialogue Conference, a series of discussions backed by the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council that aim to bring together Yemen’s rival political and religious groups. The proposed council, which will include heritage specialists, will be financially and administratively independent.
Due to Yemen’s unstable economic and political climate, the country’s museums have been frequently targeted by looters over the past two years. The Abyan Museum was looted in 2011 after the city was seized by a militia and a sultan’s throne was stolen from the Mukalla Museum last March, while seven swords and Quranic manuscripts were taken in October from the National Museum of Yemen in Sana’a; the throne and works from the National Museum have since been recovered.
Arwa Othman, the chair of the Rights and Freedoms Working Group at the conference, says that the laws against smuggling are not strong enough to protect the country’s antiquities; the current fine for smuggling is just YR10,000 (£28). Othman also says that a lack of awareness about the importance of cultural heritage, in tandem with Yemen’s ongoing economic problems, has resulted in officials at archaeological sites selling off antiquities in their care.
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