ISIS and Cultural Artifacts

By Rick Mendenhall

This week the Obama administration upped the ante in the battle against ISIS, but on the Turkish-Syria border a different type of struggle against ISIS is taking place: one for Syria’s ancient artifacts. 

A group of modern day Indiana Joneses have gathered—academics (possibly fedora-adorned)—tasking themselves with protecting relics and archeological sites from looters, civilians, and ISIS.
Their quest, moreover, is not just an idle adventure of cognescentes—the illegal trade in Syria’s cultural goods is ISIS’s second highest revenue source (after oil).

That said, these scholars are not working outside the framework of international law. A rich tradition of art protection has evolved since World War II. This Wednesday February 18, the American Society of International law is hosting a symposium on that very topic—international royalty rights, looting prevention, and repatriation procedures. Please join them for a stimulating discussion.