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"the return of these antiquities from the United Kingdom is the second-largest recovery of antiquities in the history of Iraq"
On Tuesday, 6,000 antiquities that Britain borrowed 100 years ago "for scholarly purposes," were recovered by Iraq. During a press conference at the Baghdad airport, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid told journalists that the antiquities had been in possession of Britain since 1923. He further elucidated that the return of these antiquities was possible due to the cooperative efforts made with the British Museum.
According to Rashid, "the return of these antiquities from the United Kingdom is the second-largest recovery of antiquities in the history of Iraq." He also stated that this reflects Iraq's ardent endeavor to safeguard the cultural heritage that embodies its national identity and civilization.
The move was after Rashid's attendance at the coronation ceremony of King Charles III in the United Kingdom. Rashid handed the antiquities to the Iraqi National Museum.
In July 2021, Iraq successfully repatriated approximately 17,000 looted artifacts from the United States, marking the largest ever return of looted Iraqi antiquities to their rightful place of origin. The collection of retrieved artifacts notably consists of 4,500-year-old tablets adorned with cuneiform inscriptions that chronicle economic transactions from the ancient Sumerian civilization.
Based on official statistics, approximately 15,000 cultural relics originating from the Stone Age, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Islamic eras were unlawfully taken or vandalized by individuals involved in looting after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime by U.S.-led troops in 2003.
In 2014, after the establishment of Islamic State militants in various regions of northern and western Iraq, the Mosul Museum and the historical settlements of Hatra and Nimrud sustained extensive damage and a considerable quantity of precious antiquities were smuggled out of the country.
In Iraq, there is official recognition of over 10,000 archaeological sites; however, a substantial portion of these sites remain vulnerable due to inadequate protection efforts, allowing for the persistence of looting practices.