By Redha Sardar
ANKARA, May 15 (KUNA) -- The effort to prevent the smuggling of antiquities and artifacts is a priority to most states around the globe.
In Turkey, these efforts were taken up a notch with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism collaborating with various government institutes and bodies to make sure that cultural treasures would remain in the country or returned to nations of origin.
Head of the archaeology at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Emir Bozkurtlar told KUNA that the ministry, in coordination with other entities, managed to spot violations at various unauthorized archaeological sites in Turkey.
Most of the anti-smuggling efforts focused on monitoring violating sites throughout Turkey to lay claim over their illegal activities, said Bozkurtlar who added that such efforts prevented the smuggling of artifacts that belonged to the Turkish people.
He stressed that the ministry's efforts went beyond actual monitoring with various campaigns launched, urging the public to take part and report any suspicious activities.
Turkey's stance on the issue of smuggling dates back to the days of the Ottoman Empire, claimed the official who added that in 1983, law 2863 was issued to preserve and protect the country's culture.
Punishment for smuggling and illegal trading of artifacts might be imprisonment between three months to 12 years according with the severity of the crime, said the official.
Bozkurtlar also affirmed that Turkey was keen on the protection of cultural and historic sites around the world, saying that his country has collaborated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Council of Museums (ICOM) to retrieve and return around 4,316 of pieces between 2004 and 2018.
Turkey had also signed international agreements with a number of states to coordinate efforts to prevent the smuggling of antiquities and relics, said the official who indicated that his country was a signing member in various UNESCO agreements aimed at protecting artifacts and historical sites.
Bozkurtlar said that Turkey always went the legal route when it came to claims over historical items, citing the 2011 legal battle between Turkey and Switzerland over what is known as the "Hercules Sarcophagus", a piece, which resides now in the Antalya Museum in Turkey.
Turkey is also keen on the protection of Iraq and Syrian artifacts, which are being smuggled due to the current chaotic situation in the region, he indicated, revealing that the ministry, between 2014 and 2016, had held meeting for Turkish anti-smuggling staff and security forces to get them acquainted with pieces from these particular Arab countries.
Various meetings with international partners, namely the US, were held to coordinate efforts in preventing artifacts from being smuggled from Syria and Iraq, affirmed Bozkurtlar.
Despite all these efforts, there are still Turkish treasures residing in the private collection of many individuals and organizations around the world, affirmed the Turkish official who hoped that one day these antiquities and artifacts would return to the country. (end) rs.gta