Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Iraq Welcoming Archaeological Tourism, As Sites Remain Unprotected

The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities continues its public-relations offensive with the announcement that Iraqi archaeologists have uncovered 4,000 Babylonian artifacts. The good news, dutifully splashed across the headlines by Reuters ("Iraqi Archaeologists unearth Babylonian Treasures"), is engineered to support the Ministry's agenda, as the article notes:

Iraq, which lies in the heart of a region historians call the cradle of civilisation, is hoping a decrease in violence to levels not seen since late 2003 will encourage tourists to visit its ancient sites.

In late 2003, let us recall, looting of Iraq's archaeological sites was going into overdrive, and there is some reason to believe that despite improvements in security the looting continues. That dark underside of this tourism marketing is missing from the headline, but shows up at the end of the article:

Qais Hussein Rasheed, acting head of the antiquities and heritage committee, told reporters Iraq still had a big problem with looters ransacking archaeological sites.

"These sites are vulnerable to endless robbery by thieves, smugglers and organised gangs because they are not protected," he said. "We have asked the relevant ministries to allocate policemen but haven't received very many so far."

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