Antiquities trafficking is a multimillion-dollar industry that’s been plaguing countries with rich cultural assets such as Turkey for decades.
These last few years, Turkey has dedicated massive effort to put an end to this illegal trade with its most recent operation called, “Anatolia” which brought about the seizure of an estimated twenty-three thousand artifacts.
This operation is one of the largest attempts Turkey has made to preserve the country’s cultural legacy. Every year, the country conducts many undertakings to combat the illegal smuggling of artifacts.
The authorities also detained seventy-eight people who are alleged to be a part of illegal organizations specializing in trafficking antiques with the assistance of Croatian, Serbian, and Bulgarian law enforcers.
The Turkish Minister of Culture, Mehmet Ersoy, expressed his gratitude to the Interior Ministry and everyone who helped the raid become a success.
According to an information kit published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, illegal trafficking of cultural goods is estimated to reach the value of an estimated US$ 6 billion annually. This is a staggering finding which highlights the persistent smuggling problems that countries with rich cultural antiquities face.
Many stolen goods are put on the market in Western countries like the United States and Britain. They are often put into exhibits and auction houses put a lot of money into making sure these items are put into display in their respective catalogs.
The Middle Eastern countries have very abundant artifacts exhibiting their rich cultural heritages that often fall into the hands of exploitative illegal traders.
Turkey’s aggressive attempts to put a stop to these unlawful markets have yet made a sizable dent in the coffers of these illegal traders who organize the theft and selling of these valuable artifacts.
Many experts have stated that as long as the West maintains a desire to possess historical artifacts from these rich cultures, illegal trades would remain and prosper.
This is a threat, as the buying and selling of cultural and historical artifacts are not just as they seem to be.
Aside from the fact that these goods are stolen and brought to a price by Western countries to be placed on auction houses, these illegal trading enterprises are also believed to fund some more criminal trafficking activities such as weapons, arms, and drugs.
The fact that Western markets still provide patronage to illegal antiquities trading is a telling sign that this market has no signs of ceasing any time soon.
With the continued effort of the Turkish police, they have managed to lead raids in thirty provinces in Turkey. They were able to complete operations on a total of one hundred eight addresses and successfully confiscated arms, money, and many more illegal goods.
As stated by an expert in the illicit antiquities trade, Sam Hardy, historic artifacts from Ancient Near East and Classical Antiquity are still very much sought-after. The raids conducted by the law enforcement bodies are still not enough to combat the continued rise of these unlawful markets.