Voices from the Arab Press: Auctioning our cultural heritage

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Antiquities Ministry issued a harshly-worded condemnation regarding the auctioning of a King Tut sculpture at the famous Christie’s auction house last week.

July 10, 2019 18:28
Voices from the Arab Press: Auctioning our cultural heritage

A VIEW of the inner hall of Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina.. (photo credit: ALADIN ABDEL NABY AN/REUTERS)


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Auctioning our cultural heritage
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, July 4

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Antiquities Ministry issued a harshly-worded condemnation regarding the auctioning of a King Tut sculpture at the famous Christie’s auction house last week. The auction was held as planned, despite clear evidence from the Egyptian government that the relic had been stolen from its rightful owners and smuggled from Egypt. The Egyptian authorities demanded to freeze the auction to allow time for inspection and verification of the item, but the British auction house refused. This type of behavior is a direct manifestation of Britain’s arrogance when it comes to artifacts of historical, cultural and religious value, which have been stolen time and again by British archaeologists working in the Middle East.

In order to stop the theft of our most treasured historical artifacts, a dramatic change is needed. While it is certainly useful for the Egyptian Embassy in London to continue its investigation of the stolen relic, we must also escalate the campaign to protect our historical artifacts to the international level. Egyptian archeologists and archaeological institutions – including the Egyptian Museum and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina – must stand at the forefront of establishing clear codes of conduct when it comes to the illicit trade of historical artifacts. These respectable institutions must encourage their international counterparts to ban any historical relics whose ownership has not been unequivocally determined through a thorough investigation and documentation process. Without such an international campaign, the King Tut bust, as well as many other Egyptian artifacts, might be lost forever. International treaties and conventions pertaining to trade should also be updated to include the looting of historical artifacts.

We cannot let Western strongmen come into our countries, dig out our most valuable possessions and smuggle them outside our borders. This is a matter not only of national pride, but also of justice and fairness. Christie’s is yet to provide the Egyptian Embassy in London with the ownership documents it requested. Excuses have been made about the protection of the seller’s anonymity. This is simply unacceptable. Unless it complies with the Egyptian investigation, the British auction house should be boycotted by all museums and art traders around the world, alongside other institutions that refuse to increase the transparency of their practices. – Hamdi Rizk

What led to America’s greatness?

Al-Ittihad, UAE, July 4
Whether one loves or hates the United States of America, there is no denying that the US is nothing short of the world’s greatest empire. Some even argue that its influence may have exceeded that of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. In honor of July 4, the date on which the United States celebrates its Independence Day, let us return to one of the most important questions of our time: How did America achieve such an unprecedented level of greatness in just 243 years? How did it become such a strong superpower in a short period of time compared to the world’s greatest empires? Before attempting to provide an answer to this question, perhaps we should consider the idea of “greatness” and what it means.

By “greatness,” we imply military power, economic wealth and social cohesion. In the context of the United States, some argue that the US has the best minds in the world, that it possesses the most sophisticated weapons and technology, or that its economy – as US President Donald Trump boasted just a few days ago – is the strongest in the world.

But all these are not measures of America’s greatness; they are simply a reflection of the fact that the US has succeeded in putting itself on the path of producing knowledge and generating innovative ideas. So where did the US find its ideas that made it the great nation it is today? It can be argued that the American educational system, and American universities more specifically, are unprecedented incubators of knowledge. These institutions helped turn American society into a powerful engine of innovation.

Another path to greatness has been intellectual immigration to the United States. This was due to the rise of Nazi Germany and the persecution of many scientists who fled Europe and sought refuge in the US. The United States welcomed these scientists with open arms. They became the backbone of American research institutions and military innovation, including the famous Manhattan Project, which helped Washington produce the first nuclear weapons.

What’s more, the United States also benefited from a culture of philanthropy, which further fueled academic and scientific innovation. Rockefeller and Carnegie are just two examples of wealthy families who supported the arts and sciences in the United States. Therefore, while the exact sciences were booming, social sciences, humanities and the arts also grew into important fields. Sociology, anthropology, economics and political science were enriched by the entry of a group of immigrant writers and thinkers into the American academic world for the first time in large numbers. Therefore, what we can confidently say is that America’s greatness stems from its intellect. This is the secret of its domination of our world today. What makes the US a candidate for further progress is that it does not stop at the challenges of the present, but is ever busy with solving the dilemmas and problems of the future. In this regard, it is truly a beacon for modernity and progress for the entire world. – Amil Ameen

IRAQI SECURITY forces stand guard outside the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad on June 28. (Credit: THAIER AL-SUDANI/REUTERS)

Is the PMF ruling Iraq?
Al Mada, Iraq, July 3
Two weeks after a mortar attack was launched against the Balad Air Base, which houses both Iraqi and US military personnel, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi ordered the dissolution of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and their absorption into the official military sector of Iraq. This decision should not be taken lightheartedly. The threat posed by the PMF, which is trained and funded by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is not limited to targeting the American assets in Iraq.

According to several reports, the PMF is also responsible for attacks against Saudi oil pipelines in the center of the country. Those who are familiar with the history of the PMF know that it has done nothing but promote the interests of Qassim Soleimani and the other terrorists of the Iranian Quds Force in Iraq. It did not promote Iraqi interests at any point in time. It is time for us to openly admit that the IRGC makes use of the PMF to strike its opponents within Iraq. It serves as a de facto proxy that can exert the power of the Iranian regime sitting in Tehran.

So what does Mahdi’s decision mean? Does this mean the demise of the PMF? Similarly, what is going to be the fate of the tens of thousands of insurgents who are part of these militias? What exactly does it mean to “absorb” them into the official state organs? My fear is that by claiming to integrate these militias into the Iraqi military, Prime Minister Mahdi will simply legitimize these gangs and their crimes. He will turn them from an outlawed militia into an official state organ. We must not deceive ourselves. It is true that Mahdi’s vision is noble: He wants to solve this problem in a civilized manner through diplomacy and legislation. But the reality on the ground reveals that the PMF already occupies the Iraqi state, controls the Iraqi parliament and takes orders from the Iranian regime. It is up to us to ensure that Iraq doesn’t fall into the hands of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, turning our Baghdad into another Iranian proxy. – Lahi Abd al-Hussein

The attack on the Bahraini Embassy is an attack on Iraq
Asharq al-Awsat, London, July 3
The events of the storming of the Bahraini Embassy in the Mansour district of Baghdad, which is supposed to be the most guarded neighborhood in terms of security and surveillance, has caused serious concern. The concern is not about the embassy and its interests per se, but about Iraq and its sovereignty more broadly. Several news agencies recently revealed that the drone that attacked Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago came from Iraq, and not from Yemen, as was previously claimed by Iran and its Houthi agent. This is yet another event that undermines the sovereignty of Iraq by the hands of Iran.

The storming of the embassy was not surprising to anyone familiar with the Iranian propaganda machine, and certainly to anyone in Baghdad itself, where a symposium dedicated to bashing Bahrain took place in the days preceding the incident. The Iraqis have the right to object to the Manama workshop and reject the idea of peace even though no actual proposal has been presented to date, and all of this opposition is hypothetical. The workshop was not attended by Israeli officials and is not the first of its kind in the region. But we know that Iran has chosen to launch an extensive attack against anyone taking part in the workshop.

Iraqi leaders face a clear Iranian violation of their sovereignty. In Tehran’s eyes, Iraq is an easy battleground to launch attacks against the Gulf states and the West. Iran has been pretty successful so far in turning Iraq into another Lebanon. The mullahs plan to turn Iraq’s Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds against each other, exploiting the rivalries of their leaders and parties, and harnessing different militias to wreak havoc in the country.

In my view, Tehran, because of its crisis with the European Union and the United States, is hastening the process of establishing its hegemony over Iraq. The mullahs in Tehran are clearly trying to drag Iraq into their war with the West. Will the Iraqi leadership in Baghdad remove its head from the sand and act to prevent this? The only way to resist this Iranian campaign is to be open and frank about its risks. The signs on the ground tell us that Tehran is interested in turning Iraq into its newest proxy. This is the real worry that the attack on the Bahraini Embassy brings to the fore. Therefore, alarming as the attack might be, the storming of the Bahraini Embassy is first and foremost an attack on Iraq and its ability to remain a sovereign state, independent of Iran. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed

The Media Line

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