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Archaeological Looting Funds Terrorism: The Black Market for Antiquities and the ‘Islamic State’

posted on 2018-02-16, 00:00 authored by Benjamin IsakhanBenjamin Isakhan, Taghreed Jamal al deen
A key revenue stream for various militant groups across the Middle East, including the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is the illicit looting and trafficking of antiquities which are sold on the international black market. Various archaeological sites are being looted by ISIS and others with devastating efficiency and on an industrial scale. While exact figures are difficult to determine, the profits from these looting operations are estimated to have brought ISIS millions of dollars in revenue over several years. In other words, the looting of archaeological sites directly funds terrorism. With their recent loss of territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS have lost access to many significant archaeological sites and to this revenue stream. However, the looting and smuggling of antiquities continues to fund various militant factions in both Iraq and Syria and is a significant issue across the Middle East, including areas with a strong presence of militant Islamist groups such as in Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen and Egypt. Any effort, including that by the Australian Department of Defence, to defeat ISIS and similar movements must address this ongoing issue. More research is urgently needed to understand the precise nature, scope and variety of antiquities looting across the Middle East, the extent to which it is funding groups like ISIS, and to consider Australia’s role in international strategies to stanch this ongoing problem.



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Department of Defence

Place of publication

Canberra, A.C.T.



Publication classification

A6 Research report/technical paper

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