French Report: Turkey’s Syrian Mercenaries Selling Libyan Artefacts to European Black Market – Al Marsad

An article published by one of the leading French archaeological publication, Art Critique, highlighted the mounting pressure to return almost 8,000 art, antiques and priceless artefacts looted from Libya since 2011 by the Turkish irregular forces of Syrian mercenaries who then sell it to the European black market. 

(LIBYA, 25 July 2021) – The report said the looting of historical artifacts in Libya has received little attention compared to Iraq and Syria, and that the country had become “a smuggler’s free-for-all” following the collapse of Gaddafi’s government in 2011.


It said that over 8,000 priceless artefacts were looted from Libya and smuggled out of Libya since 20211. The chaos that followed the revolution of 2011 allowed “artefact poachers” not only to steal from museums but also the opportunity to “ransack ancient ruins and other archaeological sites and steal objects that have laid buried since ancient times.”

The article said that the smuggling and desecration of historical sites was made worse with the “influx of extremist groups to the country, including ISIS extremists” who not only destroyed sites they deemed as “idolatrous” but also sold cultural property to the black market.


The situation however, in the east of the country, was somewhat improved after the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar “carried out a highly effective campaign to push extremists out of their Libyan strongholds”. However the article argued that the trafficking of Libyan historical artefacts “returned with a vengeance” after Turkey sent Syrian mercenaries to Libya to support the government in Tripoli of Fayez al-Sarraj and its militias.

The article said the “Turkish irregulars quickly built a reputation as looters, both of antiques and of mundane valuables taken from Libyan citizens.” As Turkey refuses to remove its militias from Libya, going against the demands of the national and international consensus, this means that “valuable artefacts will continue to be looted with impunity”, and rather than being smuggled to London, they will begin to be smuggled “to Ankara and Istanbul.”


It warned that while dozens historical artefacts have been seized by authorities “after popping up in European auction houses over the last decade”, that experts fear “that they represent only a small portion of the total number of looted treasures and that many may have been lost forever.”

The article urged Western authorities to do more to stop the influx of stolen artefacts, both by “returning artefacts stolen long ago and by addressing the conflicts and neo-colonial posturing that is allowing the looting to continue.”



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