Major art trade groups join forces to stop looted Afghan artefacts reaching Western market

International trade groups including top British antique dealers vow to oppose trade of Afghan heritage artefacts under Taliban control

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Former site of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. © Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment U.S. Army photo

Former site of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, Bamyan Province, Afghanistan. They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. © Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment U.S. Army photo

Twelve major art trade associations have launched a co-ordinated effort to stop looted Afghan cultural material controlled by the Taliban from becoming available on the Western art market.

"Allowing such artefacts to enter the market compromises the legitimate art and antiquities market and goes against our trade associations’ professional and ethical standards," according to an open letter released by the associations today.

A co-signed letter vows to stop trafficked, stolen and illicit artefacts and artworks from Afghanistan from becoming available for sale in the West after the war-torn country was taken over by the Taliban regime.

The letter, which is co-ordinated by Erika Bochereau, the director general of Secretary General of the Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Œuvres d'Art (CINOA), was backed by the British organisations the British Antique Dealers’ Association, the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers and the Antiquities Dealers’ Association, as well as top trade organisations in France and the US amongst others.

The letter notes that Afghanistan's current ministry of interior affairs is Sirajuddin Haqqani, a Taliban "terrorist wanted by the FBI". Haqqani currently has a bounty of up to $10m on his head.

The letter reads:

"The Afghan crisis has given rise to serious concerns about the fate of the country’s heritage under the Taliban. Some media reports claim the Taliban have pledged to protect cultural heritage sites and artefacts and to prevent looting. Others raise fears that what happened to cultural heritage previously under the Taliban may happen again.

"Illicit digging for artefacts can destroy important archaeological sites, something the art market does not want to unwittingly facilitate. Allowing such artefacts to enter the market compromises the legitimate art and antiquities market and goes against our trade associations’ professional and ethical standards, which are reflected in our written codes.

"The art trade must be prepared to do what it can to ensure that any illicit cultural property coming out of Afghanistan does not make its way on to the market. To that end, as trade associations we will continue to alert our members and others to the heightened risks involved. We will continue to support law enforcement in publicising news of stolen and trafficked items to prevent them from entering the market.

"The Antiquities Ministry in Afghanistan comes under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior Affairs. The current acting Minister of the Interior is Sirajuddin Haqqani, a terrorist wanted by the FBI and with a bounty of up to $10 million on his head. Because of this, governments must also be careful about returning artefacts to Afghanistan under the Taliban."

The full list of signatories:

Art And Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA, USA)

Associazione Antiquari D’Italia (AAI, ITALY)

Antiquities Dealers’ Association (ADA, UK)

British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA, UK)

Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art (CPGA, France)

Czech Association of Antique Dealers (AS, Czech Republic)

Federación Española de Anticuarios (FEA, Spain)

International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA, Int’l)

Kunsthändlerverband Deutschland e.V. (KD, Germany)

LAPADA the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers (LAPADA, UK)

Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA, France)

Syndicat National des Maisons de Ventes Volontaires (SYMEV, France)

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