News / Europe

Lucrative Antique Islamic Arts Market Draws Big Money, Criminals

The international market in antique Islamic art is booming, with London and Paris the centers of the trade. A recent sale of a single page from an ancient copy of the Quran made 200,000 euros. But such prices have also brought the unwelcome attention of criminals. 

Cuma Atabay, the chief of Turkey's Historical Foundations, lists the recent thefts of Islamic art. Among them are carpets hundreds of years old and even a mosque door dating back to the 14th century.

Atabay is speaking at an international meeting in Istanbul aimed at combating the growing problem of Islamic art theft.

Listening is William Robinson, director of the Islamic and Carpet Departments of the London-based auction house, Christies. He says with the Gulf States entering the market, prices for Islamic art have gone through the roof.

"The overall turnover in the market has risen hugely. I would take it back to 1997, which is when Qatar entered the market. And since then, the overall trend has been very strongly upward, particularly in the last two or three years. I thinking it could be even 30 or 40 percent a year increase, which is huge," said Robinson.

Stolen artifacts

Such high prices are fueling an increasing market in stolen artifacts, many of which end up in Istanbul's famous and historic Grand Bazaar.

For centuries, the bazaar, with its maze of narrow streets and thousands of shops, has been the place to buy the finest jewelry and carpets and much, much more. But, says Police Chief Ismail Sahin, it also remains a center for illegal activity as well. He heads the city's efforts against the theft and smuggling of Islamic art, most of which he says is destined for Europe.

Sahin says typically, gangs of three or four people steal items from museums or mosques and take them to the Grand Bazaar where there are dealers who have contacts in Europe. He says it is very difficult for to stop because most mosques and even some museums do not have inventories or adequate protection.

Sahin says Istanbul is an international transport hub for the West and Middle East.  Thus, he says, the city is a center not only for Turkish stolen artifacts but also for items coming from strife-ridden areas across the Middle East.

Information key to combating crime

Joachim Gierlich is a former curator at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar. He says information is the key to combating the growing trade in illegal artifacts.

"I believe one only can win the fight if one uses modern technologies, having a very good and complete documentation to know what actually is in the museums and what is in the foundations and so on, and make this accessible,” he said.

Powerful tool

William Robinson of Christies agrees. He says the appearance of auction catalogues on the Internet is proving to be a powerful tool in curtailing the sale of stolen artifacts.

"Oh it's a very serious issue because it's completely against our interests for illegal things to appear on the market, let alone with us.  Because it knocks the whole market. But if we are not aware of theft we are in a much more difficult position. We want owners to have confidence that something they buy from us is not going to be claimed in 30 years," said Robinson.

Robinson draws a parallel with the 1990's, when the growing public awareness finally brought an end to the sale of art taken by the Nazis during World War Two. The battle against this latest illegal trade in Islamic art is expected to be no less intense, especially as the market becomes more lucrative.




You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs