News / Arts & Entertainment

Turkey Lobbies Museums Around World to Return Artifacts

Istanbul's Haghia Sophia Museum (2010 photo)Istanbul's Haghia Sophia Museum (2010 photo)
x
Istanbul's Haghia Sophia Museum (2010 photo)
Istanbul's Haghia Sophia Museum (2010 photo)
Dorian Jones
ISTANBUL — Turkey is following an increasingly aggressive policy of getting top museums around the world to return its heritage. Minister of Culture and Tourism Ertugrul Gunay says that in the last decade, more than 4,000 artifacts had been brought back to Turkey from world museums and collections.

Turkey's minister of culture recently opened a new archeological museum in the western city of Izmir. Ertugrul Gunay is the architect of a museum revolution in the country aiming to harness Turkey's rich heritage.

New archeological museums across the country have been opened, with even more planned, while established ones have had expensive makeovers. But as Gunay made clear in opening this latest museum, his revolution has international implications.

Gunay says when you visit the world's big museums in the US, England, France, Germany, you see that most of the precious artifacts came from Turkey, Italy, Egypt and Greece. Some of these, he says, were looted, and he is fighting to get back historical artifacts that went to the big museums of the world illegally from Turkey.

Along with aggressively taking action in court for the return of artifacts from major museums around the world, Gunay has adopted a new approach.

Earlier this year, he vetoed the lending of artifacts to a major exhibition by the British Museum until it returned artifacts Ankara claims were illegally removed. Similar sanctions are also being applied to other major museums.

Nezih Basgelen, editor of a leading Turkish archeological magazine, says the policy could have far reaching consequences for museums around the world.

"We have some lists many, many lists, for Germany, United Kingdom, United States, for France and maybe Austria. More than a thousand - thousands of pieces, some ceramic material too much, some of them coins. Many marble things, big objects - sarcophagus, and big statues - many things," Basgelen said.

Turkey's ministry of culture also uses the country's continuing popularity for archeologists as a means to apply pressure. Ankara threatened to suspend a German archaeologist's permit on a major site unless a German museum returned a disputed artifact back to Turkey. The museum eventually complied last year.  

But the tough policy has drawn criticism that the ministry should set its own house in order before looking abroad. Ozgen Acar, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Cumhurriyet, has devoted much of his life to the return of stolen artifacts from abroad.

"This looting anarchy in Turkey is getting bigger and bigger, at the same time they are trying to retrieve the items from different museums in the world. But the government is not taking care of this kind of looting at home, this is big mistake," Acar said.

The minister disputes the charge claiming there has been a 12-fold increase in resources for archeological excavations in the past 12 years.  

There is also a powerful economic factor behind Turkey's drive to return of high profile artifacts.

Turkey's archeological past is now a key part of the government's drive to attract tourists, with commercials like this one promoting the country as a destination that offers more than just sun and beaches.

Part of that policy includes the building of one of world's largest archeological museums for the capital, Ankara.

Basgelen, the archeological magazine editor, worries the aggressive policy of returning artifacts could end up hurting Turkey's museums and archeology projects. He suggests a compromise in which artifacts could be loaned to museums for 40 years.

But the Turkish culture minister appears determined to pursue the return of the artifacts.  He has announced an agreement with Greece to join forces in their struggle, and negotiations are continuing with Italy and Egypt.

Observers warn the implications of the controversy could well be far reaching for the world's greatest archeological museums.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings: Nnekai
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
August 26, 2015 2:42 PM
Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.

Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.