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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.