IFAR Statement on Iraq

April 2003

As overseers of an organization which for close to 35 years has been concerned with the authenticity, theft, looting, and protection of art objects and cultural property, IFAR's Board of Directors unanimously approved the following statement regarding the cultural heritage of Iraq at its meeting of April 2, 2003:

In light of the current conflict in Iraq, we call upon all the governments, combatants, and individuals involved to be mindful of the precious historic and archaeological treasures in that country, which has justly been called the cradle of civilization. Within it borders lie the ruins of ancient Nineveh, Nimrud, Hatra, and Babylon, among others. Although we recognize that the preservation of human life is paramount, we urge everyone to do whatever possible to safeguard the thousands of archaeological and cultural artifacts, monuments, and sites in Iraq both during and after the war, and to help secure their long-term safety and preservation. We stand ready to do whatever we can to assist in that effort.

We urge people not to acquire any object possibly coming from Iraq (or elsewhere) unless there is clear and indisputable provenance. We remind you that the acquisition of or trafficking in stolen artifacts is illegal under the laws of most countries. In the U.S., various statutes, including the National Stolen Property Act, preclude the knowing importation, possession or transfer of stolen objects, and violators may be subject to criminal prosecution. If anyone learns about a looted Iraqi object, we urge them to notify the authorities immediately. Please contact:

  • U.S. Immigration & Customs: Call 1 800 BE ALERT (option 1) or email
  • FBI: Call (202) 324-6668 or the nearest FBI local field office

In response to the Iraqi crisis:

  • IFAR met in Washington on April 16, 2003 with representatives from 16 other national cultural organizations to form a coalition to share information and combine efforts to address the situation and help with recovery.
  • IFAR attended the INTERPOL Conference on Iraq held in Lyon, France, May 5-6, 2003. IFAR was the only non-governmental organization included in the official U.S. delegation.
  • IFAR participated on May 19, 2003 in an advisory roundtable on the illicit market for antiquities, which was organized for the CIA in response to the Iraqi crisis.
  • IFAR has responded to, literally, dozens of press and public inquiries and has spoken out against the looting in the press, on radio, and on television.
  • IFAR devoted a double issue of IFAR Journal, Volume 6, Nos. 1 & 2, to the situation in Iraq and highlighted known stolen objects in the Stolen Art Alert. Articles about the Iraqi crisis appeared in subsequent issues of IFAR Journal
  • IFAR organized a program on October 28, 2004, "Art Loss in Iraq: An Update", which featured John M. Russell, Former Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Culture, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq, and Bonnie Burnham, President, World Monuments Fund.

For additional information on Iraq, see, among others, the following Websites:
(IFAR cannot guarantee the accuracy of theses sites, nor does it necessarily endorse all the viewpoints expressed)

For Images and General Information on Stolen/Damaged objects:

For international law enforcement efforts:

For Legislation and Rulings:

  • U.S. Public Law No. 108-429, December 3, 2004 - Emergency legislation Restricting Importation of Iraqi Cultural Property. For the section relating to Iraq, click here.
  • UN Security Council Resolution 1483, May 2003, declaring ban on trade of Iraqi cultural items
  • U.S. ruling lifting sanctions on trade with Iraq, with exception of cultural property (Section 4)