Istanbul municipality under fire for buying contraband artifact

A seemingly kind act on the part of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) backfired amid criticism that the municipality has dealt a blow to the country’s struggle to recover the smuggled artifacts from the foreigner.

The deputy secretary general of the municipality, Mahir Polat, on Monday shared a photo of a historical epigraph who disappeared from the Bozgoca mosque in the Şile district of the city. He announced that the municipality had bought the artifact at an auction (in the Netherlands according to media) and would display it in a museum.

View of an epigraph purchased by the municipality, in Istanbul, Turkey, on September 20, 2021. (PHOTO BY BARIŞ SAVAŞ)

The acquisition, however, aroused the wrath of the authorities since it was carried out without informing the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which is overseeing the recovery of the contraband artefacts.

Critics of the municipality, meanwhile, have criticized the purchase, saying it would damage the country’s reputation as it struggles to recover artifacts smuggled overseas decades ago by individuals. legal means and without making payment.

Yahya Coşkun, deputy head of the ministry’s Cultural Goods and Museums Directorate, said in a statement that they had already issued a note to the Dutch authorities via the country’s embassy on September 16 to stop the sale and return the artifact stolen from Turkey.

“The purchase of BWI is not appropriate for our policy and position regarding the return of artifacts. We strive to use legal means to collect items belonging to Turkey without paying for them. We are concerned that the BWI, which is engaged in joint work in several areas with our ministry, has not contacted us during this acquisition, ”Coşkun wrote on social media.

Ismail Cesur, adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, also denounced the act. “This is, unfortunately, a public relations (PR) stunt. This undermines Turkey’s cultural diplomacy, which has possibly smuggled the most artifacts into the world and weakens its hand (in recovery efforts). The state certainly can afford to buy such artifacts, but it is working to get what it is entitled to, what it already has, ”Cesur wrote.

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