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United States Repatriates Artifacts, Stolen In 2003, To Iraq

The U.S. government has returned seven artifacts taken from Iraq during the 2003 invasion back to the country.

The ceremony occurred on Wednesday in New York. The repatriation ceremony was facilitated by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Salwan Sinjari, Iraq’s representative in the US, was present to receive the seven stolen artifacts. The DA’s Office first became aware of these objects when they were listed in an online auction in March 2021, but their ownership details were murky. Investigation into the provenance of these objects revealed that they were stolen from Iraq in 2003 and illegally changed hands between 2004-2009 before coming to their current owners.

Alvin Bragg has been at the forefront of tracking illegally-obtained cultural objects and artworks, and repatriating them to their original owners. This includes the wide-scale action against dealer Subhash Kapoor and his large collection of smuggled artifacts, as well as raids at locations like The Met.

National Musuem, Iraq

On the other end, Iraq too has been active in trying to recover the large number of artifacts that were stolen from the country during the 2003 invasion. The majority of these came from the Iraqi National Museum, which was left undefended after Baghdad fell to the US forces.

In August 2021, Iraqi officials oversaw a massive repatriation of 17,000 looted objects. These objects came from a large number of sources across the globe, including Hobby Lobby and Cornell University. One of the greatest repatriation efforts to have ever occurred, it also pushed the issue of stolen objects from Iraq in 2003 into the limelight.