ISIS’ deliberate and targeted destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria has shocked the world and demanded a response. In recent months, we have lost entire chapters of our shared history, and some of the most iconic masterpieces and sites the world has ever known. And this wanton devastation threatens us all: at this moment, ISIS, the Al Nusrah Front, and other Al Qaeda affiliates are arming their campaign of terror through the black market sale of relics pillaged from the Cradle of Civilization.

While we cannot stop the sledgehammers, we can stop ISIS and other terrorists from profiting from this stolen treasure. The Antiquities Coalition has formed a powerful alliance — with the Arab Republic of Egypt, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Middle East Institute — to shut down ISIS funding from cultural racketeering. We launched this initiative with an emergency conference in Cairo from 13–14 May 2015.

The 2015 Cairo Conference: Cultural Property Under Threat brought together Ministers of Antiquities, Culture, Tourism, and Foreign Affairs for ten key governments in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Irina Bokova, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and Nabil al-Araby, Secretary General of the Arab League. Leading international experts — including archaeologists, business leaders, former military officials, lawyers, and experts in counterterrorism, law enforcement, and security — also came from around the world to participate. This audience of decision-makers and specialists presented an unprecedented opportunity to develop regional solutions against cultural cleansing and racketeering, in keeping with the Antiquities Coalition’s mission of safeguarding our shared cultural heritage.

At the end of the conference, the ten participating countries issued the historic Cairo Declaration, denouncing the “blood antiquities” trade and announcing a regional “action plan” to stop terrorist financing through cultural racketeering.  Work is already underway to fulfill the declaration’s goals. Please stay tuned for more information.

Read the Cairo Declaration Here 

Read the Press Release Here