Iran archaeologists oppose bill allowing antiquities trade

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Iranian archaeology professors have published an open letter calling on parliament to step back from a draft law that would allow trade in antiquities, Iranian media reported Wednesday.

“A group of archaeology professors from across the country called for the withdrawal of a bill that would allow the trade of ancient artefacts,” the ISNA news agency reported.

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According to the news agency, 46 out of 290 MPs proposed the draft law earlier this week, dubbed the “optimal utilization of ancient objects and treasures.”

Lawmakers said they hope to turn Iran into a “regional center” for antiquities trade, aiming to prevent the “cheap smuggling of national heritage,” ISNA said, citing the text of the draft.

Iranian media regularly report arrests of individuals accused of smuggling artefacts out of the country.

In their letter, the professors strongly criticized the MPs for proposing the bill “without any consultation with official archaeological institutions.”

“Not only does this plan not prevent the destruction of heritage and unprofessional excavations, it legally authorizes looters to destroy our heritage,” the letter warned.

Iran is home to 26 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 53 other sites on the body’s tentative list.

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