Looted Objects Returned to Afghanistan

The BBC reports on the return of 1,500 objects which were seized by customs agents at Heathrow airport.  A great deal of attention was given to the looting of the Baghdad Museum and other sites in Iraq.  But are we ignoring the problems in Afghanistan?  This may be only a fraction of the objects which are escaping its borders. 

A 900-year-old bronze bird.

More than 1,500 artefacts were recovered in an 11-day operation. Many are priceless objects of Islamic art looted in illegal excavations.


They include a magnificent tall bronze bird. Nine-hundred years ago, its owner would have burned incense in the drawer that slots into its puffed chest.


“We are really happy to have our objects back,” says Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, who has been preparing descriptions of the recovered treasures in the Dari language for the display cabinets.


There are prehistoric tools – up to 6,000 years old – and ancient coins, as well as more recent Islamic tiles, inscribed basins and bronze candlesticks.


“We wish all the countries around the world – if they have our collections – would transfer them back to our country too,” Mr Rahimi says.


During Afghanistan’s civil war, Kabul museum was on the front line. Used as a base by the Mujahedin, the building was badly damaged. But most devastating of all – 70% of its rich collection was systematically looted and smuggled abroad.


Much of what survived was then smashed to bits by the Taliban.

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