Iraq is still striving to recover thousands of antiquities plundered from its museums and archaeological sites, as the war-torn country aims to develop its tourism industry to help rebuild its economy.
“We’re faced with all kinds of sophisticated and political and legal difficulties,” said Bahaa Mayah, the adviser to Iraq’s minister of tourism and antiquities.
“Countries that were against the American or the western intervention in Iraq, they are not cooperating with Iraq and returning the artefacts. We managed to retrieve over 6,000 pieces. It’s estimated that over 180,000 pieces have left Iraq [since the Second Gulf War started in 2003].”
He said many of these were sold in international auction houses. Iraq is calling for a new treaty to amend the situation, as it works on developing its tourism sector.
“We’re trying to attract investors to come to Iraq and build hotels and all other services that are needed by the industry.”
He said there were only seven upmarket hotels in Baghdad. Some of the major international hotel chains have said they are starting to consider future opportunities although the city remains unstable.
“Tourism creates jobs for youth,” said Mr Mayah. “If we manage to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, this means social security. Iraq could be in the future a destination for different kinds of tourism: religion; education; archaeology. It has a big potential.”