Islamic Republic of Iran


Iran and Turkey Build Mutual Cooperation against Trafficking in Cultural Property, with UNODC Support

The delegation and the UNODC Iran team during a meeting at the Administrative Office of the National Museum

18 August 2014-A Turkish delegation composed of four experts from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and INTERPOL Ankara (Division on Organized Crime and Trafficking in Cultural Property) visited Iran on 11 and 12 August 2014. The two-day visit was organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Country Office (UNODC Iran), as part of its mandate and programme to enhance national capacities in countering trafficking in cultural property, art and antiquities, in line with the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

The activity was conducted in response to an earlier study visit to Ankara, Turkey, in December 2013 by a seven-member Iranian delegation representing the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and INTERPOL Tehran. The main objective of both visits was to provide the opportunity for the Turkish and Iranian experts to exchange information on the existing procedures for recovery of stolen or trafficked artifacts, and familiarize them with the legal and institutional structures on the protection of cultural property in the two countries.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the meetings between the visiting Turkish experts and the Iranian counterparts in Tehran, the Director General of Museums and Movable Cultural and Historical Property Office, Mr. Mohammad Reza Karegar, stated that in order to promote the protection of cultural and historical property, "the discourse of protecting cultural heritage must become a public one and a national priority." Referring to the ancient trade of cultural artefacts and the vast trade of these historically valuable items today by transnational organized crime groups, Mr. Karegar pointed out that museums play an important role in countering such crimes by raising awareness among the public on the importance of these cultural property, arts and antiquities and the urgency of protecting them, and by fostering national unity and identity.

The UNODC Iran Programme Coordinator on Crime, Justice, and Corruption, Mr. Sefat Shemirani, emphasized the significance of international cooperation in tackling trafficking in cultural property. He explained that the trend of crimes related to cultural property trafficking shows that it is amongst the main sources of illicit revenues of transnational organized crime groups, adding that the growing activities of such groups are threatening and challenging the social and economic development and security of societies around the world. He further stated that Iran is the only country in the world with a UNODC programme on the protection of cultural property. Under this programme, UNODC Iran is providing technical assistance to strengthen the capacities of the relevant national authorities, based on UNTOC and relevant resolutions by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including through enhancing the level of international and regional cooperation on matters related to trafficking in cultural property and artefacts and their recovery.

The Director General of Legal Affairs of ICHHTO, Mr. Omid Ghanami, acknowledged the importance of revising and updating laws on protection of cultural heritage and enhancing convergence of domestic rules and legislations with international standards. In this regard, he referred to the notable achievements of Turkey in the recovery of its trafficked cultural and historical property during recent years. Mr. Ghanami explained Iran's regulations and achievements in the protection and recovery of cultural property and stressed the ICHHTO's determination to expand its role in protecting the cultural and historical property of Iran and to improve its ability to recover the country's trafficked cultural and historical assets.

As part of the visit, UNODC Iran also facilitated a bilateral meeting between INTERPOL Tehran and the Turkish delegates on extradition and the recovery of trafficked cultural heritage. During the concluding meeting of the visit, both countries emphasized the importance of bilateral relations and cooperation, such as the exchange of information and experiences, in the area of combating trafficking in cultural property. They also put forward recommendations for possible future cooperation in this area. It was decided that in order to facilitate such cooperation, the two countries will continue to exchange views on drafting an agreement which contains articles on the modality of cooperation in this area. As such, the visit successfully paved the ground for stronger cooperation and closer bilateral relations between Iran and Turkey in the area of combating trafficking in cultural property.

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