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Soldiers of Venus at the UN

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the opening of the Italian exhibit on international cultural heritage with the guests for Italy (UN Headquarters, January 7 - 2020, photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

President of the 74 Session of UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations talking at the Italian exibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress January 2020)

Brigadier-General Roberto Riccardi of Italian Carabinieri after the exhibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

Art stolen in Palmyra, Syria recovered in Italy in 2011 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

Italian exhibit, UN 7 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

Ambassador Peter Galbraith (Courtesy Facebook photo 2020)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the opening of the Italian exhibit on international cultural heritage with the guests for Italy (UN Headquarters, January 7 - 2020, photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and General Assembly president Tijjani Muhammad Bande at the opening of the Italian exhibit on international cultural heritage with the guests for Italy (UN Headquarters, January 7 – 2020, photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

By Erol Avdović (WEBPUBLICA / UNITED NATIONS) New York – Not only was the exhibition of an old and antic arts hosted by the Mission of Italy at the UN Headquarters an extraordinary by the works shown, but it was an event that contained an unambiguous message that came at the right time. As world fears a new major war in the Middle East over the direct and very dangerous confrontation between Iran and the United States – diplomats question what that war could do — to the places of world heritage in Iran. US President Donald Trump already threatened – he may target some 52 identified targets that include objects of civilization value sites. Knowing how wars in the area have indeed devastated cultural heritage, including the 2003 war in Iraq – the exhibition was actually a somber reminder to powerful decision makers to restrain and rethin

Somber reminder

The exhibition is set just next after the main delegate entrance to the United Nations, so that every diplomat can see it – adding probably couple of minutes reflection. After all – diplomats are here safe the world. The presentation shows a selection of archeology pieces, ancient paintings, manuscripts, and among other things funerary relief stolen from Palmyra (Syria). Since, the similar artwork still holds in the possible war zone that could become arena of a serious confrontation – the exhibition was at least that kind of warning in a mild language, but adequate and very time sensitive.

Former UN Assistant Secretary General and US ambassador Peter Galbraith recently wrote on his

Ambassador Peter Galbraith (Courtesy Facebook photo 2020)

Ambassador Peter Galbraith (Courtesy Facebook photo 2020)

FB profile current US President Trump is making big mistake threatening Iran’s cultural heritage with bombing: “ISIS destroyed cultural monuments (Nimrud, Nineveh, Hatra, Palmyra) in the territory it conquered. Now Donald Trump proposes to do the same thing to Iran’s great monuments. Attacking Iranian cultural monuments is a war crime and therefore an order to do so is illegal.”

Galbraith said he has visited the cultural sites destroyed by ISIS “as well as the great Iranian monuments that Trump would attack.”

“As ambassador to Croatia during the war there, I witnessed the Serbian destruction of Croatian and Bosnian monuments. And, I repeatedly tried to stop Bosnian Croat attacks on Bosnian monuments, including in Mostar. Sadly,” he wrote about recent experience with the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995.

Back to UN, obviously some people immediately got it. In his address at the opening of the exhibition the President of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande - without being around sent a message that attacking the cultural heritage of any country would be a loss for all.

President of the 74 Session of UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations talking at the Italian exibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress January 2020)

President of the 74 Session of UN General Assembly Tijjani Muhammad Bande, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations talking at the Italian exibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress
January 2020)

Mr. Bande urged the UN to actually prepare remedies – check its binding resolutions providing for sanctions for those that would not obey the common (law and moral) sense. And without mentioning Iran or other countries UN General Assembly president has clearly stated that ruining world heritage is simply unacceptable.

Though in his recognized style of not resenting anyone, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also has warned, that cultural heritage is protected by international law. He said it is a  living UN legislation that clarify the unacceptability of such acts. The Secretary General said there are “a number of vital international instruments to guide the way, including Security Council Resolution 2347 (Sanctions Committee).”  (Resolution 2347 - condemns the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, including the destruction of religious sites and artifacts, and the looting and smuggling of cultural property from archaeological sites, museums, libraries, archives, and other sites, notably by terrorist groups/UN source.)

“It has been painful to see how much of humankind’s cultural heritage has been lost in recent years, from Iraq and Syria to Yemen, Mali and Afghanistan,” Mr. Guterres said suggesting it is still uncertain what may happen in that area or elsewhere in near future.

“Indeed, we face an array of challenges that imperil efforts to protect our common heritage – from the climate crisis to civil unrest – from armed conflict to terrorism.”

UN Secretary General said, although these threats vary in nature – a “common feature integral to the response” would be certainly – the international cooperation.

Looting has been the rule

Organized by state of Italy to show the importance of stopping illicit trafficking of cultural property

Brigadier-General Roberto Riccardi of Italian Carabinieri after the exhibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

Brigadier-General Roberto Riccardi of Italian Carabinieri after the exhibit (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

stolen in various occasions including recent wars in the Middle East and recovered by law enforcements – the exhibition is a showcase of the ongoing efforts on the international stage – for strengthening global fight against those who illegally trade these magnificent art work from old times.

The UN chief said that every masterpiece shown at the UN in New York was stolen – but every piece of artwork was recovered thanks to the determination and investigative expertise of the Italian Carabinieri (Police). That often required mutual cooperation of several countries to complete the job.

Guterres specifically thanked Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage for organizing this important exhibition. He commanded Italy for sharing knowledge with others – and “prioritizing heritage and culture as tools for peace and dialogue.”

Talking at the exhibition about the management and protection of cultural heritage Commander of the Carabinieri Brigadier-General. Roberto Riccardi reminded how during the wars and disaster the cultural heritage indeed pay a high price – including destruction, plunder and losses, while “looting has been the rule.”

“The Romans called ‘ius predae’ the right, for the winner, to steal from the loser anything, included its works of art,” said General Riccardi. He added, the “dispersion has gone on between a conflict and another for many reasons: dust of time, fury of elements, neglect of people.” Italian general also quoted a great great painter Raffaello (who died exactly 5 centuries ago) who in his letter to Pope Leo X, in 1519. wrote: “Why are we complaining about the Goths, Vandals and other perfidious enemies (…) when the very men who, as fathers and guardians, should have defended Rome’s wretched remains (…) allowed ancient temples, statues, arches and other buildings to fall prey to ruin and spoliation?”.

Art stolen in Palmyra, Syria recovered in Italy in 2011 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

Art stolen in Palmyra, Syria recovered in Italy in 2011 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress, January 2020 UN)

General Riccardi said – the looting and destroying other’s cultural heritage property – is still not over. He place his hope to the United Nations, UNESCO and other UN special agencies that are, as he said – promote international peace and security and protects cultural heritage all over the world.

And the UN chief Antonio Guterres also pointed out at the opening of the exhibition - the key role that UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) play, “particularly through its Convention on Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property which marks its 50th anniversary this year.”

We owe it to our ancestors

Special Carabinieri unit which celebrates half the century of their work and recently came after stolen Raffaello painting (that was exhibited at the UN in New York), and also work of the famous sculptor Antonio Canova from 19th century. All stolen and recovered properties will be return to the public owners – museums and galleries.

Within last 50 years Carabinieri have recovered almost 3 million goods, not only in Italy. “It is

Italian exhibit, UN 7 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

Italian exhibit, UN 7 January 2020 (Photo by Erol Avdovic, Webpublicapress)

necessary to join efforts in this field, illicit trafficking of cultural properties don’t stop at national borders.” General stressed.

At the same time Riccardi said the Italian Carabinieri for the Protection of Cultural Heritage “have been not the soldiers of Mars, god of war, but the soldiers of Venus, goddess of beauty.”

“Beauty can’t save the world, if we want to answer the question delivered by Fodor Dostoevsky in his masterpiece ‘The idiot’. On the contrary, world must save the Beauty,” General Riccardi said. He added all countries must engage together to safe common heritage since “we owe it to our ancestors.”

“It’s their heritage, our history, our identity,” Italian Carabinieri General said in New York.

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