Iraq archeologist flees to Syria

Deutsche Presse Agentur
Published: Monday August 28, 2006

Damascus- A top Iraqi archeological official and former head of the Iraqi Museum said Momnday he ahd fled Iraq to Syria for safety after his family received threats and political pressure. Dr. Donny George, head of the Archeology and Tradition in Iraq, told Deutsche Presse-Agenture dpa in Damascus that his 17-year-old son had been threatened.

In addition to the security situation, George cited interference in his work by the Iraq's his superior who was close to the Shiite Sadr militia group.

He said that so underpressure that he tendered his resignation, which was quickly accepted.

George also said it was "true in some cases" that US soldiers had stolen archeological items from Iraq, saying he witnessed such acts himself.

He said that more than 1000 items had been seized in New York and other items seized in Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Holland and Italy. All of these items were documented and will eventually be returned.

He noted however that before the US-led war in 2003 Iraqi museums and other sites contained more than half a million archeological items.

"The dangerous thing was the theft of archeological items from sites that had not been documented," he added.

"Some 17,000 items stolen from unregistered archeological sites were returned but there may be thousands of others left in Israel, Japan and Europe and we are following them through Interpol," George said.

He ruled out the possibility of returning to Iraq under the present circumstances, warning that Iraq was "living in an undeclared civil war."

"There are signs of intentions to divide Iraq (into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni states) and there are movements for this division," he said.

© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agenteur