Behind the Islamic State’s propaganda videos of cultural devastation lies a vast bureaucratic system of antiquities trade.
When the Islamic State (IS) group took control over the ancient city of Palmyra, its iconic scenery became a backdrop for gruesome murder and brutality. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has also become one of the stops on the terrorist organization’s path of cultural destruction.
What is less publicized is the enormous profits the Islamic State is making from the illegal trade in antiques it boasts of annihilating in its propaganda videos. IS-controlled areas have offices for the director of antiquities and museums, which represents the Antiquities Authority of the Islamic State. It controls excavation and facilitates smuggling and selling, issuing permits that legitimize looting.
Channel 4 News investigates the industrial-scale operation trading in Syrian cultural history.
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