Burglary under the guise of restoration in the Kurdish region

Thousands of historic artifacts that have been uncovered in digs in historic structures in Northern Kurdistan under the guise of restoration are not registered and are smuggled away.

Historic structures in Northern Kurdish cities are being pillaged under the guise of restoration. The Bitlis Fortress in Bitlis, the Hoşap Fortress, the Van Fortress and the Çavuştepe and many other historic structures have been under restoration for years. The never-ending restoration works in these historic structures have transformed into looting and historic artifact smuggling.


An archaeologist who was part of the restoration efforts and has worked in the digs in the Bitlis Fortress in Bitlis and Hoşap and Çavuştepe fortresses in Van stated that there is historic artifact smuggling under the guise of dig efforts in these places. The archaeologist spoke to the ANF on condition of anonymity and said many artifacts uncovered in the digs should be registered by the dig chairs, but aren’t and many valuable historic artifacts are smuggled this way.


The archaeologist said they participated in the Bitlis Fortress and Van’s Çavuştepe digs in particular and continued: “During my time in these fortresses, I saw that historic artifacts were not registered. Especially valuable items were almost never registered, I have witnessed this many times. Those who didn’t want the artifacts registered were usually the chairpersons of the digs. In the dig in the Bitlis Fortress, we found a very valuable dagger in one of the rooms. The dagger was solid gold, and embellished by diamonds and rubies. We were expecting this dagger to be registered, but the dig chair didn’t and kept it for himself. I witnessed many cases like this.”


“And I saw the same incidents in the Çavuştepe Fortress in Van. Only artifacts with not too much monetary value were registered. This is just what I saw, there may be thousands of artifacts smuggled like this that we haven’t seen. There is a definite looting in our historic structures under the guise of restoration. These people don’t care about uncovering Kurdish history. I am a witness to this. These people are consciously looting our historic structures and stealing our artifacts.”