Egypt tries to retrieve head of Tutankhamun from London auctioneers

A handout picture released by Christies auction house in London on June 11, 2019 shows an ancient sculpture representing King Tutankhamun's head. The Egyptian embassy in London requested that Britain prevent the planned sale by Christie's of an ancient sculpture representing King Tutankhamun's head and return it to Egypt, Cairo said. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Egypt tries to retrieve head of Tutankhamun from London auctioneers

  • Christie’s expects the head to reach upwards of £4 million at auction, scheduled for July 4

CAIRO: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry says its embassy in London addressed the British Foreign Office and Christie’s auction house to stop the sale of the head of a statue of Tutankhamun, and return it to Egypt.

Christie’s expects the head to reach upwards of £4 million at auction, scheduled for July 4.

The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has also addressed UNESCO to stop the auction. Dr. Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Arab News he wanted the auctioneers to prove the head had been removed from the country legally, which he doubted they could.

He added that the exit of the head, supposedly from the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, was shrouded in uncertainty.

“We will stop this auction and demand the return of this piece immediately,” he said. Christie’s, though, insists that the sale of the 3,000 year old head is legal.

The St. James-based auction house suggested that the head, along with a wooden sarcophagus and multiple other artifacts also going on sale, were previously owned by the Munich-based collector Heinz Herner, and before that by Austrian dealer Joseph Mesina, who obtained the head from the collection of Prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis in the mid 1970s.

In January, Egypt took possession of a stone tablet belonging to the pharaoh Amenhotep I, which had been put up for sale at another London auction house after being illegally smuggled out of Egypt.

The Ministry of Antiquities said it had recovered the piece after searches on global auction sites on the internet brought the tablet to its attention.

Archaeologist Shaaban Abdul Jawad told Arab News the Egyptian state was taking a keen interest in the sale of potentially looted ancient Egyptian items, often tracking them to international auctions to return and preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.


Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

A Syrian woman carrying a child walks by, in the Washukanni Camp for the internally displaced, near the predominantly Kurdish city of Hasakeh in northeastern Syria, on February 17, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2020

Turkish, Iranian media outlets exchange blows on Syria

  • Middle East expert believes Ankara and Tehran are locked in an information war

ANKARA: Turkish and Iranian media outlets are battling as deeply rooted tensions have resurfaced. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency has published an opinion piece that critically discussed tensions with Iran over Syria. It said: “Turkey’s vision of regional development and integration is pitched against Iran’s regional strategy prioritising geopolitical wins.
“Ignoring Ankara’s concerns in the fight against terrorism during Operation Peace Spring, Tehran is now setting its Shiite militias in the field in motion against Turkey, who is actively endeavoring to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The analysis piece, titled “Idlib front, Iran’s weakening foreign operation capacity,” was penned by Hadi Khodabandeh Loui, a researcher at the Iran Research Center in Ankara.
Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.
An editorial piece that was published in Iran’s hardline newspaper Entekhab compared Turkey’s military moves in Syria to Israel’s bombings of pro-Assad forces. The piece warned Ankara about a potential aggressive reaction from Tehran to both threats.
Israeli warplanes fired missiles at targets near Syria’s capital, Damascus, in early February and they hit Syrian Army and Iran-backed militia positions, reportedly killing 23 people.
Being among the guarantor states of the Astana peace process for Syria, aimed at ending the Syrian conflict, Turkey and Iran have already witnessed the fragility of their relations in October 2019 when Iran criticized Turkey’s moves to establish military posts inside Syria, emphasizing the need to respect the integrity of Syria.
Then, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly accused Iran of betraying the consensus between the two countries following Tehran’s condemnation of Turkey’s operation in northern Syria against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

BACKGROUND

Throughout Syria’s civil war, Turkey has backed rebels looking to oust Bashar Assad, while Iran has supported the Assad regime. However, the two countries are collaborating to reach a political solution to the conflict.

In March 2018, Iran’s Tehran Times defined Turkey’s cross-border military operation against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin as an “invasion.” It splashed with a headline that read: “Turkish troops occupy Syria’s Afrin.”
Over recent weeks, Ankara has voiced criticisms that the Assad regime, Iran-backed militia and Russia have violated the ceasefire in Syria’s rebel-held province of Idlib, with frequent attacks targeting Turkish troops.
Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, thinks that Assad’s forces are winning decisively, and Turkey’s ability to resist them is greatly diminished.
“Assad’s forces have consolidated their control over west Aleppo, and are steadily advancing in Idlib. Turkey does not view the Iranian mediation offers in Syria as credible, especially as Iranian media outlets are justifying them by claiming that Turkey broke the terms of the Sochi agreement by harboring extremists. Turkey is insistent that Russia violated Sochi by supporting Assad’s offensive,” he told Arab News.
Regarding the media conflict, Ramani thinks that Turkey and Iran are locked in an information war over Syria, and are both trying to paint the other as an aggressor.
“It’s a way to rally public support in both countries around more confrontational posturing, in the event of a bigger military escalation that actually sees Turkish and Iranian forces in direct combat, not just Assad and Turkish proxies,” he said.