On November 17th, Minister of Culture Abdulla Auball held a press conference to clarify the issue of the seized manuscripts in al-Qanaus directorate, Hodeida governorate. He also took the opportunity to brief the media on new investigations into the Sana’a National Museum theft.
Auball said that the crisis experienced by Yemen led to a security breakdown, which allowed antiquities smugglers to exploit that insecurity and smuggle a great number of antiquities and rare pieces.
“The most dangerous thing that can take place is looting of the country’s history. If we continue to neglect the smuggling cases, a day will come that Yemenis will look for their identity and history and find themselves without any history left,” he said.
From 2011 until today, Yemeni museums in Aden, Abyan, Hodeida and Sana’a have all been subjected to thefts. The bounty from only one theft has been recovered—14 manuscripts were recently found and returned. These thefts raise concerns not only of the Ministry of Culture but also the Yemeni government and people. “There is no sense of responsibility, and thefts happen more than once in certain museums without removing or even punishing the person in charge for the museum. How can we reduce the number of thefts when no on has been punished [for letting them happen?]” Auball asked.
Worse, the Minister of Culture believes that the previous smuggling sanctions law has only encouraged smugglers. “Smugglers can gain thousands of dollars through smuggling, and Yemeni law punishes him with only a 10,000 rial fine.” Instead, Auball has suggested a new law, and even put it to parliament to discuss its implementation.
Ministry of Culture Undersecretary Dr. Mujahid al-Yatim said that Yemen has history and civilization but it doesn’t have the money to protect them with proper methods and under international standards.
Auball called on the Finance Minister to take into account the low budget of the Ministry of Culture and allocate a sufficient and appropriate budget in 2014 to the Ministry, that it may do its job better.