Travel & Tourism

The measures to protect museums are still on paper

By Tamjid Alkohali

After the stolen antiquities from the National Museum, it would be expected that new security measures be taken to protect it from further losses. National Yemen spoke with Manager Mohanad Ahmed Al-Syani who said that it is still closed until now, because of the security situation and new procedures.

“The National Museum, and all museums in Yemen, have suffered and still do suffer from several problems. Looting has begun recently, especially with the deteriorating security situation, and is considered the most dangerous issue. The Ministry of Culture under President Hadi is working with all concerned parties to protect Yemen’s antiquities and manuscripts. We are currently preparing a draft to put together standards and controls, in order to open the closed museums again.”

Al-Syani says that the three civilian guards, and eight Tourist Police members, on duty before the theft isn’t enough, and the Standards Committee plans to increase the number of them with new standards. He did not confirm how they would be implemented due to a lack of support.

“As manager of the Antiquities and Museum organization, I represent the Executive in this field, but since I got this position, I have not even gotten moral support from the Ministry of Finance or the Ministry of Civil Service, even though we are responsible for Yemen’s antiquities, the most important thing in its possession.”

Professor Gillian Hammoud Gillian of the Department of Archaeology at Sana’a University agreed, saying that there are many procedures that need to be taken to protect the artifacts from theft and smuggling, the most important being their documentation by relevant authorities. He added that this will help in their future restoration, and also spread global awareness of the items.

Advisor of the Ministry of Culture, and former director of the National Museum, Abdul Aziz al-Gandari, emphasized that contents of the institution are already registered and documented in the Museum’s Data Documentation House. They can therefore already be restored and replicated anywhere in the world, in accordance with existing agreements and international laws.

He added that the museums have been robbed several times, though, so it is time to revisit these regulations.

The Military Museum in Sana’a, just outside of Tahrir Square, is currently the only one open to the public. It is managed by the Ministry of Defense, and is run by army staff. According to its manager, Colonel Abed Mohammed al-Hhour, the assigned unit specifically deals with cultural work, and are sufficient enough to protect it. However, he had some criticisms.

“There is a lack of surveillance cameras, and many other things that must exist in any museum.”

Al-Hhour considers the Yemeni laws of antiquities protection to be the weakest in the world.

“In the past, the one who stole was named in the media as a thief, but nowadays, we almost appreciate them by saying that they took the antiquities, rather than stealing them.”

He says that there is a need to draft new laws and implement them seriously in accordance with the Standards and Controls Committee, and the outputs of the National Dialogue Conference.

Thieves stole three manuscripts and seven ancient swords from the National Museum on October 12th last year, a theft which was discovered by an important foreign visitor on the second day of Eid al-Adha.

The thieves were ultimately arrested, and were led by the Head of Relics Protection in the National Museum, who has remained anonymous, as well as another employee, and participants from outside, including those who purchased the items.

The antiquities were restored, but without the manuscripts, and unfortunately, the swords were plucked of their gold and silver.