Turkey's Ministry of Culture is playing hardball with some of the world’s most prestigious museums. The ministry is refusing to lend historical artifacts to leading museums in the United States and the United Kingdom until they return antiquities that Turkish officials maintain were illegally taken from Turkey.
"When you visit the world's big museums in the United States, England, Germany and France you see that most of the precious artifacts came from Turkey, Italy, Greece and Egypt," Turkish Minister of Culture Ertugral Gunay, the architect behind the hardball policy, said while opening a new museum in Izmir this May. "Some were taken out with some sort of legal formulation in the past, some others were looted from our historical sites."
The lending ban has already hit the British Museum, as Turkey declined to lend 35 articles for the major exhibition 'Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam,” at the beginning of this year. Similar sanctions have been introduced against New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.