WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today applauded House passage of his legislation to limit a critical source of funding for ISIS while at the same time improving efforts to preserve and protect cultural artifacts from looting and destruction. The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 1493), which Rep. Engel introduced along with Rep. Chris Smith (NJ), Rep. Bill Keating (MA), and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (CA), would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria and would enhance coordination among U.S. government agencies working to protect cultural property around the world.

“ISIS has ransacked thousands of artifacts from dozens of World Heritage Sites—places like the ancient cities of Mari and Dura-Europos, which were virtually untouched before this crisis. These places are now lost to history, and their destruction has funneled millions of dollars into ISIS's coffers,” said Rep. Engel. “We need to cut off this source of funding, and at the same time work to preserve this imperiled cultural history.”

Representative Engel’s legislation would impose new import restrictions on cultural artifacts removed from Syria. Similar restrictions were enacted in 2004 with respect to Iraqi antiquities. The legislation would provide exceptions to allow artifacts to enter the United States for protection and restoration. Restrictions would remain in effect until the crisis in Syria is resolved and America is able to work with a new Syrian government to protect cultural property from trafficking under a bilateral agreement, in accordance with America’s national interests.

The bill would also establish a new interagency body and coordinator role to enhance coordination among government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, already working on cultural preservation issues. It would also take steps to enhance Congressional oversight of this issue.

The bill passed the House by voice vote.


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