The government of the Tigray region in Ethiopia says it will approach the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) to help stop the illicit trade in its historical artifacts and memorabilia.
Tigray has a rich footprint of ancient history. It is regarded as one of the earliest ancient world civilizations, the Aksumite Kingdom, which stretched from Tigray to the Middle East around the third and fourth century.
Reverential monuments like giant obelisks (also found in Egypt), tombs of various kings, musical notes, and literature are found alongside the historical traditions of Tigray.
This history, according to the External Office, has found its way to online platforms such as eBay.
In recent days, the world has witnessed the degree of cultural and religious depredation perpetrated in Tigray, as some of those stolen historical artifacts have been put up on sale on online bidding platform eBay,” the office said.
It said they were pulled down following lobbying by Tigrayans in the diaspora and “friends of Tigray”. The artifacts include religious symbols like crosses and historic manuscripts.
The African Literature Association (ALA) has also added its voice to call for an end to the plunder of Tigrayan endangered artefacts and historical literature. In a statement, it said the feuding parties were affecting the pride of Ethiopia as a rich area of study for archaeology and other disciplines.
The association said: As part of a research community that has been involved for many years in the study of Ethiopian culture, we are saddened about the plight of the civilian population. And we are increasingly concerned by the effect of the conflict on the cultural heritage of Tigray. We appeal to all parties involved to pay serious attention to the issue.
The most notable assault on the region’s monuments was when fighting happened near the church in Yeha, Al Nejashi Mosque, the Maryam Dengelat church, the Dabra Abbay monastery, the Dabra Damo monastery, and the St Mary Cathedral in Aksum.
Aksum city, where the cathedral is situated, is on the Unesco World Heritage List, while Unesco is considering adding the Al Nejashi Mosque, established in the seventh century, to the list.
According to the Tigray government, it has established a commission that will work with Unesco’s International Council of Museums, Interpol, and the World Tourism Organisation