Tuesday, July 16 2024

Turkey an unexpected ally of Greece in the return of the Parthenon Marbles

parthenon marbles

At the 24th session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee on the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin (ICPRCP), Turkey proved to be an unexpected "ally" of Greece as it deconstructed one of Britain's central arguments for keeping the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, claiming that Turkey is not aware of any Turkish "firman" (document) that legitimizes Lord Elgin's seizure of the Parthenon Marbles.

Eva Metis Koutoumanou

Turkey's representative, Zeynep Boz, proceeded to deconstruct one of the central arguments of the British for the stay of the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum at the 24th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee of Unesco on the Return of Cultural Property to Countries of Origin (ICPRCP), as she stated that "we are not aware of the existence of a document that legalizes the purchase".

Zeynep Boz, head of Turkey's anti-antiquities trafficking department, was referring to an Ottoman Empire document cited by the UK for Lord Elgin's purchase of the Parthenon Marbles in 1816.

"We are not aware of the existence of a document legitimising this purchase, which was made at the time by the UK colonialists, so I don't think there is room to discuss its legality even under the law of the time. We look forward wholeheartedly to celebrating the return of the Marbles, as we believe it will mark a change in behaviour towards the protection of cultural property and will be the strongest message given worldwide," said Zeynep Boz.

During the proceedings of the Synod, which took place from 29 to 30 May, Turkey took a clear position for the first time on the issue of legalizing the purchase of the Marbles from Britain in 1816 on the basis of an Ottoman document that Lord Elgin had or did not have.

Great Britain responded by reiterating its position that Elgin acted with the permission of the Ottoman authorities and according to a firman issued to him, from which an Italian translation survives, while London spoke of a second permit, regarding the transfer of the Parthenon Sculptures to England.

Greece is demanding the return of the Parthenon Sculptures and their permanent stay in Greece for the completion of the monument, especially since the Acropolis Museum was created in the late 2000s.