Turkey’s Ministry of Culture has started applying pressure to major museums to return what they say are looted antiquities from Ankara. They are refusing to lend artifacts to these U.S. and U.K. museums, pending repatriation of the Ankara artifacts.
The British Museum is feeling the heat, as Turkey has refused to send 35 artifacts for the major exhibition, “Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam.” They have imposed similar refusals on the Met in New York and on the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Turkey explains that when one enters the Met, the Roman sarcophagus on the left was smuggled out of Turkey at the end of the 19th century by a US official. They also cite to a Byzantine chalice used by Christ which was taken by the French.
Turkey’s claims are not premised on a legal basis; that is to say, they could not simply file a lawsuit to seek return of the objects, because too much time has passed. Instead, they are focusing on the moral correctness of former colonial powers retaining artifacts which they took by sheer force in earlier centuries.