Turkey is playing hardball to gain the return of antiquities now in Europe or the United States that were taken from Anatolia generations ago. I liked this in particular:
Thievery and looting are wrong, Turkey says, no matter when they occurred. “Artifacts, just like people, animals or plants, have souls and historical memories,” said Turkey’s culture minister, Ertugrul Gunay. “When they are repatriated to their countries, the balance of nature will be restored.”
As James Taranto so often puts it in his Twitter feed: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!! The idea that the heirs of some of history’s greatest looters are expressing moral indignation at outsiders’ efforts to preserve the remnants of civilizations the Turks did their best to extirpate requires some word beyond “chutzpah.”
And this is in addition to the practical concern that priceless antiquities allowed to remain in the Middle East, especially under Islamist regimes like that of Turkey, are in constant danger of destruction, as we saw with the Buddhas in Bamiyan, the ancient monuments of Timbuktu, the looting of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, or, now, the calls for completing the centuries-old Islamic dream of destroying the Pyramids.
Look, it’s not like the Turks have to return to Central Asia whence they came, but their demands for return of antiquities would be less laughable if they first returned Hagia Sophia to the Church. The directors of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Berlin’s Pergamon, and others should tell Turkey that they’ll entertain its requests when the cross is restored to the dome of a rechristened Church of the Holy Wisdom, and priests daily celebrate the liturgy on the restored altar.