Protecting cultural heritage in times of instability : Tunisia, a case study
Dalena, Anna Lucky
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The illicit trade in artefacts and antiquities has increased in the last years, not only affecting the historic memory but also the identity of the people. According to the studies on the subject, it appears clear that conflicts, war and political instability are all incentives for criminal and terrorist groups to expand their business and engage in looting activities, either with their own tools or involving the local population in search for some easy money. The recent events in the MENA region, indeed, represented a threat for the national heritage of countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, but also Tunisia and Egypt, even though it did not correspond to an increased attention of the international community on the issue. Moreover, the plans of the governments have never been very focused on the protection of their cultural heritage and it resulted in a vacuum in the domestic legislative framework. It is especially the case of Tunisia, where archaeology was seen as a symbol of the ancient French colonialism and, later on during the dictatorship of Ben Ali, as a treasure to be exploited as desired for personal use. Despite the new legislations adopted after the revolution in 2011 and an increased effort from the authorities to protect the national heritage, the results are not very satisfying and there is an obvious need to reform the system at national, regional and international level in order to guarantee an effective protection of the identity of such countries.