By Uruk Shendaj

According to the Red List book published by the US Dept. of State, Baghdad in 2010, only one hundred eighteen Iraqi art works were featured out of nearly 1400 recovered ones. However, the number of the art works, which were viciously looted from the Iraqi pioneer and modern art museums, exceeds eight thousand pieces. Thus, one wonders how many more undocumented art works that were looted from other facilities such as: the Conference Palace (currently, the COR building/ the Iraqi Parliament), the Republic palace (Saddam’s residence and main office), al- Rasheed Hotel and the Ministry of culture offices and storage building.

- Amer and the Co-author of the (Red List) book; Ceramist, Salam Atta Sabri, director of the Iraqi (National Museum of Modern Art), going over Amer’s looted art works, Freedom Restaurant, Baghdad

One day in September 2010, I received a phone call from artist (ceramist) Salam Atta Sabri, director of the National Museum of Modern Art formally known as the Saddam Center for the Arts. He said:” I have good news. Two of your seven art works that were looted from the museum in 2003 were recovered”. He e-mailed me their images, and asked for a meeting with me and the co-author of the book “Red List”.

Although I was saddened by what happened to the Iraqi museums after the 2003 regime change and how the US and its allies have miserably failed to protect those priceless assets. As an artist, an art critic and the head of the Visual Arts section at (Funoon / Arts) magazine, I am quite aware that the looting did not start in 2003 as many media outlets believe and report. As a matter of fact, this disturbing trend has initially started under Saddam’s regime and it goes back to the early years of the sanction against Iraq by the UN in 1991.

Ancient Mesopotamian and religious historic treasures were sold for millions of dollars in the black market and to other countries, by Saddam's relatives who could not breathe without his instructions; it was simply a well-orchestrated operation by the high ranking Iraqi officials, interested foreign buyers and common thieves.

- Amer and the authors of the (Red List) book; Ceramist, Salam Atta Sabri, director of the Iraqi (National Museum of Modern Art) and Dr. Mehmed Ali US-DoS, Freedom Restaurant, Baghdad

I really had mixed feelings to know that two pieces of my seven looted art works were recovered by the Iraqi Modern Art Museum; however, there was no word about the other pieces. One of the two recovered pieces is a three-part art work whose middle part is still missing.
Unfortunately, I only have in my possession a bad quality image of one of the looted art works, and do not even have pictures of two of the missing art works. Sometimes, I say to myself, "let me repaint them using my sketches of the early eighties," but how could I do so when I know that I do not have the same passion artistic mood or even the atmosphere that initially inspired me to paint them! Those replicas will definitely just be copies that belong to somebody else despite the fact that I am the one who created their originals in the first place.

It is a devastating feeling when you are trying to betray your own self. My works were looted. This is a fact, and with losing my works, Iraq has lost part of its distinctive memory and its existence. However, Iraq will prevail because a civilization that is so deeply rooted in history, founded by my ancestors the Proto-Kaldi (5300BC), will not and cannot be diminished by any kind of plight, abroad or domestic, no matter how severe.

Amer Hanna Fatuhi’s Memoir … Revised and Edited by Uruk Shendaj, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
For more information about the recovered art works contact: