Two tiles, one from a collection of 223 traditional Iznik tiles stolen from a Turkish mosque almost two decades ago, turned up in the Netherlands. Turkish authorities intercepted an auction in the European country where they were to be sold and ensured their return.
Ulu Mosque in the southern province of Adana was the scene of a large-scale theft 19 years ago, when the tiles “disappeared” during the restoration of the historic mosque. The tiles, dating back to the 16th century, appeared in the catalog of Oriental Art Auctions House in the Netherlands, for its “Islamic Art Auction” on June 4, 2020. Experts from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, who hunt down artifacts stolen and smuggled from Turkey, examined the tiles as well as a tile panel up for auction. It was determined that the tiles belonged to the Adana mosque and that the panel originated from the central province of Konya, stemming from the era of the Anatolian Seljuks. Turkish authorities contacted Interpol and the auction house, sharing with them their evidence that the tiles were illegally smuggled from Turkey. After lengthy negotiations, Turkey managed to retrieve the tiles which were delivered by the auction house to the Turkish Embassy in The Hague. The tiles were brought to Etnografya Museum in the capital Ankara.
In March, Turkey prevented the sale of another set of tiles stolen from the mosque at Sotheby’s auction house in London. Authorities launched legal action for their return.
In 2009, police managed to retrieve 67 tiles in a raid in Istanbul, seven years after the crime took place. Authorities have applied to Interpol to find the other tiles suspected of having been smuggled abroad.
One of the missing tiles showed up at another auction in London at Christie’s auction house but Turkey managed to stop the sale in 2011.
Turkey, which pursues a global hunt for artifacts stolen or smuggled from Anatolia, the cradle of a diverse array of civilizations, managed to bring thousands of artifacts back home in recent years.
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