Dr. Khaled al-Asaad, a Syrian archaeologist and the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra was publicly beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015. This 2002 picture shows al-Asaad in front of a first century sarcophagus from Palmyra. Photograph: Marc Deville/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.
ISIS destruction and looting shocked the international community. A May 2015 raid against ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf in Syria uncovered evidence that ISIS was selling artifacts to buyers who would put them up for sale in international markets – essentially a fundraising device for their so-called “caliphate”.
Moved by the international outcry over ISIS destruction in Iraq and Syria, and with the Syrian state in disarray, the Congress in 2016 enacted emergency legislation to block the importation of illegally acquired Syrian antiquities to the United States. The State Department also began to take a serious interest in the relationship between terrorism and the destruction and trafficking of antiquities.