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Tasoula Hadjitofi Speaks About Protecting Cultural Heritage at NYU

Tasoula Hadjitofi Speaks About Protecting Cultural Heritage at NYU

As the Middle East’s incredibly rich heritage continues to be systematically destroyed and plundered, Tasoula Hadjitofi, founder of Walk of Truth (WoT) was summoned to speak about ‘Protecting Cultural Heritage Against the Illicit Trade of Art Trafficking’ at New York University (NYU) in Washington DC on October 22. The event was organized in collaboration with NYU, the Goethe-Institut and the European National Institutes of Culture (ENIC).

Addressing a full house of students, academics and politicians, leaders in the field, Hadjitofi shared her journey from refugee to Founder of Walk of Truth, a non-governmental organization that raises awareness about the protection of cultural heritage, and Cultural Crime Watchers Worldwide (CCWW), an online platform for reporting crimes against cultural heritage. Passing on her thirty years of lessons learned in tracking and repatriating looted artifacts, Hadjitofi spoke of her desire to share the lessons learned from Cyprus, with the rest of the world. 

‘As we gather here in historic Washington, D.C. and acknowledge the cultural heritage of this city that symbolizes what freedom is to the world, millions of refugees are fleeing conflict zones in pursuit of a better future,’ she began, as she recalled losing her Famagusta home in 1974 along with her identity. ‘I was no longer called Tasoula Hadjitofi, but a refugee.’ 

Hadjitofi urged everyone to recognise looting and destruction of cultural heritage as a crime against humanity. ‘You do not only lose your home, but monuments, places of worship and historic sites. And, you are bound to see, as I did, antiquities looted from your country, sold in auction houses, or by art dealers.’

Alluding to the destruction of countless archaeological sites in Palmyra, Syria as well as Yemen- not by terrorists, but by well-organized armies, Hadjitofi called for better coordination of laws and law enforcement, seeking closer cooperation with the art trade. And this is where WoT comes in. 

‘WoT  believes that the battle to protect cultural heritage can only be won by engaging the help of global citizens, refugees and migrants, by giving them an opportunity to fight back as peaceful warriors using their knowledge of the monuments, art treasures and antiquities to report sightings of theft and destruction to CCWW’s anonymous hotline. Hadjitofi concluded by revealing WoT’s ambitious plans to combat illicit art trafficking by engaging the public.

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