A group of Iranian archaeologists have expressed concern over a bill in parliament that calls for measures to turn Iran into a regional hub for trading antiquities, fearing it will turn the country into a marketplace for illegal trade.
In a letter addressed to parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, 61 archaeology professors called on parliament to scrap the proposal, dubbed the "optimal utilization of ancient objects and treasures," warning it will pave the way for the misuse of historical artifacts and monuments by traffickers and looters.
They also said that the bill submitted this week by 46 lawmakers, had been drafted "without any consultation with official archaeological institutions."
"Not only does this plan not prevent the destruction of heritage and unprofessional excavations, it also legally authorizes looters to destroy our heritage," the professors warned in the letter, published by the semiofficial ISNA news agency.
They also accused the country's relevant bodies of failing to confront the issue of the trafficking of ancient artifacts.
"Laws are sufficient and effective. But they're not enforced in practice," the letter said.
"This is why we’re witnessing thousands of pages of treasure hunting and metal-detector advertisements in cyberspace without seeing any action by the cyberpolice."
Iranian media regularly report the arrests of individuals accused of smuggling artifacts out of the country.
In February, reports said a cargo of antique artifacts that traffickers were planning to smuggle out of the country through Turkey had been seized.
The spokesman of the Customs Administration said the cargo included nearly 570 items, including old coins and books.
He said the cargo was found in a truck loaded with secondhand furniture at the Bazargan border crossing in West Azerbaijan Province.