An Assyrian gypsum relief of a Winged Genius.Reign of Ashurnasirpal II, circa 883-859 BC.
An Assyrian gypsum relief of a Winged Genius.Reign of Ashurnasirpal II, circa 883-859 BC.

Assyrian sculpture claimed by Iraq sells for $31 million in New York



A 3000-year-old gypsum carving sold for almost $31 million (Dh114 billion) at Christie’s auction house in New York, shattering the existing record for Assyrian art, despite last-minute protests by the Iraqi government to halt the sale.

The carving of the “winged genius” was billed as the most exquisite piece of Assyrian art to reach the market in decades and formed the centrepiece of Christie’s antiquities sale with an estimate of $10-15m.

William Robinson, international head for world art, introduced the item by reassuring buyers of its provenance and its long history in the US.

“And so we come on to lot 101: The Assyrian relief of a ‘winged genius’ Akpallu excavated with permission of the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Sultan in the 1840s,” he said as he started the bidding at $7m.

Frantic bidding rapidly pushed it well beyond the previous record of $12m.

“Staying at the back of the room here in New York, at Christie’s...” said the auctioneer raising his gavel. “$27m 250,000… is sold.”

The final price brought gasps to the crowded auction room.

With commissions, that means the two-metre frieze sold to an anonymous bidder, standing at the back of the room, for almost $31m.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry had demanded the return of the rare sculpture just hours before the auction house sale, claiming it belonged to the country.

"The ministry conducted a report showing that the artefact belongs to Iraq and is under the protection of Iraqi Antiquities Law,” ministry spokesperson Ahmed Mahjoob said in a statement on Wednesday.

The seven-foot-high section of bas relief features a winged genie, a deity also known as an Apkallu, holding a bucket and a cone-shaped object. The mural once adorned the wall of of the Northwest Palace at Nimrud and was commissioned by King Ashurnasirpal II, who ruled ancient Assyria from 883 to 859 BC.

Baghdad's central government has objected to the sale, claiming that the object is a looted piece of the country's heritage. 
"Iraq's embassy in Washington is following the case with the New York prosecutor and the US government," Mr Mahjoob said.

Christie's said that the relief was acquired in Mosul in 1859 by an American missionary named Henri Byron Haskell from the English archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard, who led digs near Mosul in the mid-1800s.

Shortly before the sale began, the auction house released a statement defending its position and explaining that documentation showed it had been in Virginia since 1860 onwards.

“In addition, Christie’s proactively contacted law enforcement to review the information prior to publication of the lot,” said a spokeswoman. “Given the full provenance, history and 1860 entry of this work into the United States, the authorities confirmed the object’s documentation well meets all applicable laws governing its sale.”

The piece has been housed at the seminary for more than 150 years but is now being sold to underwrite a scholarship fund, Christie’s said.

But Iraq's Culture Ministry claims it was only taken from Nimrud during the 1970s.

___________________

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Mr Mahjoob said the ministry “is in constant touch with all sides to stop the sale of a vital Iraqi heritage".

Christie’s estimate values the gypsum carving of a god-like figure at as much as $15 million. That would set a world record for the sale of an Assyrian art work, which currently stands under $12 million.

The auction prompted Iraq's Culture Ministry to contact Interpol and Unesco, the United Nations cultural organisation, to stop the sale and repatriate the ancient artefact.

"We call on all Iraqi and international officials, civil society and the media to take a serious stand in pressuring the Americans in stopping this process, it is a continuation of the destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage," Culture Ministry spokesman Omran Ali told The National, adding that steps had been taken to prove that the artefact came from the ancient city of Nimrud.

Jabbar Jaafar, executive director of charity Voices for Iraq, led calls in the US for the sculpture to be returned. He said excavators in the mid-Nineteenth century should not have been allowed to remove the piece.

“There are rules and laws about this sort of thing that only apply after the nineteenth century so we knew there would be problems,” he said. “But we still think it is right to return it.”

The remains of Nimrud was one of Iraq's archaeological treasures, being submitted in 2000 to Unesco's tentative list, which is an inventory of heritage sites that countries intend to consider for nomination to World Heritage status.

ISIS looted and bulldozed the site in 2014.

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The National in Davos

We are bringing you the inside story from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, a gathering of hundreds of world leaders, top executives and billionaires.

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MATCH INFO

Quarter-finals

Saturday (all times UAE)

England v Australia, 11.15am 
New Zealand v Ireland, 2.15pm

Sunday

Wales v France, 11.15am
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Jumanji: The Next Level

Director: Jake Kasdan

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, Nick Jonas 

Two out of five stars 

The permutations for UAE going to the 2018 World Cup finals

To qualify automatically

UAE must beat Iraq.

Australia must lose in Japan and at home to Thailand, with their losing margins and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

To finish third and go into a play-off with the other third-placed AFC side for a chance to reach the inter-confederation play-off match

UAE must beat Iraq.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Fight Night

FIGHT NIGHT

Four title fights:

Amir Khan v Billy Dib - WBC International title
Hughie Fury v Samuel Peter - Heavyweight co-main event  
Dave Penalosa v Lerato Dlamini - WBC Silver title
Prince Patel v Michell Banquiz - IBO World title

Six undercard bouts:

Michael Hennessy Jr v Abdul Julaidan Fatah
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Lolito Sonsona v Isack Junior
Rodrigo Caraballo v Sajid Abid
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COMPANY PROFILE

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Funds raised so far: $10m
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UAE FIXTURES

October 18 – 7.30pm, UAE v Oman, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
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October 21 – 2.10pm, UAE v Hong Kong, Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
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October 24 – 10am, UAE v Nigeria, Abu Dhabi Cricket Oval 1
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October 29 – 2.10pm, Playoff 1 – A2 v B3; 7.30pm, Playoff 2 – A3 v B2, at Dubai International Stadium.
October 30 – 2.10pm, Playoff 3 – A4 v Loser of Play-off 1; 7.30pm, Playoff 4 – B4 v Loser of Play-off 2 at Dubai International Stadium

November 1 – 2.10pm, Semifinal 1 – B1 v Winner of Play-off 1; 7.30pm, Semifinal 2 – A1 v Winner of Play-off 2 at Dubai International Stadium
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5pm: Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 1,600m
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Wednesday's results

Finland 3-0 Armenia
Faroes Islands 1-0 Malta
Sweden 1-1 Spain
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Romania 1-1 Norway
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
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Israel 3-1 Latvia

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Sector: FinTech, micro finance

Initial investment: $1 million

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Investors: Self, family and friends

Attacks on Egypt’s long rooted Copts

Egypt’s Copts belong to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, with Mark the Evangelist credited with founding their church around 300 AD. Orthodox Christians account for the overwhelming majority of Christians in Egypt, with the rest mainly made up of Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans.

The community accounts for some 10 per cent of Egypt’s 100 million people, with the largest concentrations of Christians found in Cairo, Alexandria and the provinces of Minya and Assiut south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Christians have had a somewhat turbulent history in the Muslim majority Arab nation, with the community occasionally suffering outright persecution but generally living in peace with their Muslim compatriots. But radical Muslims who have first emerged in the 1970s have whipped up anti-Christian sentiments, something that has, in turn, led to an upsurge in attacks against their places of worship, church-linked facilities as well as their businesses and homes.

More recently, ISIS has vowed to go after the Christians, claiming responsibility for a series of attacks against churches packed with worshippers starting December 2016.

The discrimination many Christians complain about and the shift towards religious conservatism by many Egyptian Muslims over the last 50 years have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians to migrate, starting new lives in growing communities in places as far afield as Australia, Canada and the United States.

Here is a look at major attacks against Egypt's Coptic Christians in recent years:

November 2: Masked gunmen riding pickup trucks opened fire on three buses carrying pilgrims to the remote desert monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor south of Cairo, killing 7 and wounding about 20. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

May 26, 2017: Masked militants riding in three all-terrain cars open fire on a bus carrying pilgrims on their way to the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, killing 29 and wounding 22. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

April 2017: Twin attacks by suicide bombers hit churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 43 people are killed and scores of worshippers injured in the Palm Sunday attack, which narrowly missed a ceremony presided over by Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt Orthodox Copts, in Alexandria's St. Mark's Cathedral. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

February 2017: Hundreds of Egyptian Christians flee their homes in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, fearing attacks by ISIS. The group's North Sinai affiliate had killed at least seven Coptic Christians in the restive peninsula in less than a month.

December 2016: A bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo kills 30 people and wounds dozens during Sunday Mass in one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory. ISIS claimed responsibility.

July 2016: Pope Tawadros II says that since 2013 there were 37 sectarian attacks on Christians in Egypt, nearly one incident a month. A Muslim mob stabs to death a 27-year-old Coptic Christian man, Fam Khalaf, in the central city of Minya over a personal feud.

May 2016: A Muslim mob ransacks and torches seven Christian homes in Minya after rumours spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman. The elderly mother of the Christian man was stripped naked and dragged through a street by the mob.

New Year's Eve 2011: A bomb explodes in a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria as worshippers leave after a midnight mass, killing more than 20 people.

The biogs

Name: Zinah Madi

Occupation: Co-founder of Dots and links

Nationality: Syrian

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Favourite Quote: “There is only one way to succeed in anything, and that is to give it everything.”

 

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Nationality: Jordanian

Family: Married, Mother of Yahya, 3.5

Favourite Quote: A Chinese proverb that says: “Be not afraid of moving slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”

Results

Stage 2:
1. Soudal–Quick-Step - 18’11”
2. EF Education – EasyPost - 1"
3. Ineos Grenadiers - 3"
General classification:
1. Lucas Plapp (AUS) Ineos Grenadiers
2. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal–Quick-Step - ST
3. Nikias Arndt (GER) Bahrain Victorious - 3"

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi