The Islamic State makes money many ways: zakat donations, oil revenue…and fencing stolen antiquities…
In extensive conversations with those working and living in areas currently under ISIS control, we learned that ISIS is indeed involved in the illicit antiquities trade, but in a way that is more complex and insidious than we expected.
In general, ISIS permits local inhabitants to dig at these sites in exchange for a percentage of the monetary value of any finds.
The group’s rationale for this levy is the Islamic khums tax, according to which Muslims are required to pay a percentage of the value of any goods or treasure recovered from the ground. ISIS claims to be the legitimate recipient of such proceeds.