Ethiopia receives stolen 18th Century crown hidden in a Dutch flat for 21 years

Mohammed Awal Feb 20, 2020 at 08:00am

February 20, 2020 at 08:00 am | News

Mohammed Awal

Mohammed Awal

February 20, 2020 at 08:00 am | News

A stolen ceremonial crown is handed over to Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali in front of Dutch politician Sigrid Kaag and Sirak Asfaw. February 20, 2020Office of the Prime Minister of EthiopiaTwitter

Ethiopia has finally received the 18th Century crown stolen and taken to the Netherlands.

The crown which is thought to be one of just 20 in existence had been hidden in a Dutch flat for 21 years until its discovery.

With depictions of Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit, as well as Jesus’ disciples, BBC reports the crown was likely gifted to a church by the powerful warlord Welde Sellase hundreds of years ago.

On Thursday, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted photos of him receiving the crown from a delegation that included Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Sigrid Kaag.

Hidden for 21 years in a Dutch flat, the 18th Century Ethiopian crown was stolen from the East African country dubbed the horn of Africa, which is a rugged, landlocked country split by the Great Valley in the late 90s.

Sirak Asfaw, an Ethiopian who fled to the Netherlands in the late 1970s, reportedly discovered the crown in the suitcase of a fellow Ethiopian on a visit.

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Image: The Office of Ethiopian Prime Minister via Twitter

He realized there and then, that the crown was stolen, an act he greatly abhors. He then confronted his visitor, insisting the crown was not moving an inch unless it is sent back to where it belongs.

Sirak protected it for 21 years until he felt it was time to return the crown.

“Most people don’t really care about this cultural heritage,” he told the BBC. “I’m loyal to Ethiopia.”

“Finally it is the right time to bring back the crown to its owners – and the owners of the crown are all Ethiopians,” the management consultant said.

Sirak said for years, he had been scared unending that the Dutch government could confiscate the artifact.

“You end up in such a suffocating situation, not knowing who to tell or what to do, or to hand over,” he said. “And of course, afraid that the Dutch government might confiscate it,” Sirak told BBC.

“I had fire alarms all over my house, eight or something like that. Really scared!”

With the election of Abiy, Sirak felt the time to return the ancient piece home is now.

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Image: The Office of Ethiopian Prime Minister via Twitter

He contacted Arthur Brand, known as the “Indiana Jones of the art world”, for help returning it home.

“I explained to him, look, either the crown will disappear or you [will], if you continue like this,” Brand said of his discussion with Sirak on how to get the piece back to Ethiopia in a BBC interview.

“I said if the people who were involved at the time got knowledge of it, the risk was that they would come back and would take the crown from him.”

He then sought the consent of the Dutch police, which was granted, and subsequently kept the artifact in a secured location.

“It’s an amazing piece. It’s very big, I feel pity for the people who had to wear it on their heads because when you wear this for a couple of hours your neck hurts,” he said.

“I want this crown to be a symbol of unity and togetherness,” Sirak said. “The crown will be celebrated by all of us Ethiopians, even Africans.”

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