Wednesday, February 17, 2010

UK: Accord 'needed' to end row over Iranian Cyrus treasure


Perhaps the British Museum's misgivings are right. Not long ago the Iranian leadership were making noises about ridding the country of its pre-Islamic historical artefacts ~ in an effort to get people to focus only on the history which occurred after Islam's takeover.

The Iranian ayatollahs are planning on destroying the tomb as part of a general campaign to sever the Persian people from their non-Islamic heritage; Cyrus was thought to be a Zoroastrian and was one of the first rulers to enforce a policy of religious tolerance on his huge kingdom. [+]

The nuclear issue has to be weighing big on the custodians of the artefacts minds as well ~ for religious purposes Iran may be willing to commit some sort of nuclear suicide ~ knowing that they will be attacked if they attack Israel.



London, 17 Feb. (AKI) - An international row over an ancient Persian treasure highlights the urgent need for a global accord regulating cultural artefacts, an international expert has told Adnkronos International (AKI). Siavush Ranjbar-Daemi, a researcher and commentator on Iran at London University, suggested that the United Nations play a role in drafting the accord.

"UNESCO should step in and chart a global memorandum of agreement or treaty," Ranjbar-Daemi told AKI, referring to the United Nations Educational, Scientfic and Cultural Organisation.

"There is no international law regulating cultural artefacts."

Iran on 6 February announced it had cut its links with the British Museum and would ban British archaeologists from working in Iran.

The move was announced after the museum said it needed to keep a 2,500 year-old clay cylinder known as the Cyrus Cylinder for another six months due to unspecified "practicalities".

Hamid Baghaei, head of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, said the decision to keep the cylinder was unacceptable and politically motivated.

Baghaei has reportedly said his organisation would send a letter of complaint to UNESCO.

The museum's action came amid worsening diplomatic relations between Iran and the UK, which it has accused of fomenting the opposition protests that followed president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election last June.

"The low level of relations between the two countries have had a pretty heavy impact on cultural and academic institutions involved in Iran," said Ranjbar-Daemi.

A day after Iran's announcement, the museum released a statement strongly defending its action but declined to comment further on Tuesday.

"The British Museum has acted throughout in good faith, and values highly its hitherto good relations with Iran," it said in the 7 February statement.

"It is to be hoped that this matter can be resolved as soon as possible."

Ranjbar-Daemi suggested the British Museum was afraid that Iran may claim the artefact as a piece of its natural heritage and not return it to Britain.

"Iran is looking for a way of chastising the UK vis-a-vis public opinion and showing how it is acting in an imperious and patronising way regarding Iranian culture," said Ranjbar-Daemi.

The London academic holds dual Iranian and British citizenship and is completing a PhD on contemporary Iranian history at the University of London.

Ranjbar-Daemi is also a member of the British Institute of Persian Studies, one of the few remaining British institutions still operating in Tehran.

The British Museum has proposed holding an international workshop in London in June to study the new tablets, including scholars from Iran.

It also said it was willing to loan Tehran's National Museum the cylinder and the two new tablets in the second half of July.

"Iranians should be able to see the Cyrus Cylinder on display in their country. It's their heritage.

"But on the other hand, the British Museum is not breaking any law and the cylinder should be preserved," he stated.

By severing cultural ties with Britain over the cylinder, Ahmadinejad is tapping into a vein of nationalism and resentment over the fate of ancient artefacts seized by foreigners and now held in museums outside Iran, Ranjbar-Daemi said.

"Ahmadinejad and his team are trying to portray themselves as the guardians/custodians of Iran's political heritage and to acquire political kudos," he said.

The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered at an 1879 excavation at Babylon, Iraq. It contains inscriptions written in Babylonian cuneiform on the orders of Persian King Cyrus the Great after his conquest of Babylon in 539 BC.

The cylinder has been described as the first human rights charter, as it advocates the return of deported peoples to their homelands and freedom of expression throughout the Persian empire.

Iranians consider Cyrus the Great, one of ancient Persia's greatest historical figures, as the founding father of Persian civilisation.

Ranjbar-Daemi said he believed the row over the Cyrus Cylinder could act as a catalyst in "several hundred other similar disputes" around the world.

"It's not outlandish to think that Egypt could launch cultural cases against other countries, for example.

"There are more Egyptian artefacts than Iranian ones abroad," he noted.

Ranjbar-Daemi is a correspondent for Italy's Il Messaggero newspaper and reported for the daily from Tehran during last year's elections.

He told AKI it was now too dangerous for him travel to Iran, because of the number of recent arrests there.

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