I came online to write this little entry about the planned closure of IsIAO when I saw this letter from Prof. Yarshater which says all that needs to be said.
IsIAO, the Italian academic entity that overseas the research on the Near East and North Africa done by various Italian experts, is facing closure based on a decree passed by the Italian cabinet, headed by a certain Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, whose political leanings are well known.
IsIAO has been the source of immeasurable support for Iranian Studies in Europe. Prof. Tucci (its former director) and Prof. Gherardo Gnoli (its current head) have taken giant steppes in advancing the study of Near East and North Africa. Prof. Gnoli is a world famous Iranologist whose works on Iranian languages and history are central to current debates going on within the field. Many other experts active within Iranian Studies fit under the umbrella of IsIAO. These are famous archaeologists, linguists, historians, and historians of religion who have been among the most active experts of Iranian Studies during the past few decades.
Italy has important centres for the study of Iranian culture and history, and the directorship of Societas Iranologica Europea, the umbrella group for all Iranian Studies in Europe was also in the hand of the Italians for several years. Italy and IsIAO have been instrumental in this field for many years.
The closure of IsIAO is a catastrophe, without a doubt. This, particularly coming under the leadership of Mr. Berlusconi and in a time when we most need the idea of understanding other cultures, is an added disaster. One may have understood (although not accepted) Mr. Berlusconi's anti-Islamic stance, but by passing a law which closes down one of the most prestigious centres for the study of Near East and North Africa, one that actually mostly concentrates on the pre-Islamic culture and history of this vast region, he is showing his contempt and dislike for anything non-European and in effect, takes us back hundreds of years into the era of colonialism and cultural exceptionalism.
Please, if you care the least bit about the Iranian Studies and even if you think you care about Iran at all, sign this petition and don't let this happen.
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