Safeguarding Cyrus the Great Cylinder

To: UNESCO World Heritage, the British Government, the British Museum, International media, and all organizations and individuals concerned with preservation of humanity’s precious treasures

The British Museum is planning to lend the Islamic Republic some time in the near future, one of the most precious antiquities in the world, Cyrus the Great Cylinder. The Cyrus Cylinder has been hailed as the first charter of human rights. In 1971, in recognition of the unique nature of this artifact, the United Nations produced a translation of it in all the UN official languages.

A vast number of Iranians are deeply concerned about the fate of the Cyrus Cylinder, should it be loaned to the Islamists presently ruling Iran. The hostility of the clerical regime of Iran toward anything and everything Iranian that predates Islam is a well-documented fact. This priceless artifact belongs to Iran. Entrusting it to the hands of the sworn enemies of Iranian heritage entails an unacceptably high risk. It is imperative that the British authorities rescind the decision and take every measure to insure that the Cyrus Cylinder is preserved safely and returned to its rightful owner Iran only after the demise of the Islamic Republic.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is staffed by diehard elements that are determined to wipe out all traces of the pre-Islamic era. They aim to surpass the heinous act of Afghanistan’s Taliban who destroyed the irreplaceable two Buddha statues. What is enshrined in the Cyrus Cylinder is unconditional respect for the complete rights of all the people of the world, an anathema to the Islamists’ credo.

The current Islamic regime under the mullahs has shown, on numberless occasions, its contempt both in words and action for the memory of Cyrus, including flooding the plain which houses Cyrus’s tomb, destroying the archeological sites of Pasargad and Persepolis, and harassing and intimidating those who would gather at the tomb of enlightened king to commemorate the International Day of Cyrus the Great.

It is with great apprehension that the Iranian people warn Mr. Andrew Murray Burnham, the British Secretary of State for culture, as well as the British government regarding the plan to lend this precious treasure of humanity to a contemptuous cult of medieval mullahs.

Furthermore, it is urgent that UNESCO take the additional step of immediately registering Cyrus’s Charter of Human Rights Cylinder in its World Heritage Memory, in order to safeguard the diverse cultural heritage of the peoples of the world.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

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Iran Gives British Museum 2-Month Deadline Over Cyrus Cylinder

By Ali Sheikholeslami

Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) — Iran will stop all mutual cooperation with the British Museum unless an ancient artifact, the Cyrus Cylinder, is loaned to the National Museum of Iran within the next two months.

Hamid Baqaei, vice president in charge of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization set the deadline in an interview with the state-run Fars news agency.

“According to a deal between Iran’s National Museum and the British Museum, the ancient clay cylinder was scheduled to be lent to Iran in September but the director of the British Museum refused to do so, citing Iran’s post-election political state,” Baqaei said in the interview carried by the Web site of Fars today.

The Cylinder, dated about 539-530 B.C. and inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, has been described as the world’s earliest charter of human rights. The British Museum said Oct. 8 that it would keep its promise to lend the Cylinder, and was watching the Iranian political situation to make sure the loan was made in the best possible conditions.

Iran has asked the British Museum to explain what political problem stops the fulfillment of the agreement, Baqaei said.

“If the British Museum fails to send the Cyrus Cylinder in the next two months to be shown in Iran, we will cease any mutual activities with them, including archaeological cooperation and holding cultural heritage exhibitions in the U.K.,” Fars quoted Baqaei as saying.

Election Protest

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in June 12 elections, which his opponents said were rigged. Ahmadinejad has denied the allegations. Iranians have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest the outcome.

“We certainly have committed to lending the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, and it is fully our intention to do that,” said Hannah Boulton, head of press at the British Museum on Oct. 8. “We are currently monitoring the political situation in Iran, but we hope that we’ll be able to honor that commitment as soon as possible.”

“As ever with any kind of loan, we’d want to be assured that the situation in the country was suitable,” she said.

The British Museum promised to loan the Cylinder after its 2005-6 exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia,” according to Boulton. It was made clear at the time, she said, that the Cylinder would not be loaned until after the “Babylon: Myth and Reality” exhibition, which ended March 15. The British Museum also wanted the Cylinder shown temporarily in its new Iranian gallery, she said.

Discussions on the timing of the loan started “only comparatively recently,” Boulton said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Sheikholeslami in London at alis2@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: October 12, 2009 06:20 EDT

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