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So much for Mr. Jones
Where does such deep antagonism toward the Persian Empire originate from?


September 16, 2005

Enjoying a peaceful last quarter of my life, it now takes a lot to make me angry. Having graduated from London University and familiar with the crafty ways of a few Brits, I should have known that if anyone could make my blood boil, it would be one of them!

I am referring to a shameless article by Jonathan Jones in The Guardian, The Evil Empire, dated September 8. Considering that half the world refers to the Brits that way, I wanted to know who had dared to insult a power that, despite its small country, continues to manipulate the world. Alas! I found the article to be not about the British Empire; rather it is Mr. Jones’ pitiful criticism of a new exhibit at the British Museum on Persian Empire enhanced by pieces of what remains of Persepolis.

And contrary to Mr. Jones’ attempts to pin this on current politics, the exhibit had been planned years ago and has little to do with the relationship between the two countries or any changes thereof. He refers to Persepolis as nothing but archaeology, and considers Persian art devoid of emotions. In short, he makes every contemptible effort to reduce the great names of Persian Empire to a bunch of pathetic gold diggers.

Where does such a deep antagonism originate from? For after reading Mr. Jones’ article, there’s no doubt in my mind he has a personal history, “A bone to pick” with Persians -- to paraphrase one of their own terms. He begins his slander by placing the Persian emperors alongside “Darth Vader, the Sheriff of Nottingham, General Custer, or any other evil empire.”

Not a clever move, Mr. Jones! I expected more diplomacy from a Brit. After all, I grew up with a grandmother who used to quote, “The Brits are so gentle at cutting your head off, you don’t feel it, until you sneeze and the thing falls off!” Not only does Mr. Jones’ article lack such skills, it is as if the author is relying too much on the expression, “The pen is mightier than the sword!”

Lucky for Persians, the world has not been waiting for any Smith or Jones to define history. Mr. Jones attempts to support his futile remarks with an artist’s imagination -- a mosaic found in Pompeii, portraying the great Persian king as a “frightened rabbit,” and concludes, “So much for Persia!”

He further tries to paint a grand picture of Alexander, as if to make him bigger than the Persians. History shows how the young Macedonian warrior bowed before Persian civilization, even wished to be like them, thus learning to speak the language and taking an Iranian wife. While half the world tries to belittle the Iranians, scholars around the world continue to educate us about the grandeur of ancient Persia and what remains the cradle of civilization.

Jones is not only angry at Persians, it sounds as if he doesn’t like the British Museum, either. Reading his article, I had a feeling he might find inner peace through sessions of counseling, indeed anger management. Is it not the same anger that has robbed the world peace? Unless one reads between the lines, similar articles, misleading words and men like Jones will do their best to divide, hoping to conquer.

At the conclusion of his article, he sounds appalled by all the glitter and gold in this exhibit. Has he ever viewed the British Crown Jewels? It is no secret that gold was the metal of choice to the ancient kings. What you see here, Mr. Jones, are only fragments of what used to be. The rest was confiscated by those who came to our country dressed in friendly clothes and it is all now the property of Western museums. I’d advise a trip around the world and a visit to other major museums to view some of them. However, considering your taste, I’m not sure that would be beneficial to your health.

I do like one phrase at the end of Jonathan Jones’ article and wish to borrow it in closing. Reporters come and reporters go, but when it comes to the last word, “History wins.”

* British Museum: Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia
* Video: Channel 4 report

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani is a retired dentist and a freelance writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e Gham" (see excerpt). Visit her site

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To Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani

* British Museum: Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia
* Video: Channel 4 report



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