Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Iran vs. British Museum: Who will be the Loser?

Kourosh Ziabari - Press TV: In early February 2010, the longstanding conflict between Iran and Britain, over a temporary exhibition of an ancient Persian artifact in Tehran, reached a conclusion that Iran had warned against: the severing of cultural ties with British Museum over the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder.

Cyrus Cylinder is a declaration of kingship, inscribed on the surface of a clay cylinder upon the decree of glorious Persian king, Cyrus the Great, who issued the manuscript following his conquest of Babylonia in 539 BC.

Cyrus Cylinder is a cuneiform tablet which was unearthed in the foundations of Esagila some 2500 years ago. Up on discovery, it was immediately transferred to the British Museum for preservation. The tablet contains scripts and statements which expressively sanctify the Babylonian god Marduk, denounce and condemn the overthrown king of Babylon, Nabonidus, and admire the righteousness and rectitude of the victorious ruler, Cyrus the Great.

The script of Cyrus Cylinder mainly talks about the importance of peaceful coexistence, equality between the human beings, religious freedom and the right of dispossessed people to return to their homelands. It also describes the endeavors of Cyrus the Great who took major steps and made significant efforts to act over the dominated people of Babylonia magnanimously. Therefore, Cyrus Cylinder is oftentimes described as the world's first charter of human rights.

After the British Museum held the exhibition of "Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia" in 2005, Iranian and Briton officials agreed to have the Cyrus Cylinder sent temporarily to Iran to be exhibited at The National Museum of Iran as one of the main displayed objects. In return, Iran agreed to assist the British Museum to hold an exhibition for the commemoration of Persian king, Shah Abbas, by lending the Museum a number of antique objects and documents on the historical background of Safavid dynasty in which Shah Abbas was one of its most powerful emperors.

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