Thursday, April 22, 2004

THE CYRUS CYLINDER is being loaned to Tehran by the British Museum and the Mullahs are not happy about it. Anders Bell at Phluzein points to the following article (which is also run by the San Diego Union Tribune with a milder title):

Disgusting Mullahs of Iran At It Again (Persian Journal)


The British Museum's keeper of Near Eastern antiquities John Curtis said the museum planned to loan the cylinder after it was shown in Paris and Berlin but a date was not yet set. Iranian archaeologists hoped it would arrive in 2006.

When empire-building Persian monarch Cyrus the Great overwhelmed Babylon's army east of the river Tigris in 539 B.C. there was no victorious pillaging or torching of homes.

Instead he wrote his charter, the Cyrus cylinder, declaring that each man would be free to worship his own gods, no race would oppress another and no man would be enslaved.

In a move with sharp modern resonance, the conqueror also gave right of return to refugees.

Shahrokh Razmjou, a scholar at the National Museum of Iran working on a fresh translation of the cylinder, said the artefact kindled intense emotions among many Iranians.

"People feel strongly about it because it is about freedom and giving freedoms," he said. "People want to keep the connection to that golden period."

He said a joyous gasp had rippled around a crowded Tehran lecture theatre when British Museum Director Neil MacGregor announced to them that the cylinder would be loaned to Iran.


An editorial in the hardline Jomhuri-ye Eslami daily insisted the spiritual father of the modern nation, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, would not have approved of the loan.

"The late leader Ruhollah Khomeini believed monarchy was corrupt and the kings were traitors," the editorial read.

"So this move by the National Museum of Iran contradicts the political line of the founder of the Islamic system and is an attempt to revive the decayed bones of kings," it continued.


The description of the Cyrus Cylinder in the article is a little too enthusiastic. The Cylinder doesn't promise the freeing of all slaves; that idea never would have occurred to anyone in antiquity. (You can read a translation of the whole thing here.) Still, I can see why the Mullahs don't like it: no terrorizing the populace; no detaining foreigners against their will; bringing relief to dilapidated housing (one thinks of Bam); honoring all religions. Can't have all that, can we?

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