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British Museum & Iran in dispute over ancient artefact

More coverage of Iran’s threat’s to cease co-operation with the British Museu [1]m if the dispute over the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder is not resolved.

From:
Fars News Agency [2]

15:30 | 2009-10-08
Iran Warns British Museum over Cyrus Cylinder

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran announced that it would cease cooperation with the British Museum in London until it loans the Cyrus the Great Cylinder to the National Museum of Iran.

The clay cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus II, king of Persia (559-530 BC). The Cyrus Cylinder is described as the world’s first charter of human rights.

Iranian officials called on the British Museum to loan the country’s ancient cylinder, which was unearthed in 1879, in Esagila (the Murdak temple of Babylon), press tv reported.

“The British Museum implies the post-election political situation in Iran as its main excuse not to loan the cylinder to Iran’s National Museum,” said Hamid Baqaei, vice president in charge of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO).

“If the British Museum continues to make excuses for not loaning the artifact to the National Museum, we will, unfortunately, cease any cooperation with them, including archaeological expeditions and research,” he added.

From:
Bloomberg [3]

Iran May Cut Ties With British Museum Over Loan, Press TV Says
By Farah Nayeri

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) — Iran will sever all ties with the British Museum unless an ancient artifact, the Cyrus Cylinder, is loaned to the National Museum of Iran, state-run Press TV reported on its Web site.

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 after the Press TV report 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.

“If the British Museum continues to make excuses for not loaning the artifact to the National Museum, we will, unfortunately, cease any cooperation with them, including archaeological expeditions and research,” Press TV quoted Hamid Baqaei, vice president in charge of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, as saying.

Baqaei said the London museum was using “the post-election political situation in Iran as its main excuse” not to loan, Press TV reported.

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. “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.”

Loan Assurances

“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 writer on this story: Farah Nayeri in London.

From:
Guardian [4]

Museum’s refusal to lend Persian artefact strains UK relations with Iran
British Museum wary of lending 2,500-year-old Cyrus cylinder because of unrest since disputed election
Matthew Weaver
Friday 9 October 2009 13.12 BST

Britain’s troubled relations with Iran have become further strained by a row about an ancient Persian artefact described as the world’s first charter of human rights.

The British Museum is refusing to honour an agreement to lend the Cyrus cylinder to Iran because of the political turmoil that has gripped the country since the violently disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June.

The Iranian authorities have responded by threatening to sever links with the British Museum if it delays lending the 2,500-year-old cylinder, which was ordered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great to enshrine religious toleration.

Persian scholars claim the museum is right to be wary of lending the cylinder because of attempts by antisemitic historians in Iran to attack Cyrus’s reputation as the father of the Iranian nation.

On a visit to Tehran’s Museum of Iran this week, Hamid Baqaie, vice president of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation, said: “The British Museum implies the post-election political situation in Iran as its main excuse not to loan the cylinder to Iran’s National Museum.”

He added: “If the British Museum continues to make excuses for not loaning the artefact to the National Museum, we will, unfortunately, cease any co-operation with them, including archaeological expeditions and research.”

The director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, agreed to lend the 23cm-long (9in) clay cylinder in return for several Iranian treasures. Those pieces were the focus of a critically acclaimed exhibition about the era of Shah Abbas that sought to break down the perception of Iran as a hostile nation.

The cylinder was made around 530BC on the orders of Cyrus the Great after he invaded Babylon and freed its people from tyranny. It is known as the first charter of human rights as its cuneiform lettering decrees that everyone should be free to practise their own culture and religion. Iran’s sizeable Jewish population trace their presence in Iran to this moment.

Hannah Boulton, head of press and public relations at British Museum, tried to play down the row. “When lending any material you have to check that is an appropriate moment,” she said.

“We are committed to lending the Cyrus cylinder to Iran. We hope to be able to honour that commitment, we can’t say when that will be. At the moment we are monitoring the situation in Iran.”

She said that Baqaie’s threat to sever relations had not been made directly to the British Museum. “We have very strong relationships with colleagues in Iran and we hope that these will long continue.”

Shapour Suren-Pahlav, programme director of the London-based Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, applauded the museum’s caution.

“The current regime in Iran is hostile to pre-Islamic Iran,” he said. “The destruction of ancient sites has increased dramatically under Ahmadinejad, so I’m suspicious about why they want to borrow the cylinder. I suspect they might want to destroy it ‑ they don’t like the current popularity of Cyrus. If the cylinder was lent to Iran, who could guarantee its safety?”