Iran threatens to keep artefact

September 17, 2010
LONDON: It was not an easy decision for the British Museum to lend one of its most treasured artefacts to a country with which Britain has a notoriously prickly relationship.

So curators in London are paying close attention to an Iranian threat not to return the famous Cyrus Cylinder – now embroiled in political intrigue in the Islamic republic.

The 6th century BC Babylonian object, sometimes described as the world’s first human rights charter, arrived in Iran at the weekend and is due to be displayed for four months at the national museum.

In a ceremony on Sunday the President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, draped a Palestinian-style keffiyeh scarf over the shoulders of a bowing actor dressed as the ancient Persian king Cyrus.

He also described Cyrus reverentially as ”king of the world” – a striking phrase in a country where pride in Iran’s pre-Islamic past, encouraged by the shah, has been downplayed since the 1979 revolution.

For Mr Ahmadinejad’s domestic enemies, this was another glaring example both of his self-promotion and a religious-nationalist agenda.

”Isn’t it correct that the Cyrus Cylinder belongs to Iran?” asked the conservative Keyhan newspaper. ”Isn’t it true that the British government stole this valuable and ancient object of ours? If the answer to these questions is positive, which it is, why should we return [it] … to the party which stole it?”

The correct answer, insists the British Museum, is the cylinder was not stolen but excavated in Babylon, Iraq, in 1879.

In recent times, relations strained to breaking point with the expulsion of British Council staff from Iran, the launch of the BBC Persian TV channel, and the violent aftermath of last summer’s disputed presidential election.

The cylinder is due back in London in January.

”There is no sense that this is anything other than a loan,” the museum said.

”This is part of our ongoing relationship with the national museum of Iran which both institutions value as a cultural dialogue independent of political difficulties.”

Critics point to the irony of the President’s celebration of the cylinder as ”a charter against injustice and oppression” as he oversees unprecedented human rights abuses.

Guardian News & Media

September 17th, 2010

Posted In: cultural heritage at risk, cultural security

Floods threaten Pakistan heritage sites

August 16, 2010

Pakistan’s devastating floods are now threatening ancient archeological sites, on top of leaving millions of people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, an antiquities official said on Monday.

Pakistan has been ravaged by nearly three weeks of monsoon rains. Flooding has affected one-fifth of the country and hit up to 20 million people, destroying crops, infrastructure, towns and villages.

Flood waters in the southern province of Sindh have inundated hundreds of villages and also threaten its cultural heritage.

“There is danger to the 5000-year-old Moenjodaro and Aamri archeological sites,” said Karim Lashari, chief of the provincial antiquities department.

Moenjodaro is on UNESCO’s list of the world heritage sites. Its website says the city was built of unbaked brick in the third millennium BC and provides evidence of an early system of town planning.

Aamri, in the Dadu district of Sindh, has been declared a Pakistani national heritage site.

“Aamri is exposed to greater danger because the river Indus flows along this ancient town. There is also a major canal and any overflow of water there would submerge this town,” he said.

“There is already pressure on its banks and danger is severe.”

Pakistan is facing its worst floods for 80 years. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday visited scenes of the devastation and urged the world to speed up relief efforts.

The United Nations has launched an aid appeal for $US460 million ($A515.0 million), but charities say the response has been sluggish.

August 19th, 2010

Posted In: cultural heritage at risk