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IRAN: Tehran cuts ties with Louvre in dispute over Persian artifacts

Picture 17 Iran has cut ties with the famous Louvre museum in Paris, an official said Monday, accusing the museum of failing to live up to an agreement to exhibit Persian artifacts in its possession in Iran.

"In the cultural field, we do not accept that European countries look down on us," Hamid Baghai, who heads Tehran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told reporters Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The officials at The Louvre have until the end of 1389 [the Iranian year ending March 2011] to precisely tell us when and what they are going to set up here," he added.

Sensitivities over the French role in the excavation and export of Persian cultural artifacts are nothing new.

Cyrus_Cylinder_2 Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, France was granted a series of exclusive excavation concessions over important historical sites such as Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. According to those contracts, as many as half the artifacts found went to the French and many ended up in European private collections or museums.

The dispute with the Louvre follows a similar controversy with the British Museum over the exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient clay cylinder with cuneiform script praising the lineage and deeds of Cyrus the Great.

The British Museum delayed lending the cylinder to the National Museum of Iran after the disputed 2009 presidential elections and the upheaval that followed, citing security concerns, but Iranian authorities accused the British of playing politics. The controversy was eventually resolved and the cylinder went on display in Iran from September 2010 to January 2011.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photos, from top: The Louvre in Paris is accused by Iranian authorities of failing to live up to an agreement to exhibit artifacts in Iran; the Cyrus Cylinder was at the center of an earlier dispute between Iran and the British Museum. Credits: David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons; Mike Peel via Wikimedia Commons.

Comments () | Archives (5)

If it wasn't for France and the French passion for the preservation of antiquities, many, if not most, of these objects d'art would never have been discovered, would have been desecrated by looters or destroyed by vandals. Furthermore, this Iranian government is in no position to lecture the world about integrity on any level.

For all countries in the world it will become important to have good relationships with the nation of Iran. In the near future Iran will become a key player in the Middle East and the World. Since they being a nation always emphazising peace and justice, Iran will be rewarded for holding on to moralty in this scrumbled world of fighting interests. The picture of Iran drawn by the western media is false and irrational.

Let's wait and see, because the world is undergoing big changes right now. And after the revolutionary movements in the Arab World the world won't be the same.

It's normal that a country with a so rich heritage as Iran, hopes an equal treatment from great museums around the world. Iran has several times lent pieces of his national museum to Louvre for interesting exhibitions. It is normal that Iran's museum wants the same thing back. Rubbish about mullahs destroying heritage lasts for more than three decades. The facts are there. Not a single portion of cultural heritage is damaged. Visit Iran and talk after.

Just as well that Iran's precious (most of it Zoroastrian) heritage is well-looked after in European and US museums. Imagine what would happen in the current Islamic dispensation of Iran. It isn't too far back that a mad mullah threatened to take a hammer to the Persepolis bas reliefs. Even the ceremonies that accompanied the exhibit of the Cyrus cylinder in Iran were a farcical attempt at Islamising the ambience -- with performers dressed in Arab gear! One only hopes the Cyrus cylinder goes back safe and sound to London.

The Cyrus Cylinder is an ancient Persian clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script
The Bible records that some Jews (who were exiled by the Babylonians), returned to their homeland from Babylon, where they had been settled by Nebuchadnezzar, to rebuild the temple following an edict from Cyrus. The Book of Ezra (1–4:5) provides a narrative account of the rebuilding project. Scholars have linked one particular passage from the Cylinder to the Old Testament account.


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