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Chicago University Promises to Defend Iran's Right at Court

Following the US Federal Court's decision to auction the collection of Persian artifacts held at Chicago University's Oriental Institute, director of the Institute sent a letter to Iran condemning the court's ruling and promising to defend Iran's right at the court.

Tehran, 4 July 2006 (CHN) -- Recently, an American federal judge confirmed the previous verdict to confiscate the invaluable collection of Persian artifacts lent to Oriental Institute of Chicago University and put them on auction to compensate Israeli families who lost members at a bombing which took place in 1997. The decision shocked many people and roused feelings of anger not only among the Iranians who are seeing their ancient heritage at a real risk, but also among many other people worrying that by placing these ancient relics on auction, they will be lost forever.

In a letter sent by Prof. Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute and the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, to Esfandyar Rahim Mashayi, president of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), he strongly condemned the recent ruling against Iran and has promised to defense Iran's right to the ownership of these historical relics and returning them back to their homeland.

"Pointing out that these relics are being kept in trust at the Oriental Institute of University of Chicago in his letter, Gil Stein has confirmed that based on legal and cultural duties this university is responsible for redeeming these artifacts and returning them back to their homeland safely. Gil Stein expressed hope that the University of Chicago will be able to convince the federal court to abrogate the previous judgment," said Mohammad Reza Kargar, director of Iran's National Museum, to CHN.

Thousands of ancient clay tablets belonging to the Persian Empire containing information about the life and languages of the people during the Achaemenid era (648-330 BC) were discovered in Persepolis, Iran, in 1933 by archeologists of the Oriental Institute of Chicago University and were lent to this institute due to its request to carry out more studies on them. These clay tablets are 2500 years old, through which historians were able to find detailed information about the lifestyle of the people who lived in Ancient Persia centuries ago. 300 pieces of these tablets were returned to Iran two years ago upon mutual agreement between Iranian cultural heritage authorities and the Oriental Institute of Chicago University. Ignoring Iran's undisputed right over these invaluable artifacts, an American federal judge ordered to confiscate Iran's assets in the United States, including its ancient artifacts in Chicago University, and put them on auction to compensate Israeli families who lost members in a bomb explosion in Ben Yehuda Mall on Sept. 4, 1997 on the false grounds that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism!

"The issue of trust is an ethical matter in today's world especially in scientific and cultural aspects, which should not be violated at any price. Whenever cultural artifacts of a country are transferred to another country to be held in trust for any reason, ethically the host country will be in charge of protecting them and returning them back to their homeland safely, even if 70 years have passed," added Kargar.

In addition to the University of Chicago, Iranian government is also following the case through legal channels. "ICHTO will hire some professional lawyers to defend Iran's right. The President Office and Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also following the case through Iran's representatives at the United Nations and UNESCO. We are also making negotiations with directors of some well-known museums of the world such as Louvre Museum, whose director is in Iran these days," added Kargar.

... Payvand News - 7/5/06 ... --

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