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Cyrus Cylinder not coming home: Iran cuts all ties with British Museum

Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

Iran has cut all relations and cooperation with the British Museum after the museum refused to lend the country the Cyrus Cylinder for a showcase. The decision to cut the ties was announced during a press conference on Saturday by Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization Director Hamid Baqaii, who is also a vice president.

Cyrus' Cylinder: Considered as History's First Declaration of Human Rights
in Ancient Times is today displayed at the British Museum.
British Museum, London

Iran had set a deadline of February 7 for the British Museum to fulfill its agreement on lending the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran for the exhibit.

Iran has been waiting to receive the Cyrus Cylinder on loan from the British Museum since 2005 after the National Museum of Iran loaned the British Museum a number of artifacts for the "Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia" show in London.

The cylinder was to be put on display in an exhibition at the National Museum of Iran on January 16, but officials at the British Museum said a week before the date that would be a delay in sending the artifact.

The British Museum said that the decision to postpone sending the artifact to Iran was made due to a recent discovery of two cuneiform tablets in BM's collection of Babylonian art, which contain passages with remarkable similarities to those found on the cylinder.

But Iran sees political reasons for the delay as it occurs in the wake of turmoil following Iran's disputed presidential election.

"The British Museum is not only a cultural place but also is a political center," Baqaii said.

"We intend to send letters to museum officials around the world, suggesting that they take a lesson from our experience. If they want to collaborate with the BM, they must receive the approval of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs beforehand in order to avoid any problems," he quipped.

"They are thirsty for cultural relations with Iran as a part of the great human civilization. This break in relations will hurt their cultural, research, and scientific complex," he said.

Considered the world's first declaration of human rights, the Cyrus Cylinder is a document issued by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the form of a clay cylinder inscribed in Akkadian cuneiform script.

The cylinder was created following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when Cyrus overthrew the Babylonian king Nabonidus and replaced him as ruler, ending the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The text of the cylinder denounces Nabonidus as impious and portrays the victorious Cyrus as pleasing to the chief Babylonian god Marduk.

It goes on to describe how Cyrus had improved the lives of the citizens of Babylonia, repatriated displaced peoples and restored temples and cult sanctuaries.

The cylinder was discovered in 1879 by the Assyro-British archaeologist Hormuz Rassam in the foundations of the Esagila, the main temple of Babylon. Today, it is kept in the British Museum in London.

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