Saturday, March 15, 2008

"... Do not therefore grudge me this little earth that covers my body"*

In the big-media news, what attention given to the government of Iran focuses on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's posturing or on concerns of war. Much of the news seems colored by the media's distaste for our current President.

Many of the really news-worthy things happening inside Iran are barely acknowledged, if not completely ignored. There is the popular hatred of the Modesty Police (or the fact at all, that women are treated this way in Iran... ed.), or the student uprising against an Ahmadinejad appointed chancellor at Shiraz University.

Though I have heard of the following from a neighbor, who moved to the US from Iran many years ago (and is a naturalized citizen), how much have you heard in the news about the Mullah's war on non-muslim Iranian history?.

The Iranian government has tried to bulldoze Persepolis, a World Heritage Site. They were stopped only because brave Iranian citizens stopped the equipment by literally standing in the way. The proposed Sivand Dam would flood 130 known archaeological sites, and could flood both Persepolis and Pasargadae, an ancient capital of the Persian Empire, and site of the tomb of Cyrus the Great. The destruction of the tomb of a great historic figure would not bother the Iranian government in the least. In Kashan, the tomb of Firuzan (Abu-lolo) has been destroyed. Abu-lolo lived in the 7th century. The original date of the tomb is not known, but it is known that it was restored in the 14th century.

The Medo-Persian empires are arguably as important to Western Civilization as the Greeks. Without the Edict of Restoration by Cyrus, there would have been no return of the Hebrews to Jerusalem to build the Second Temple. Cyrus was one of the first rulers to create and enforce policies of religious tolerance. The survival of Jewish culture into Roman times assured the survival of the Mosaic Code, which is one of the cornerstones of the ideals Western law and justice.

Iranian scholars have filed complaints in the International Criminal Court charging the Iranian government with "crimes against humanity" for its treatment of these World Heritage Sites.

Much grist for the news-mills was made over the looting at the National Museum of Iraq, which, though very tragic, was greatly exaggerated by the press (one wonders if this was because it made the military and the Bush Administration look bad, ed.). Authorities, including the FBI, are still investigating, and those responsible will be held to account. It is believed that roughly a third of the objects (around 5000) taken from the Museum have been recovered.

The loss of 15,000 cultural objects (and subsequent return of 5000) is a matter of great importance to the civilized world. How much more so the systematic destruction of history on a scale that amounts to Cultural Genocide?

* the title is a translation of part of the epitaph of Cyrus the Great, as recorded by Plutarch and Strabo

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