Monday, January 25, 2010

Cyrus Human Rights tablets: Moussavi should broker their return

Observer piece about fragments of clay tablets that complete an ancient clay tablet, humanity's first Bill of Rights, which was issued by Cyrus the Great (600-530 BCE).

Somehow, it is in possession of the British Museum, and Iran, in an unusually moderate claim, wants to "borrow" it back. The British Museum want more time to study the fragments which have just come to light.

There is a wonderfully clear issue of human rights here. Cyrus the Great had a relatively cool rule, a statesman who maximised liberty for many peoples and nations once he had beaten them into submission. Many if not most modern rulers could learn a lot from him. He permitted religious freedom, not least to the Jews.

So we have the tablets recording important human rights, and the Iranian regime, to whom "human rights" is a totally alien concept, want to have a "borrow" of them for an exhibition on Cyrus that they are planning.

We have leverage here.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is aware of the paradox of AhmediNajad hating human rights, but wanting the ancient totem of human rights.

The obvious way forward is for the FCO to open negotiations via Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leader of the opposition in Iran, so that he can be the conduit for the tablets, on the grounds that he understands the concept of human rights, better than either AhmadiNajad or the British Government. Moussavi could have them as a rightful return, not just a "loan back".

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