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Hark from the Past

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Can a text from ancient Persia break down mistrust between enemies?

Ian Black: The 2,600-year-old Cyrus Cylinder is embarking on a first US tour with a message of tolerance from Iran’s past

The Cyrus Cylinder. Photograph: British Museum

Thirty-plus years of mutual suspicion, demonization and hostility separate the United States from Iran, so it would be naive to hope for any sudden change — on the nuclear front or on any of the other thorny issues that divide Washington from Tehran. But an innovative exercise in cultural diplomacy might, just, make a small dent in the wall of prejudice.

Hopes rest on a rugby-ball sized object whose permanent home is in a glass case in the magnificent Iran gallery of the British Museum. It was there that a modest send-off ceremony was held the other day for the Cyrus Cylinder, heading off on a US tour to give American audiences a glimpse of an ancient civilization whose heritage is too often masked by contemporary clamour and aggression.

The cylinder, one of the most famous objects to have survived from the world of antiquity, is a clay tablet inscribed with Akkadian Cuneiform script. It was made shortly after the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great of Persia captured Babylon in 539BC and records how he allowed deported peoples to return to their homelands. In the words of the Iran Heritage Foundation:

“It tells how the god of Babylon – the conquered land – has chosen Cyrus to improve the lives of the Babylonians, and it talks about Cyrus’s efforts in repatriating displaced people and restoring temples across Mesopotamia, letting them worship the god of their choice, not the god of the conqueror. It tells the story of letting people living their lives even after their country was conquered, something that was not heard of at the time.”

Strikingly — given the hateful nature of current Middle Eastern politics — those peoples included the Jews, who went back to Palestine to rebuild their Temple. Enthusiastic European reactions to the discovery of the cylinder in the bible-reading days of 1879 were influenced in part by the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Ezra, which portray Cyrus as a liberator of the Jewish exiles.

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The Power of Google

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Google Map’s missing Gulf angers Iranians

The adjoining Gulf of Oman is still clearly marked on Google Maps

 

Iranians have been complaining that Google Maps now has no name on the body of water they call the Persian Gulf and is also known as the Arabian Gulf.

The issue has stirred controversy in recent years between Iranians and Arabs, who each say their name is the only one that should be used.

A Google representative told the BBC it did not name every place in the world.

He said the company also did not want to take any political stance in response to the angry Iranian reaction.

He was unable to provide an example of a similar case of a missing landmark.

‘No historical justification’

The fact that the blue space between Iran and Arab Gulf states is now nameless on Google Maps shows just how heated the issue has become.

Iranians say there is absolutely no historical justification for calling it anything but the Persian Gulf.

Spoof page showing result of search for "Arabian Gulf" Searching for “Arabian Gulf” on Google elicits a spoof message from Iranian internet users

But there has been increasing pressure from Arab sources to call it the Arabian Gulf – or at least to use both names.

Several years ago, Iranians launched an internet offensive after National Geographic did just that.

As a result, anyone searching for the Arabian Gulf on Google found a website saying it did not exist.

Still on Google Earth

A number of Iranians have posted on twitter a link to Google Maps with the question: “Where’s the Persian Gulf?”

They could look at Google Earth – another interactive world map provided by the internet giant.

It still appears there – as does the alternative, the Arabian Gulf.

Source: BBC News

Opinion:

I don’t care what they call it.

But I always remember it as the Persian Gulf.

The name should stay, because it in no way represents the Iran that Persia has become.

The fact that Iran and Iranians are quibbling over Google’s crude attempt at sitting on the fence is inconsequential. Had Iran still been called Persia, then there is an issue.

The Persian Empire

 

As you can see, Iran is nothing like the mighty Persian Empire. The Persian Gulf was named before Iran existed, and as you can see by the map, rightly so, it was in the middle of Persia.

When the Persian Gulf is brought to mind, I no more think of Iran than fly to the moon.

Iran – What about the people?

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Iran is a country that is constantly in the news, because it is in the ‘Bad Boys Club.’ There are suspicions that it is building a nuclear threat. Iran says not. Israel is fearfully afraid, and the USA is holding its frightened little hand. One or the other, or both are threatening war to prevent Iran achieving a nuclear capacity.

But given the past track record of Britain, the USA and much of the free world about WMD in neighbouring Iraq and the duplicity involved to attack Iraq only to find there were no weapons of mass destruction to be seen anywhere… Is this going to be the case again?

With all this war mongering and posturing going on, what about the people? Sure enough, we know they live in a heavily repressed Islamic regime. But do they like it?

Watch this video clip, I think it gives an insight into the country that the news doesn’t give.

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