Washington DC – The struggle to protect the Persepolis tablets continues. For three and a half years, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has been the vanguard Iranian-American organization in the struggle to save the Persepolis Collection from forever disappearing into the hands of unknown bidders. As a record of one of history’s great empires, the tablets are not only part of Iran’s rich heritage but belong to all people regardless of their cultural background. Unfortunately, an ongoing lawsuit brought by victims of a Hamas bombing threatens to dismantle the Collection and sell the pieces.
The Iranian-American community must work together to ensure that an irreplaceable part of everyone’s cultural history is protected. Last week, several Iranian-American organizations came together to shed light on this issue and inform our community of the efforts that have been made so far.
The court case over the Persepolis Collection is the latest chapter in an ongoing lawsuit, first filed in 2000, that seeks to collect on a judgment against the Iranian government for its role in supporting a Hamas bombing in Jerusalem in the 1980’s. While the plaintiffs won the original suit, it has so far been impossible for them to collect the $400 million dollars awarded in damages. Having found a loophole in a law recently passed by Congress, lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking to seize and sell the artifacts that make up the Persepolis Collection.
While we support the bombing victims endless pursuit of justice, targeting and potentially destroying the cultural heritage of the Iranian-American community does not bring justice to anyone.
NIAC has been, and continues to be, a tireless champion for the protection of the Persepolis Collection. Over the past three years, we have worked with our partners to keep these priceless artifacts off the auction block. Toward that goal, we’ve put in place a three-pronged strategy: (1) supporting the legal effort to protect these important pieces of world heritage; (2) spreading awareness through major media platforms; and (3) marshalling support from policymakers to intervene.
What NIAC is Doing About It
Standing up for our Heritage in Court
In early 2008, NIAC retained the law firm of Mayer Brown, a top firm in the United States, Asia and Europe, to prepare an amicus curiae to give the Iranian-American community an avenue to make their concerns heard about the lawsuit. NIAC’s amicus brief highlights the cultural importance of the artifacts, and argues that an important aspect of U.S. policy is the promotion of “cultural exchange among nations.” The amicus ensures that no judge will make a decision about this case without taking into consideration the views and concerns of the Iranian-American community.
Spreading the News: It’s Your Heritage Too
As a direct result of NIAC’s ongoing media campaign, major news outlets are now providing serious coverage of the case, and public support for the preservation of the tablets is growing. NIAC has published numerous articles, blog posts, and op-eds on the subject, in addition to our work with major news outlets to bring attention to the dangers facing the artifacts – as well as our side of the story, that is, how the court case affects ordinary Iranian Americans. The more accurate media attention given to this case, the more public support there will be for saving these artifacts. NIAC is working aggressively to ensure that the American public supports this important cause. After all, if these tablets are lost, it will not just be the Iranian-American community that is hurt–the whole world will suffer the loss.
Finding a Solution: Make Government Work for Us
A legal loophole caused this problem, so legislation can ultimately fix it. That is why NIAC is working closely with members of Congress to pass legislation that will close the loophole that put these tablets in jeopardy in the first place. Through our partnership with many of the top universities and museums in the United States, NIAC is promoting a bill that will put a stop to the seizure of the Persepolis artifacts.
Last summer, NIAC and its allies came very close to passing such a bill. The Senate was considering an amendment that would put a stop to the pending lawsuit and declare cultural property as protected items that cannot be auctioned off. With our backing, this amendment gained the support of the State Department, the Chairmen of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, and all but one of the relevant Senators. Even the lone holdout shares our goal of protecting these artifacts. Now it’s our job to keep pressing the issue, and to push this bill across the finish line.
Where you come in…
Iranian Americans are united – we all agree that the Persepolis Collection must be protected. Our work is ongoing, and Iranian Americans can make a difference.
NIAC is once again calling on the American public–and Iranian Americans in particular–to join us in our campaign to save these priceless artifacts. The Persepolis Collection should be housed in institutions that can study it and protect it for future generations to appreciate, to learn from, and to enjoy.
What you can do to help
There are three easy, but important, steps you can take to help protect the Persepolis Collection:
1. Meet with your Congressperson and Senators and tell them you want Congress to protect your cultural heritage. Contact Michelle Moghtader, NIAC’s Director of Community Outreach, to set up the meeting.
2. Help NIAC continue its legal and policy efforts to protect the Persepolis Collection by making a donation to our organization. The NIAC staff is committed to saving our heritage, but we need your help to ensure that we can take advantage of every advantage.
3. Since 2002, the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project has worked to protect and study these important pieces of Persian history. Making a donation of any amount would help the Project employees continue their important work.