King Cyrus (ca 580-529 BC) is revered in Iran. He is the father of the nation; the founder of the Persian Empire; the liberator of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. And he is the ruler who gave the world its first charter of human rights. This can still be read on a clay cylinder, which is usually kept in the British Museum, but was loaned to Iran initially for a four-month period. But the demand to see the cylinder was so great that the exhibition had to ask for an extension of another three months, which has just ended. Hundreds of thousands filed past the small 2,500 year old artefact. It seemed to unite all, with President Ahmadinejad leading the praises for Cyrus. And all Iranians feel uncomfortable that they had to borrow the cylinder from the British Museum – and give them back. But not far beneath the surface the cylinder opens up a familiar fault line. The Islamic Republic rests on a wholesale rejection of the monarchy, believing only Islam, as interpreted by the Supreme Leader, can deliver the perfect government. Yet the admired cylinder comes from a king who pre-dates Islam by about a thousand years. A non-Muslim king giving Iran human rights is at odds with the concept that all legislation must be grounded in the sacred texts of Islam. This question is still very relevant in Iran. The 2009 demonstrations showed that many are not comfortable with their government’s respect for human rights. And there are many senior voices in the political establishment who want to see the judiciary submitted to, well, something like a charter of human rights, that all judges must respect.
• All those engaged in the judiciary
• Submission to present UN charter of human rights
• Wisdom for those campaigning for human rights