NEWS » Ancient statues covered during Rome visit by Iran's President

Ancient statues covered during Rome visit by Iran's President

Polemics arose in Italy regarding the covering of ancient statues during the visit of the Iranian president in Rome. The Italian president, Matteo Renzi and the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani met at the Capitoline Museum for a joint press conference.

The meeting was part of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani state visit in Rome to discuss various international business deals, after economic sanctions against Iran were lifted. To welcome the Iranian president the nude statues on view in the museum had been encased in white boxes, reportedly to avoid offending the Iranian president. This initiative has been widely criticised by the press.

 

The Italian media speculated over who was responsible for the censorship of the artworks. Some blamed the Italian government officials for the cover-up while others insisted that it had been done on the request of the Iranian delegation.

 

Critics were raised over the compromising of Italy's secular values in exchange for lucrative contracts. Some commentators argued that those statues represent the foundation of European and Mediterranean culture and civilization. Commentator Michele Serra wrote in La Repubblica that to conceal the artworks “is to conceal ourselves," adding that in avoiding offence to Rouhani, “we offended ourselves."

 

This wasn't the first time statues have been covered in order not to offend Muslim diplomats in visit.

 

When the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, visited Mr Renzi in Florence, in October 2015, ‘Gazing Ball’, a statue by Jeff Koons was covered.

 

Things were different during the visit of Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani in France where the French insisted on serving local food and wine even if the Iranians demanded a halal menu, in keeping with their Muslim faith. Therefore the lunch was cancelled as Hollande's officials said preparing the meal to be 'Iran friendly' went against France's republican values.

 

The dramatic incident didn't compromise the business side of things. Hollande announced Iran made an agreement to buy 114 Airbus air-crafts, and also auto manufacturers Peugeot and Renault were near to closing contracts.

 

Iran today is the most attractive market in the world, it is a country of 75 million people of which two thirds are under 35 years old. It has a good industrial base and technical skills, and consumes are high. It is one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas, but compared to the countries of the Gulf, its economy is much more diversified and less dependent on hydrocarbons (in 2016 oil makes 20% of the budget; just a few years ago it was 70 percent).

 

The current Iran seeks investments. A gold mine for Italian companies, and many others. There is a queue in Iran to invest. For this reason it was important for Italy to be the first in line for the visit of President Rohani.

Giulia Lombardo

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