Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill. Italians became hysterical over their beloved nude statues being made politically correct in anticipation of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Rome starting on January 25, 2016. Some Italian bureaucrats had taken time to cover nude statues wherever the Iranian president would be meeting with Italian officials, as has been done in the past for other Muslim dignitaries. No one observing these events with any impartiality, could have have anticipated the over the top negative reaction from the Italian public.
It was simply reported by local news outlets that Italian officials had obstructed the viewing of the nude statues in deference to Iran’s President Rouhani, and his entourages’ stay, with the intent of being gracious hosts while avoiding any offense to their guests.
Immediately, the Italians began expressing their outrage via social media and other news outlets over their government compromising with the Iranian delegation, by covering up their beloved art treasures, and by supposedly capitulating to the backward attitudes of these foreign guests. Similar feelings were voiced by those U.S. folks who had been strongly opposed to the 2015 U.S./ Iran Nuclear agreement.
This visit by Iran represents what those who were vocally against this deal, feared most. Once this nuclear agreement became a fait accomplis, the European countries would take steps to implement business and diplomatic ties with Iran. Over time, as Iran became increasingly accepted by the west via diplomacy and trade with Europe, this would make any future consideration of western military action and sanctions against it, a virtual impossibility. I believe that it is this backdrop of the 2015 Iran Nuclear deal which fueled this antagonism by so many.
The following are examples of Italians” reactions shared on the 1/28/16 VOX write-up by Max Fisher, titled, “The Very Silly Controversy over Iran and Italy’s Nude Statutes:”
“This isn’t respect, it’s canceling out differences and it’s a kind of surrender,” Luca Squeri, a lawmaker with Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party, said. Another called it an “act of submission.” Italian newspapers ran furious headlines. A viral Italian cartoon suggested that Italy should’ve instead placed the white boxes over Rouhani’s head to spare him from seeing the statues.”
Then there were those from Iran who also expressed their anger over the covering up of the nude statutes as per the 1/27/16 Independent article, “Italy covers naked statues during Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani’s visit,” by Will Worley:“A narrative quickly took shape: Iran, arrogant and overconfident, fresh from its conquest of the Middle East, demanded that Italy cover up the art as a show of national submission. Italy, which like so much of the West is eager to prostrate itself before Iran that it should by any reasonable standard oppose, kowtowed without hesitation.”
“A statement issued by Iranian women’s rights campaign group My Stealthy Freedom called for female Italian politicians to speak out.”
“So Italy! You respect Islamic values but the Islamic Republic of Iran does not respect our values (or) our freedom of choice,” the statement said.”
“They force any non-Muslim women to cover ourselves in Iran. If you are just visiting Iran uncovered you will be deported from the airport or if you are an Iranian woman then you won’t have any education.”
“Twitter user Darius Arya criticized the decision, saying: “Iran’s visit brings Italy back to Counter-Reformation.”
Not to be outdone, Israeli officials weighed in on this discussion. “To cite an example, a 1/27/16 Jerusalem Post headline by Lahav Harcov, proposes a separate controversy over President Rouhani’s European trip, with this wording: ‘Knesset Speaker (Edelstein): Hypocritical of Italy, France to host Rouhani on Holocaust Memorial Day.”
“Italian civilization itself, if not all of Western civilization, had been brought crashing down by a man in a turban.”
A 1/27/16 CNN report, “Iran’s President visits Italy: Nude statues covered,” by Pietro Lombardi, details more about this story with the following commentary:
“An imposing equestrian statue of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius dominated the room where Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met on Monday.”
“But Rouhani could not admire some of the other masterpieces at Rome’s world-famous Capitoline Museums,which hosted the meeting.”
“The museum’s naked statues, including a centuries-old Venus, had been covered up in white panels — a decision that provoked some strong criticism in the country.”
“Plywood panels cover naked statues inside the Campidoglio, Capitol Hill, during a meeting between Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Rome.”
‘A spokesperson for the city of Rome, which manages the museum, said that plans for the meeting had been made by the Office of the Prime Minister. The Italian government has not commented on the matter.”
“The statues that were covered were in rooms adjacent to the room where Renzi and Rouhani made their joint statement Monday.”
“The decision infuriated many Italians, who took to social media and other news formats to express their views. They accused the government of betraying Italian history and culture for the sake of economic interests and to please the international guest.”
“Those crying foul over Italy’s cowardly surrender to Iran’s arrogant demands have overlooked one detail that is, arguably, quite significant: that no demands were ever made, and no surrender ever happened.”
“Rouhani said his government did not request the white boxes. He offered instead a diplomatically vague expression of gratitude. “I know that Italians are a very hospitable people, a people who try to do the most to put their guests at ease, and I thank you for this,” he said.”
“Italy’s culture minister also said neither he nor Renzi had asked for the statues to be covered.”
“But there’s a far bigger reason why it’s hard to take the outrage here seriously. In October, just three months earlier, a high-ranking United Arab Emirates government official ( Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan) traveled to Florence on an official visit. Renzi’s government covered up a nude statue at their meeting place. Outrage over that incident was minimal. It did not become a major international news story.”
“So, to be clear, the exact same thing happened two times within three months. The first incident involved an Emirati visitor, the second an Iranian visitor. Only the latter became such an enormous controversy. Which suggests that the real issue is not that the statues were covered, nor that they were covered in consideration for a visiting Muslim political leader, but rather that they were covered for Iran.”
“As Arash Karami of Al-Monitor put it, “When Italy covered nude statues for UAE prince hardly made news. When they did it for Iran it’s endless hot takes.”