July 16, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Zeynep Boz: "If the English have a firman, show it"


The head of the Turkish department for combating illicit trafficking in antiquities, archaeologist Zeynep Boz, who made a splash with her speech at UNESCO, talks about “Firmane” ElginItalian translation and Greece.

In fact, with these words she responds to the statement of the British Museum that “the firman of Sultan Selim III is in his hands.”

“We always express our support for Greece. What was important this year was that we confirmed that we do not have any firman like the one our British colleagues are referring to,” – Bose told Kathimerini a few days after her speech to the UNESCO intergovernmental committee.

Ms. Boz emphasizes that the “firman” was not found in the Ottoman archives, and when she heard during the committee discussions about the involvement of the Ottomans at that time, she considered it only natural to intervene.

“We are not aware of any document legalizing this purchase, which was then made by the colonialists of the United Kingdom, so I do not think there is room to discuss its legality even (…) according to the laws of the time. We look forward to celebrating the return of the sculptures , because we believe that this will serve as a signal for a change in attitude towards the protection of cultural property and will be the strongest signal that could be given throughout the world”she told UNESCO, as reported yesterday in a detailed report (4/6/2024).

Asked about the Italian translation of the firman provided to the British Museum to confirm the legality of Elgin's sale of the Parthenon sculptures to the British government in 1816, she says she would expect such a document to carry certain insignia. “Imagine if you wrote something like this today and 200 years later someone had to challenge its authenticity. I would expect there to be some stamps on the document.”she notes and calls on the British side to find “firman”if she has one. “If they have it, they should show it.”says Ms. Zeynep Boz, adding that she has been following this issue for 18 years.

The British Museum has responded with a firm stance on “partnership for the Parthenon” which will explore the possibility “innovative ways of working with our Greek friends”as well as a rather innovative formulation that he “recognizes Greece's strong desire to see the Parthenon sculptures returned to Athens.”

According to the newspaper, in response to Zeynep Boz's statement, a representative of the British Museum emphasized that Greece's claims are “This is an issue with a very long history and we understand and respect the strong feelings that this debate generates.” The British Museum cared for the Parthenon sculptures for more than two centuries.”adding in a more friendly tone that “Our deep investment in sculptures is something we share with our Greek partners. We hope this can be the basis for new relationships and realistic solutions that we are looking for.”

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Photo of the city of Melnik. In recent days, the Acropolis Museum has opened a temporary exhibition showing photocopies of a document allegedly issued to Lord Elgin, and two firmans of Lord Byron, the 200th anniversary of whose death is celebrated this year. A simple comparison of the documents shows that the so-called “firman” of Elgin has no relation to the official firman of the Sultan, the explanation notes.


The Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni, also commented on what happened at the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Return of Cultural Property, which held its 24th session on May 29-30 in Paris, and the UK took part in it for the first time. Answering a question from journalists, she noted that in the text of the adopted recommendations, the Intergovernmental Committee calls on the British and Greek sides to resolve the long-standing issue of sculptures.

“Greece is always open to dialogue” – Mendoni said. She also commented on statements made by the representative of Turkey regarding “the famous “firman” Elgin”as she called him. “I put it in quotation marks, – she emphasized, – because this is an argument from the British side which has been proven not to be genuine. There was never an Ottoman order that would have allowed Elgin to treat the Parthenon sculptures with the barbarity with which he treated them.” At the summit, the Turkish representative confirmed what the Greek side has been asserting for many years: that there is no “firman”.”

British Museum: “Elgin acted with the permission of the Ottoman Empire”

The British Museum is insisting on the provocative claim that Lord Elgin had permission to uproot the Parthenon sculptures, despite a mute denial from Ankara's representative on the UNESCO committee, who said no firm agreement existed. Speaking to the News, a British Museum spokesman said: “Lord Elgin acted with the permission of the then legal authorities in both Athens and London, who were fully aware of his actions. He obtained permission and, between 1801 and 1805, acting under the supervision of the appropriate authorities, removed from the ruins of the Parthenon about half remaining sculptures.”

In conclusion, a representative of the London Foundation stated that “The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum are legally owned by the trustees of the museum.”

Athens news back in 2019 published the findings of Turkish historians who reported that the so-called. The “Elgin Firman” is a gross forgery, since no record of the issuance of this document was registered in the Sultan's office.

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Thomas Bruce – 7th Lord Elgin, who in Greece is considered a thief and scoundrel who stole the country's national treasure.


For his part, Professor Orhan Sakin, an expert on Ottoman documents, said:“Without the permission of the Sultan, such a decision is not made by the Grand Vizier. Moreover, at this time the Grand Vizier Yusuf Zigya Pasha fought in Egypt with Napoleon. Then letter was handed over to the commander of the garrison Athena. The governor does not write letters in Italian. If you see the content, they know it's a firman. It can only be described as a letter, but letters in Italian are not written by Turkish civil servants within the country. This letter was translated by Rakhip Had, who was Elgin's secretary. All legal evidence of seizure “Elgin Marbles” based on this letter. And for such an act there must be a (firman) decree of the Sultan and, in extreme cases, his grand vizier”summed up Professor Orhan Sakin.

In 2016, based on an essay by the writer Vladimir Sidiropoulos, a short film was made “Tear of the Caryatid”which recounts the fate of the Caryatid statue stolen by Lord Elgin.



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