Ahead of a new round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, officials at the United Nations’ Geneva office covered up a relief carving depicting a nude male figure, raising protest from one monitoring group that is accusing the U.N. of appeasing Iranian “intolerance.”
The goal in concealing the artwork with a large white screen was to avoid offending the Iranian delegation, according to the Swiss newspaper Tribune de Geneve, which first reported the story.
French news agency Agence France-Presse explained that the sculpture was created by artist Eric Gill, who was inspired by “Creation of Adam” from Michelangelo’s masterpiece fresco painting on the ceiling of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. The modern piece hangs over the entrance to the U.N.’s Council Chamber, where talks are set to take place Tuesday and Wednesday.
U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the United Nations, called concealing the art piece a “dangerous kowtowing to Iran’s fundamentalist regime.”
“This is a very dangerous and slippery slope,” U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said in a statement. “Today the U.N. is covering up the artistic heritage of its most famous building, Geneva’s historic Palais des Nations, to appease the intolerance of a fundamentalist regime that subjugates women, executes gays and persecutes Bahais; what will the U.N. hide tomorrow?”
U.N. Watch said it is calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to have the visual barrier removed.
“Will the U.N., in deference to Iran’s nuclear negotiators, cover up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose principles of religious freedom, political liberty and equality also offend the Iranian regime?” Neuer asked.
In Iran, men and women must adhere to Islamic dress codes, with women specifically required to cover their heads and dress modestly.
While the meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 is taking place at the U.N., Switzerland is the official host. Swiss officials told AFP the goal was to offer a neutral backdrop at the entrance to the meeting hall.
The P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.