In an Instagram post to commemorate prominent 13th century Persian poet Saadi, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Iran’s former envoy to the UN Mohammad Javad Zarif has narrated the story of an Iranian carpet, ornamented with one of the poet’s famous poems, adorning the wall of the United Nations headquarters.
According to a report by IFP, the full text of Zarif’s post reads as follows:
“The story of hanging the precious Iranian carpet adorned with Saadi’s most famous poem titled ‘Human Beings” on the UN’s wall is probably interesting to my friends.
Almost all of us have read it at school that this famous poem is written above the UN portal. In 1982, when I first travelled to the US and visited the United Nations headquarters, I searched every nook and cranny of the building but I could not find the poem. Later in 1988, when I was in Geneva [Switzerland] to take part in the negotiations on the UN’s Security Council Resolution 598, again, I failed to find the poem written anywhere in the European headquarters. I even asked some of my friends and more experienced people if they had seen the poem written anywhere in the buildings of the UN’s headquarters, but received a negative response.
In 2004, during the period (2002–2007) I served as Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, I was informed that Mohammad Seirafian, one of the most famous carpet traders of the central Iranian province of Isfahan, had a precious carpet, with a length and width of five metres, at the centre of which Saadi’s poem had been sewn with golden thread. He had voiced willingness to offer the carpet to the UN as a gift providing that they place or hang it up somewhere appropriate.
Given the dimensions of the carpet, it was difficult to find a suitable wall to hang it up on. There were only a few walls at the UN’s headquarters suitable for the purpose. One was the wall on which the big 6×4 carpet given to the UN as a gift by Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s prime minister during 1951-1953, was hung up and the other was that of the hall in which representatives held their talks. A Chinese carpet, nevertheless, was hung up on the latter.
Given the large number of the gifts presented to the UN and inadequate room for all of them, I, inevitably, had to enter into negotiations with the then UN Secretary-General [Kofi Annan] to convince him to hang up the carpet on a suitable wall as a symbol of the idea of Dialogue among Civilizations, put forward by the then Iranian president Mohammad Khatami. Interestingly, the year 2001 was named after Mr. Khatami’s idea at his proposal.
In my later follow-ups, I was faced with a proposal by the UN to hang up the carpet on the wall adorned by the carpet presented by Mosaddeq and replace it with his gift, but I turned down the offer.
A little bit later, I learned that they intended to detach the Chinese carpet from the wall and wash it. The surface of the wall on which the Chinese carpet was hung up, had enough room for two carpets. However, the Chinese one was hung up right at its canter. Nevertheless, with the assistance and thanks to the constant follow-ups of one my good colleagues at the representative office, we eventually managed to hang up the carpet ornamented with Saadi’s poem next to the Chinese one, as you can see in the photo.
In addition, we had Saadi’s poem translated beautifully into English and wrote it on a plate pinned on the wall next to the carpet so that viewers could both enjoy the beauty of the Iranian art and further know about the sublime, elevated and deep humanitarian concepts of the Iranian culture.
And finally Saadi’s poem found its way into the UN.”
The translation of the poem reads as follows:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.