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No More Illegal Excavation in Jiroft


Friday, 11 February 2005


LONDON, (CAIS) - Three years after the first looters put their feet on the treasure land of Jiroft, Iranian officials talk of finally knocking them down.

The story of the illegal excavations of Jiroft goes back to April 2001 when a villager found an ancient relic while passing by the Halilrood River. Following his discovery, looters rushed to the area, working day and night with their shovels and picks and keeping a guard with weapons.

Thousands of the invaluable heritage of the historical site were unearthed and sent to major auction houses of Europe and the United States, bringing the area to a worldwide fame. And it was just then that the Iranian officials got to their feet to do something to protect the land today called "the lost heaven of archeologists", and today after some three years, it is said that illegal diggings and lootings of Jiroft relics have come to a definite end.

In April 2001, when the first relic was discovered, Matout Abad village had seen two hard years of draught and unproductive agriculture to itself, leading the villagers to poverty and unemployment. And it was the accidentally found treasure that brought them some hope and led them and villagers from nearby areas to the Halilrood riverside... And the diggings and lootings continued day after day, month after month, for three consecutive years.

Jiroft which until then lived anonymously in the middle of desert, suddenly became a hub for the business of ancient artifacts, filling the trucks with cultural heritage rather than drugs, transited to the other side of the borders to find a place in great auction houses of the world.

Thousands and thousands of items were looted out of Jiroft and the area became a worldwide celebrity of archeological sphere, until finally the Iranian officials stood up to put an end to it all.

Head of the cultural heritage guards of the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), Rahmatollah Raouf, told CHN that today with the establishment of eight guard bases and employment of some 160 equipped and armed forces in the area, everything is under control. Also Colonel Asghar Amiri, the Head of Jiroft Police, claimed for past three months no case of illegal diggings have been reported.

During the last three years, more than 300 people were caught for illegal excavation and looting in Jiroft historical site, yet lack of serious legal punishments was another aspect in favor of the looters and traffickers.

But today conditions have changed and strict laws are enforced to protect a land rich with remains of an ancient civilization. Sentencing two of the leaders of the trafficking gangs to death by the Islamic Court of Jiroft has been one of such steps to preserve the area and its heritage.

The Interior Ministry has also joined in to identify the major traffickers in the area, leading to the identification of more than 10 major smuggling gangs and the arresting of 12 of their leaders.

To backup the fight against the looters, the Iranian officials are also cooperating with the Interpol and the Iranian embassies in other countries to stop the international traffickers and to make sure that the artifacts succeeded to get out of the country are not put on sale in auction houses and are returned to their homeland.

Experts believe that such actions, although effective, can not continue forever, and what really counts is to educate the local people of the area so that they become aware of the importance of the heritage and the need to preserve it.

"The employment of police guards may be of importance in the short run, but the local people should be educated so that in the long run the sites could be protected by the people themselves," Head of the archeology teams of Jiroft, Yusef Majidzadeh, told CHN.

Despite all the steps taken by the officials and their reports that the illegal activities in Jiroft have come to an end, there is talk among locals that illegal diggings are still going on.

"The area is too vast to be controlled. People still dig the land and wherever they dig, they found something; yet, since the sites are now being under control, the artifacts are put in a safe place to be sold in better times," one of the Jiroft residents said.





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