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Railway Endangers Naqsh-e Rostam, and Places Persepolis in Danger List


14 November 2006




LONDON, (Edited by Shapour Suren-Pahlav - CAIS) -- While cultural heritage enthusiasts both inside and outside Iran have not yet recovered from the shock caused by the construction of Sivand Dam by Islamic Republic in Bolaghi Valley, which is to destroy more than 130 historical sites and large numbers of archeological evidence, the news about construction of a railway near Naqsh-e Rostam and Persepolis, also in Fars province, has raised yet another concern.


Once again Islamic regime's so-called development project has jeopardized a historic site: This time the victim is the Achaemenid palace of Persepolis, the most important cultural heritage site of Iran. Already inscribed in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, Persepolis would face exclusion from the list and would be placed in the Organization’s Endangered World Heritage list should the railway project comes into force. On the other hand, the project would highly reduce the chance for world registration of another historic evidence in the area, namely the Naqsh-e Rostam.


The news evoked panic among the Iranian nation and cultural heritage experts who warned that construction of a railway near Naqsh-e Rostam will create serious problems for this historic site as well as Persepolis.


Since Persepolis is already registered in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, regulations concerning cultural landscapes of historic sites ratified by UNESCO and World Heritage Committee in the recent years will come into play if Iran continues its railway construction project near this ancient site.‌ On the other hand, Iran’s attempt in registering Naqsh-e Rostam in the list of UNESCO would turn out ineffective if the railway is constructed in this area.


“Based on a comprehensive program initiated by Parse-Pasargadae Research Center, the files of three other historical sites located in the cultural landscape of Persepolis including Naqsh-e Rostam, Naqsh-e Rajab, and Sassanid city of Estakhr have been compiled and are almost ready to be submitted to UNESCO for world registration. However, the construction of the railway in the vicinity of Naqsh-e Rostam will ruin the chance of this historical site for being inscribed in the List,” said Maziar Kazemi, director of Persepolis complex.


In order to install the train tracks, workers have made an embankment of soil rising 5 meters above the ground at the distance of 300 meters from Naqsh-e Rostam. This has vulgarized the cultural landscape of this historical site. On the other hand, passing of the train near this historic site will have a destructive effect on Naqsh-e Rostam over time.


Despite previous agreements between Iran’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization and the country’s Ministry of Transportation, construction of this railway started without any coordination with ICHTO.


Although Islamic Republic Road and Transportation Organization, which is in charge of construction of railways in the country has not yet submitted the map of the railway route to ICHTO, it is clear that some ICHTO experts believe the railway path would be close to the historic site of Naqsh-e Rostam. 


According to Kazemi, the technical department of Parse-Pasargadae Research Center has come up with several suggestions so that the railway could be established in the area without harming Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam. The ideas will be given to the Road and Transportation Organization.


According to Kazemi, the best approach is to direct the railway to a transit route which is located at an appropriate distance from Naqsh-e Rostam. He said that the railway should be constructed lower in the ground and this way the cultural landscape of this historic site would not be intruded anymore.


The choice of the path by the the Islamic Republic run organization so close to Naqsh-e Rostam site is quite suspicious. If the railway passes any distance less than 10 kilometers from the ancient site the vibrations generated from the future passing trains will be catastrophic beyond salvation for the Iranian heritage, as both Kaaba of Zoroaster Naqsh-e Rostam's rock tombs and bas-reliefs will be destroyed..


The best course of action is however to either scrape the project or to choose a totally different route far away from these two important sites of Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam.


This is not the first time that a world heritage site in Iran is in danger due to unwise development policies. Construction of Jahan-Nama Tower in the vicinity of the world heritage site of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in the city of Esfahan can be taken as one of the most recent and sensitive examples in this regard. Once threatened by UNESCO, warning Iran of the inclusion of Naqsh-e Jahan in the list of World Heritage in Danger, the Iranian officials decided to reduce the height of the tower.


The same story is about to repeat itself for Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam this time.


Naqsh-e Rostam contains seven tombs which belong to Achaemenid Emperors, one of which is expressly declared in its inscription to be the tomb of Darius the Great, the Achaemenid king of kings who ruled over the Persian Empire between 549 and 486 BCE. The three other tombs besides that of Darius are believed to belong to Xerxes I, Artaxerxes I, and Darius II. There are also seven gigantic rock carvings in Naqsh-e Rostam right below the tombs which are dated to the Sassanid dynastic era (224–651 CE).


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