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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Islamic Republic’s Jihad For Agricultural Organisation Refuses to Evacuate the Sasanian City of Jondi-Shapur


12 September 2009



LONDON, (CAIS) -- Despite previous agreements, the City of Dezful’s Islamic Jihad for Agriculture (IJA) refuses to evacuate and hand over the Sasanian city of Jondi-Shapur to the cultural authorities, reported the Persian service of Tariana.


“Over 10 years ago, the ancient city of Jondi-Shapur which covers over 500 hectares located in the city of Dezful, was given [by the government] to Islamic Jihad for Agriculture, and subsequently for a period of 10 years the land was divided and given to farmers. Dezful Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation (DCHTO). At the end of the10 year contract, DCHTO demanded the return of the ancient site, which had been agreed”, said Mojtaba Gahestuni, the spokesman for the Khuzestan’s Friends of the Cultural Heritage Association (TARIANA). 


Gahestuni added “after an initial visit of the DCHTO’ lawyers to the site IJA agreed to release the plan of the land which had been divided between the farmers. Despite the agreement IJA has not cooperated yet.”


During the 10 years of IJA occupation, the ancient city suffered and some parts were destroyed beyond salvation. The mausoleum of king Yaqub-e Layth the founder of Safarid Dynastic Empire Sasanian water distribution system were damaged, and a number of archaeological mounds were completely flattened.


“The presence of large number of earthenware, siphons part of Sasanian water distribution system, mausoleum of Yaqub-e Layth and a number of archaeological mounds which have already been flattened, demands the both DCHTO and IJA organisations to reach an agreement to save the site. This is while the DCHTO has followed up [legally] fifteen cases of illegal excavations this resulted in the destruction of the site”, said Gahestuni.


The archaeological mounds are riddled with holes, and broken pottery and ancient stonework lie strewn around. At least 50 mounds have been destroyed by farming and plundering since the rise of the Islamic Republic to power. Some areas between 50cm to over 2 meters deep were dug out. According to local lore, some farmers have grown rich by selling the artefacts.


Farmers, by digging in the hills for relics, have discovered artefacts which are then sold to organised bands who, peddle them abroad at huge profit. Of course farmers deny these charges, insisting their only income is vegetables grown for local markets.


Back in 2005 Saeed Mohammadpour, the legal representative for the Khuzestan cultural heritage department said: “The picture of poor farmers struggling to make ends meet just isn't credible to us . . . . We are 100% sure they have been selling the items they have found. They want to stay on this land under the excuse of farming because digging [is] an extra source of income. They earn much more from that than farming. They are ruining the history not just of a nation but of human civilisation. They think filling their stomachs is more important than the blood of their ancestors."


The cultural authorities have also written to Islamic Regime’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seeking his backing which was ignored.



The Historical Background

The ancient city of Jondi-Shapur (also Jondishapur – Middle-Persian Gondêšâpur), situated in Khuzestan province, southern Iran. The city was founded during the reign of Emperor Shapur I (r. 241-272 CE) as the city of the knowledge and science.


It has been argued that Jondi-Shapur might have had an Arsacid dynastic (248 BCE-224 CE) antecedent which was rebuilt by Shapur II (r. 309-379). This argument is based on the mention in two Greek inscriptions from Susa of the term Gondeisos as the name of a waterway. The name would seem to represent an Iranian gund-dêz "military fortress," which led to pose the hypothesis that Gond-dez was the original Iranian name of the place; later gund-dêz-ī Šāpūr, hence the military fortress of Shapur.


However, the ancient city became the world’s capital of culture during the Sasanian dynasty (224-637 CE). Its university, as the oldest university in world was renowned for science, astronomy and philosophy, while its medical centre has been credited with establishing the modern hospital system.


It is known that the origin of Academic dress dates back to that university, which evidence suggests that both the faculty and the student body of this university wore special apparel more than 1500 years ago to indicate institutional deference. The tradition was largely revived in 12th century Europe, where universities as we know them today, were taking form. 


Jondi-Shapur became the capital city of Emperor Shāpur II, and it gained its claim to fame during the rule of Khosrow I Anushirvan (Anūšakrūwān - the immortal soul).


The city was captured and plundered by Muslims, and its library either burnt down or dumped in the rivers. Despite that, the city's academy was survived and persisted for several centuries as a Muslim institute of higher learning. The most prominent feature of Jondi-Shapur from the 9th century onwards was the moseleum of the founder of Saffarid dynasty, Ya'qub-e Layth. A little shrine located on the outskirts of the Shāhābād village has long been the focus of attention.


Yaqub-e Layth (r. 867-79), was a Persian nationalist from Sistan, who by uniting Iranians against the Arab invaders under an umbrella, formed the Saffarid Dynasty. He is considered to be the “Father of the New-Persian Language” (pedar-e zabān-e Pārsī) as he declared New-Persian (Pārsī) as the official language of his empire. He banned the use of Arabic and had the court poets composing Persian verse for the first time since the Arab invasion of Iran. Soon, the plebeian Saffarids were also equipped with an Imperial Iranian genealogy.


Yaqub indeed, pioneered the renaissance of a specifically Irano-Islamic culture based on the 'national' aspirations of the Islamised Iranians, who had continued to be aware of their pre-Islamic Iranian identity and culture during the centuries of Arab domination. Yaqub ended his days ruling over a vast swathe of territory stretching from today's Iraq to the borders of India and China. 





Portions of this news have been excerpted from Persian service of Tariana - translated and rectified by CAIS. [*]




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