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Latest Archaeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


'Endowments Organisation' (Oqaf) Identified As The Perpetrator For The Invasion And the Destruction of Anahita Temple


29 January 2010



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  Anahita Temple and the adjacent Imamzadeh Ibrahim (Click to enlarge)

LONDON, (CAIS) -- The perpetrator for the last month's destruction of Anahita Temple has been identified as the Islamic clerical run Endowments Organisation (Oqaf).


Kermanshah Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation (KCHTO), claimed they have stopped the construction and have submitted the case to the provincial justice department for further investigation, reported the Persian service of ISNA on Wednesday.


"Provincial department of Endowments Organisation in Kermanshah province, in December began the construction of a number of concrete footings, to serve as base for a roofing, covering the adjacent Imamzadeh[i] Ibrahim building. Since no new construction is permitted over or near the historical monuments, the construction was intercepted and has been stopped. A criminal case for this matter has now been opened, and submitted to the provincial justice department for further investigation", announced by Asadollah Biravand, the director of KCHTO's on Wednesday


According to Iranian law, any construction near or over the historical sites registered on the national heritage list is prohibited and perpetuators face custodial sentences.


"According to Article 560 of Islamic Penal Code, there is a custodial sentence of 1 to 3 years for illegal construction over or near the cultural and historical registered on the national heritage list", said Mohammad Jafar Hashemi, a Criminal Law lecturer at Kermanshah Azad University.


With regard to the illegal construction over the Anahita Temple, Hashemi added: "there are three violations that have been committed on the site, destruction, damage and invasion, where the perpetrators not only have to pay fines and meet the cost of the damages but also must face between 1 and 3 years imprisonment."


This is not the first time pre-Islamic Iranian heritage has been targeted and damaged or destroyed as the result of illegal construction by the private sectors and the Islamic Republic's organisations, and ICHTHO has not taken any legal action to bring them to justice. In many cases the ICHTHO itself have sanctioned and permitted a number of these destructions, such as construction of Lalaeh and Amirzargar hotels is Susa, over the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sasanian dynastic sites.


The government runs ICHTHO's management team and directors have not always been chosen based on their merits or their field of expertise, but their devotion to the Islamic regime and their devastating policies. This trend is taken in order to control the body that is responsible for the protection of the Iranian historical and archaeological sites, in order to carry the destruction of the pre-Islamic Iranian heritage without any objection.


The ICHTHO reactions and threats of taking legal actions against those destroying pre-Islamic Iranian heritage are regarded as nothing more than theatrical show to entertain public and ease their concerns.


 "If the ICHTHO refuses to follow suit, the public can take legal actions independently from the organisation, since the crimes have been committed against their heritage", added Hashemi.


The news of invasion and destruction of the ancient site have angered and voiced objections nationally and internationally, which forced ICHTHO to intervene and put an alleged stop to the destruction.


"I'm a Muslim and respect the imamzadeh, but I'm an Iranian and this "building denoting to a lady' [referring to the Anahita temple] is of my ancestors, and I don't want to see it harmed. Actually, I'm asking the authority to spend money and place a roof over it, to protect it from further destruction", said Mohammad a senior local farmer living near the ancient temple to CAIS correspondent in Kermanshah.


A young local girl who wished to remain anonymous for her safety, fervently added: "we have to in fact bring the Imamzadeh's building down, as I'm sure the Mullahs have stolen the temple's stones for its construction. We have to rebuild this temple as it is the heritage of our people."


The total termination of the new construction by the Endowments Organisation remains to be seen, as the clerical run organisation is very powerful and is supported by the Islamic Republic, who favours non-Iranians and Islam over Iranians and their national heritage.


According to a CAIS correspondent, although no new building activity is apparent, the site is still filled with metal-beams and other building materials.



Anahita Temple

The proposed date for the construction of the Anahita Temple is circa 200 BCE, thus placing it as the oldest surviving stone structure from the Parthian dynasty (248BCE - 224CE) in Iran-proper.


The platform covers 4,600 sq.m, constructed over a mound 32-meters high, and is claimed to have been a temple dedicated to the Zoroastrian deity ‘Aredvi Sura Anahita’ (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā), venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' (Aban), associated with fertility, healing, purity and wisdom.

The remains at Kangavar reveal an edifice that is Hellenistic in character and yet displays distinctly Iranian architectural traits. The platform’s enormous dimensions and its megalithic foundations, corroborated by the two lateral stairways that ascend the platform echo and recalling Achaemenid traditions, particularly mimicking that of the Apadana Palace at Persepolis.


Since its construction, the ancient structure underwent numerous major reconstruction periods continuing into 19th century, and until detailed further excavations are to be carried out, no definite judgments may be declared on its function.


With the recent invasion and destruction of the site, obtaining and establishing the exact date or the function of the structure sinks further into ambiguity.

[i] Imamzadeh, a Persian term referring to the descendant of an imam or the burial of such a person. Among Twelver Shi'a in Iran, the term is used to denote the descendant of one of the first eleven imams, who had direct lineage to Muhammad. Also is referring to the tomb built over the burial place for such a person. These burials attract many visitors and pilgrims every year who considered visiting them as a meritorious act. There are over 124,000 registered Imamzadehs in Iran all controlled by the Endowments Organisation, in which large majority of them were constructed by clerics since 16th century for their own financial gains, with no connection to the Imams or their descendants. These alleged-burials generate constant and impressive revenue for the clerics. It is also claimed a number of thee tombs, were Zoroastrian shrines, clad in Islamic dress for their protection, which through centuries their origin have been forgotten.


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