The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
LONDON, (CAIS) – The Iranian Cultural
Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO) has recently been
involved in an illegal excavation and looting of Iranian antiquities, reported
the Persian Daily Hamshahri.
The ICHHTO director of the city of Dezful,
along with a number of the Islamic Republic officials, including the governor
and the mayor have recently attended and supervised a long weekend of
excavations, in a farmland near the city of Dezful without obtaining a permit
from Iranian Archaeological Research Centre (IARC). Any archaeological dig in
Iran, without obtaining a permit from IARC - which in contrast to ICHHTO – is
run by academics and experts, is considered illegal. The site was also excavated
without the landowner's knowledge, who reported the looting activates to
The historical site is located near
‘Pir-Es.hāq’ (Old Isaac), in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan, the
birth place of the Elamites and the Achaemenids Empires.
Out of two hectares of farmland, over
3,000 square meters, up to three meters deep have been excavated, using
mechanical diggers and other machineries. According to an Iranian archaeologist
who wished to remain anonymous for his safety, a large number of relics have
been taken away to a secret location. In the process of ICHHTO’s looting
excavation, not only has the farmland and its’ crops have been destroyed, but
also the damage to the historical site was so destructive, that there is nothing
left to salvage for any research.
The Office of Khuzestan’s Security Unit
for Protection of Provincial Heritage has submitted an official complaint to the
head office in Tehran, and called the move illegal and such offences should be
stopped and measures should be taken in order to prevent it from happening again
by ICHHTO or any other governmental organisation.
Initially ICHHTO denied any involvement,
rejecting the claim and called it false, they later confessed but have claimed
their dig was fruitless and did not find any relics and will pay damages to the
farmer, Mr Yousef Zare. So far Mr Zare has not received any compensation.
This is the first time that ICHHTO has
directly been involved in an illegal dig in search of Iranian antiquities, or at
least it is the first time that it has been brought to light. Although, in May
2006, a colossal double-headed-bull capital from Persepolis that was due to
leave Iran for Western markets, was seized by the people of Kerman who handed
over the relic along with the smugglers to the police. The Achaemenid capital,
which weighs in excess of 20 tonnes, could not be removed from the 19-meter high
terrace without ICHHTO and the government's direct involvement.
Since 1979, the auction houses in Europe
and the United States have been flooded with Iranian antiquities, brought out of
Iran illegally by smugglers and the Islamic Republics’ ruling clerics and
their families alike. Some were found during the digs and others stolen from
museums. However, according to the UNESCO’s 1970 Convention (the Means of
Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural
Property), members have the right to recover stolen or illegally exported
antiquities from other member countries, which means all these relics must be
returned to Iran in the future, once a democratically elected system comes to
power in Iran.
ICHHTO was formed by the Islamic Republic
two years after dissolving the Ministry of Art and Culture in 1980. In its short
life, the organisation has been moving from one ministry to another and
currently is a secretariat to the Islamic Republic President and its director
appointed by the President. So far, the majority of the appointed directors and
executives either have no education in the field or any education at all.
The evidence in hand confirms a bitter
reality for the Iranian nation, that the sole purpose of ICHHTO’s creation by
the Islamic Republic was the destruction of pre-Islamic Iranian heritage under
the guise of protection. The idea of such an organisation perhaps came about
after Mr Khomeini's defeat of destroying Persepolis and Pasargadae.
Immediately after installing the new
regime to power by UK-US in Iran in 1979, Khomeini sent his protégé and
henchman, Sadeq Khalkhali to flatten Persepolis, then Pasargadae and the
mausoleum of Ferdowsi in Tus. After destroying the tomb of Reza Shah Pahlavi
near Tehran, which was so solidly built that it took him a month, he left for
Persepolis – but when he arrived there he faced with people's resistance who
forced them to flee. If was not because of the locals and the people of Shiraz,
Persepolis and Pasargadae would have had the same fate as the giant Buddhas of
Bamian had, in the hand of the Islamic Republics counterparts, the Talibans.
Defeated, beaten and frustrated, Khomeini
realised he was unable to destroy pre-Islamic heritage that he hated so much so
openly, therefore his men cunningly devised the formation of ICHHTO, so that
pre-Islamic heritage is destroyed under the disguise of protection.
Since then, the ICHHTO has been
responsible for most of the destructions and damages to Iranian heritage more
than any other regime-run organisation, including issuing permission for
constructions of over 80 dams, petrochemical factories, hotels, military bases
and other major projects, which all have resulted in total destruction of
hundreds of archaeological and historical sites and buildings, the majority of
which dated to pre-Islamic Iran.
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