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Yalda, Persian’s Most Beautiful Song in Praise of Light and Love

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happy-yalda1For thousands of years, Iranians have celebrated the last night of winter.  They have stayed up through the evening, waiting for the dawn, to witness the birth of the Sun; the source of life which has also been named “Mehr”.

Praising the sun, on the night of the birth of Mithra, celebrating around a cedar tree, adorned with colorful fabrics and stones, which was one of the most important rituals of the ancient Persians. At the time, there were still mysteries of the sun and moon and other natural phenomena for human exploration, and the Persians, like many other people had self-made gods who ruled over all the elements of nature. Man therefore, escaping sadness, darkness, cold, and pain (whether physical or emotional) took refuge in the gods.

Discovering the secrets of nature, and the transition from the myths of the gods did not hurt people’s relationship with the natural elements. Because Persian culture, and even religious orders of Zoroaster (the Persian prophet), were based on love and respect for the land, water, trees, rivers, mountains and their preservation was considered good will.

However, most of our habits and traditions could be updated and modified with time as well as people’s desire and wishes. Therefore, praising the sun, light, love, and life has become a part of Iranian psyche and beliefs in spite of all the objections that historically, under the pretext of religion, has considered these Persian celebrations as blasphemy.

Unfortunately, in the past thirty-four years of clerical rule in Iran, they have not accepted these celebrations. They not only do not accept these traditional festivities as part of national celebration, they are not willing to report and request UNESCO for addition to World Heritage list. The government has simply tried to force innocent people to stop holding these celebrations.

As Persian/Iranian celebrations and festivities have risen from nature and the land, with kindness and love, engraved with anti-discrimination, and interest of/for all people, irrespective of their religion, belief and opinion.

“Yalda” is one such festivity which continues to be even now more than ever, at the center of interest of Iranian people because history has shown that during dark times people have shown interest with the hope and belief that victory can be sealed and reach the world community to end all wars, suffering, discrimination and denial.

This year like many previous years, Pasargad Heritage Foundation, has asked the Iranian public to celebrate the tradition of Yalda by decorating and adorning an evergreen cedar tree and celebrate this glorious Persian feast more and more beautifully and grandly and  welcome the everlasting sun of our land in order to conqueror all perpetual darkness.

Let us not forget that the festive night of Winter Solstice, “Yalda,” is one of the few festivals compatible with the tenants of human rights, with this message that “only expressions of joy and love are symbols of light in human life”.

Happy Yalda

Shokooh Mirzadegi

Pasargad Heritage Foundation

www.savepasargad.com

Students from Eleven Countries Recognized by UNESCO

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title_01

Three-hundred thousand children from all over the world took part in a contest which requires children to keep a text and picture diary illustrating their contribution to the preservation of the environment and of World Heritage sites. The contest which is titled Panasonic Eco Picture Diary award is part of a longstanding partnership between Panasonic Company and UNESCO’s World Heritage Center helping to raise awareness among the public about the need to ensure the protection of world national heritage and environment.

Twenty eight children were selected as the finalists and were given a three-day trip to Paris and a visit to UNESCO for their participation in the Eco Picture Diary on December 5th, 2013.

This is the third international award ceremony organized by Panasonic in the framework of the partnership with UNESCO’s World Heritage Center.

Heritage Protection Efforts in the Philippines

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Baroque ChurchAs we have reported, many times the world heritage sites are damaged or destroyed by natural and environmental factors such as earthquakes or hurricanes. The massive earthquake and powerful typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) which successively struck central Philippines in October and early November 2013 caused catastrophic destruction and human loss. While, the humanitarian concerns were immediately and continuously being addressed, the damage to the country’s national heritage is slowly being analyzed.
TubbatahaEarlier this month, The UNESCO World Heritage Center together with the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural property (ICCROM), sent a joint expert mission from 2 to 12 December 2013 to Manila and Central Visaya to assist the Philippines in assessing the situation and damage caused by the two disasters, to identify immediate needs and emergency safeguarding measures, as well as medium term interventions that would be needed for rehabilitation and recovery. Three experts were included in the mission – one on immovable heritage with a special focus on structural consolidation, and one on intangible heritage and psycho-social impacts, while the ICCROM expert’s focus is on museums and collections. Phillipines RiverThe mission has given particular attention to assessing how to rebuild the historic churches of the area according to the traditional techniques. Since the churches have functioned as the center of the community, the plans will aim to involve the local populace in restoration or rebuilding of the churches (ICCROM).
rice_terracesIt has been reported, that two churches on the Tentative List of the Philippines (sites yet to be proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List) have been damaged. The Church Complex of San Pedro Apostol (Loboc, Bohol) of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines extension and the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (Baclayon, Bohol), were affected by the Bohol earthquake on 15 November 2013, and the Guiuan Church of La Purisima Concepcion, which is identified as one of the National Cultural Treasures of the Philippines, was severely damaged by the typhoon. No damage to existing World Heritage sites have been reported yet.

Five World Heritage Properties in the Philippines

  • Baroque Churches of the Philippines
  • Historic Town of Vigan
  • Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park
  • Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
  • Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

VIGAN_CITYHistoric Town of Vigan was established in the 16th century, and is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.

Erasmus Mundus Master in Archeological Materials Science

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indexIf you are interested in a career combining science, social sciences, and archeology, and working on focusing the preservation of archeological artifacts and sites, this could be a great degree for you.

ARCHMAT is a 2-years Erasmus Mundus Master Course (120 European Credit Transfer Scheme – ECTS) within a consortium of 3 HEI (Evora-UE, Rome-UNIROMA1, Thessaloniki-AUTH) as full partners, 5 HEI (Avignon-UAPalermo-UNIPAZaragoza-UNIZAR-ICMAFez-UF and Rio de Janeiro-UERJ) and 3 non HEI Research centres  (Laboratorio Jose Figueiredo/Instituto dos Museus e da Conservacao-IMCScientific Laboratory Musei Vaticani-MVArchaeological Museum of AIANI) as associated members, providing students with specialized skills in archaeology and analytical charaterization of materials from prehistory (megalithic) to classical times (Greek and Roman).

The study and conservation of Cultural Heritage materials is a research area with a strong multidisciplinary connotation and requires skills that span across the Humanities and Science research fields. ARCHMAT provides a common, integrated platform for high quality students coming from different educational backgrounds (Science and Humanities) to understand the advanced scientific methods used to investigate archaeological materials and aims to form highly specialized professional experts in the emerging field of Archaeometry, i.e.  Physical Sciences applied to the study of Archaeological and Cultural Heritage materials.

For more information and/or to apply for this degree program, you can visit:

http://www.erasmusmundus-archmat.uevora.pt/overview.html

We thank Professor Nick Schiavon, University of Evora, Portugal and the Coordinator for ARCHMAT: ERASMUS MUNDUS Master in ARCHaeological MATerials Science for sending us information about this program.

A Slap in the Face of Iranian Studies

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A slap in the face of Iranian StudiesDr. Ehsan Yarshater

Objection by the International community of Iranian Studies to the selection of a scholar of Greco-Arabic, to the Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia at Princeton University.

A letter and petition by professor Ehsan Yarshater

Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia at Princeton

To be delivered to Christopher L. Eisgruber, President, Princeton University, David P. Dobkin, Dean of the Faculty, Princeton University, Mrs. Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, and Marc Beissinger, Professor of Politics; Chair of the Search Committee for the Pourdavoud Chair in Pre-Modern Persia, Princeton University

President Christopher L. Eisgruber
Office of the President

1 Nassau Hall Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

December 3, 2013

Dear President Eisgruber,

The community of scholars in Iranian Studies was delighted when Mr. and Mrs. Mossavar-Rahmani endowed a chair for Iranian Studies at Princeton University. Their delight was increased by thechair being named after Ebrahim Pourdavoud, a great Iranian scholar who pioneered Zoroastrian Studies in that country and translated the entire Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, into Persian, while providing ample commentaries for it. He was an outstanding patriot dedicated to reviving the ancient heritage of Iran.

The hope of scholars of Iranian Studies had been that the chair’s naming would be indicative of its focusing on the pre-Islamic culture and history of Iran, when Iranians gave rise to the Zoroastrian religion, and three major dynasties, namely, the Achaemenian, the Parthian, and the Sasanian, emerged. The study of this period has been recently weakened by the demise of several scholars who were regretfully not replaced in the same field. It was thus greatly hoped that the chair named after Pourdavoud, who personified the Iranian pre-Islamic history and culture more than anyone else, would help restore the balance, and the Pourdavoud Chair would be held by a scholar specializing in ancient Iran.

The scholar who has been suggested by the Selection Committee, good scholar as he may be, has been trained in Greco-Arabic and the great majority of his publications concern these two fields rather than Iranian languages and culture. To allow a chair named after Pourdavoud, who spent all his life teaching and writing about Zoroastrianism and the pre-Islamic culture of Iran, to be held by someone whose formal academic training has been in Arabic, Syriac, and Greek, and who by and large is unknown in the field, is considered a slap in the face of Iranian Studies, the community at large, and the memory of Pourdavoud.

We hope that a careful consideration of the purpose of the Chair and its name would persuade the Selection Committee to make a choice that would not contradict the aims of the endowed position, weaken the field of Iranian Studies, and discredit the legacy of Ebrahim Pourdavoud.

I have spoken to several colleagues in the field of Iranian Studies and I may report that they all agree with me. Some of them will be writing to you, others will be endorsing this letter.

With kind regards,

Ehsan Yarshater

Director, Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia University;
Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies;
Editor, Encyclopaedia Iranica;
Editor, A History of Persian Literature
Center for Iranian Studies
Columbia University in the City of New York
450 Riverside Drive, No. 4
New York, N.Y. 10027-6821
Tel: (212) 851–9161
Fax: (212) 749–9524
E-mail: ey4@columbia.edu

Cc: Mr. and Mrs. Mossavar-Rahmani;
Professor David P. Dobkin, Dean of the Faculty.

         

Click here to sign/view the petition.

Iranocypris Typhlops: Vulnerable and Endangered Species

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Iran-cave-barbThe Iranian Cave-fish Iranocypris typhlops is one of the rare and endemic Iranian species of our time. Iranocypris typhlops, the Iran cave barb, is a species of ray-finned fish in the Cyprinidae family, and the only member of the monotypic genus Iranocypris. It is endangered species which inhabits a cave in Lorestan province in Iran and is considered to be the first true cave fish in the world (freshwater, cave dwelling species). It was registered as one of the national heritage species in Iran in 2005, and it has been recognized as a vulnerable species for its threatened habitat according to the IUCN Red Data Book since 1990.

Many factors have contributed to the present situation and currently threatening the existence of this unique species. These factors include: Human intrusion of their living cave, lack of funding for researchers for further research and improvement of the conditions, accumulated agricultural waste in the water and as a result in the cave, inadequate environmental monitoring, lack of additional fish-farms outside the fish’s natural living zone (for additional breeding) and small populations of fish.

Lastly, the construction of a new dam within 500 meters of these caves makes environmentalists and researchers even more concerned than ever before. The authorities have recently made a number of promises for new measures but none has been fulfilled yet.

For more information for Iranocypris typhlops being on the Vulnerable Red List visit http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/10849/0

Eleven new inscriptions on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List

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In early December (2013), the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Heritage, holding its 8th session met and inscribed 11 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity serves to raise awareness of intangible heritage and provide recognition to communities’ traditions and know-how that reflect their cultural diversity (unesco.org). The List does not attribute or recognize any standard of excellence or exclusivity.

The titles of the newly inscribed elements below (in order of inscription) lead to web pages with information, pictures and videos:

  • Traditional craftsmanship of the Mongol Ger and its associated customs—Mongolia

        Mongolia-Ger

  • Knowledge, skills and rituals related to the annual renewal of the Q’eswachaka bridge—Peru

        bridge

  • Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea

        kimchi

  • Men’s group Colindat, Christmas-time ritual-Romania-Republic of Moldova

       colindat

  • Xooy, a divination ceremony among the Serer of Senegal

       Xooy_senegal

  • Music of Terchová—Slovakia

       Terchová—Slovakia

  • Feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs in Štip—Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

       40_Martyrs

  • Turkish coffee culture and tradition—Turkey

       turkish coffee

       painting

  • La Parranda de San Pedro de Guarenas y Guatire—Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

       parranda_de_san_pedro

  • Art of Đờn ca tài tử music and song in southern Viet Nam

       Ca_trù

 

Nelson Mandela, remembered and honored by UNESCO

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Nelson_Mandela

As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life, UNESCO paid tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela earlier this week.

“Nelson Mandela was truly a giant among men,” Irina Bokova said. “He not only changed South Africa’s history, he changed the world and made it a better place. He taught us all a lesson on the power of peace and reconciliation; the importance of forgiveness and respect for the dignity of each and every human being.

“UNESCO is proud and honored to have counted Nelson Mandela as a member of its family,” the Director-General said. “The greatest tribute we can pay him is to carry on his message of hope and to continue his fierce defense of the values he stood for.”

In 1991, Nelson Mandela was awarded the UNESCO-Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize. In later years, he served the Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela  (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through addressing and tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Nelson Mandela was the most celebrated of the prisoners on Robben Island in South Africa, incarcerated there as a political prisoner for over 27 years. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999, Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism. The last political prisoners left the island in 1991 and the prison closed down finally in 1996.

The Road to Persiana: The Cyrus Cylinder 2013 U. S. Tour

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The Road to Persiana: The Cyrus Cylinder 2013 U. S. Tour

Book by author A.J. Cave

 

persiana

The Road to Persiana:The Cyrus Cylinder 2013

U. S. Tour, is an informal look at the ground-breaking tour of the Cyrus Cylinder across 5 U.S. museums. It is the first known declaration of Human Rights, issued by the emperor Cyrus II of Persia. In the 1970s, the Cyrus Cylinder has been described as the world’s first charter of human rights (Wikipedia).  A free eBook download is available on our Education page under the Literature tab.