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Prominent Iranian Architect Dies in Exile

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Seyhoon_Houshang_cropedMr. Houshang Seyhoun (b. August 22, 1920 in Tehran, Iran to May 26, 2014 in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada) has passed away in exile. He was an Iranian architect, sculptor, painter and professor. He studied fine arts at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and earned a degree in architecture from University of Tehran.  Mr. Seyhoon became famous for his design work in the 1950s in Iran including Tehran’s Central Railway Station and tombs of scientific, literary and historical figures.

Examples of some of his work.

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Disappearing Forests in Iran

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park-13Two acres of forests and agricultural lands disappear per week in Iran.

The statistics published by NASA shows that every week two acres of forests and agricultural lands in Iran are removed from the face of the earth. The Environment Protection Authority, which is a governmental department in Iran, is reluctant to publish any statistics of its own or send any report on subject to International authorities.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kamaleddin Pir-Moazzen, the secretary of Environmental section of the Islamic parliament, has recently told the reporters that: “According to the present trend of erasing the forests in Iran, 1 Million acres of the Iranian forests could disappear within the next 5 years and if this trend continues at its present rate, Iran would not have any natural Forests.” Wood smuggling is a lucrative and expanded activity in Iran and contractors, who obtain permits for cutting trees from the government, usually exceed the legal limits. The practice even includes the young newly-planted trees.

Challenges in Environmental Conservation

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loggingIn the world of environmental conservation, there are many organizations that are continuously watching and working hard to safe guard the world’s environmental heritage.   One of these organizations is Greenpeace, which is now calling for more surveillance and conservation in the Amazon Rainforest. Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The Amazon rainforest is home to a quarter of known land species on earth. The Amazon rainforest also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest belonging to nine nations. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species. However, illegal logging which is one of the biggest threats to the Amazon rainforest is threatening this amazing eco-system. Illegal loggers invade protected areas, including ecological reserves and indigenous land, and degrade forests through overharvesting. And, it’s not just the forest that suffers. Locals in Brazil who speak out against illegal logging often face violence and death threats and even assassination. As a result, rainforest habitat for many animals like the jaguar, spider monkey, and three-toed sloth is also under attack. 

In a latest campaign, Greenpeace states that illegal timber operations in Brazil are hacking apart this iconic forest. But many American companies like Lumber Liquidators import and sell Amazon wood because this forest crime is out of sight and as a result out of mind. American flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators even buys timber from a Brazilian state where 78% of the wood is illegally harvested according to Greenpeace. 

Earlier this month, Greenpeace activists blockaded one of Brazil’s major timber exporters, bringing the operation to a standstill as reported by Greenpeace.  Illegal logging is possible because companies like Lumber Liquidators don’t really know where their lumber comes from. Greenpeace’s investigation demonstrates how criminals are able to launder illegal timber and disguise it as “legal” for the market all while using official Brazilian government documents.

According to Greenpeace, the only way to stop Amazon destruction, is by asking U.S. companies not to buy into Amazon crime.  In only five months, Greenpeace has reported being able to convince some of the biggest global companies to commit to forest-friendly policies that could lead to creating real change for forests.

Fighting Looters of Antiquities

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lootersIt has been reported as published by the Washington Post (and the Denver Post), that the government of Egypt sees the fight against the illegal sales of antiquities and looting a major national emergency.

In March, Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, Egypt’s minister of state for antiquities was in WashingtonDC talking with Obama administration. He stated that the looting worries the experts. “The objects that are stolen from museums are easier to track because they are registered,” Ibrahim said, referring to the archaeological artifacts taken from Egypt’s MalawiNationalMuseum and EgyptianMuseum in Cairo, many of which have been identified and returned. However, a bigger problem now has become the illicit digging everywhere spanning acres of land, which is also the work of sophisticated traffickers.

As we have discussed here at WCHV, looting isn’t a new phenomenon, but as countries face conflict, looting adds to many more problems that the country face. Today, more than three years since the Egyptian revolution, looting antiquities is a major concern for a country that is so dependent on tourism. In the last decade, many factors including higher antiquities prices and easier transport across the world has made looting a profitable option for many smugglers and thieves.

Stranded Oil Tanker off the Coast of the Galapagos

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oilspillLate last week, the news from Ecuador that a freight ship carrying 60,000 liters of oil has become stranded off the coast of the Galapagos Islands after running aground brought back painful memories of 2001 for environmentalists. The Ecuadoran vessel became stranded off the coast of the island San Cristobal last week, however an inspection by the authorities has been reported and shows that at this time the oil was not at risk of spilling from the tanker.

The reports also have stated that contingency plans were being made to mitigate the potential catastrophic impacts of a spill should that situation arise. The vessel is believed to be carrying around 16,000 gallons (60,000 liters) of diesel and crude oil.

The nearby Galapagos national park has made a statement that it is monitoring the situation and that the coastguard is coordinating efforts to offload some of the cargo of the ship in the hope that a high tide will lift it from the rocks. Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, the Galapagos islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique “living museum and showcase of evolution” as stated by the UNESCO.

In 2001, another oil tanker ran aground, but the resulting leak of around 180,000 gallons of oil was estimated to have killed around 62% of the marine iguana population on a neighboring island.

Japan’s Whale Hunt Continues

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whalesAbout a week ago, a Japanese whaling fleet left port under tight security in the first hunt since the UN’s top court ordered Tokyo to stop killing whales in the Antarctic.

The international Court of Justice had ruled that Japan had misrepresented the hunting in Japan’s Southern Ocean expedition as a scientific research activity while it was actually a commercial one. Four ships departed from the fishing town of Ayukawa in the northeast, marking this season’s start to a coastal whaling programme not covered by the International Court of Justice’s landmark ruling.

In the last several weeks, Japanese politicians have criticized the ruling and the international public opinion as cultural imperialism by the West. There is also local pressure from inside Japan in favor of annual hunting, expressing fears that the court’s decision could ultimately ruin many peoples’ livelihoods in Japan. A recent poll also shows that 60 percent of Japanese people support the country’s whaling program, but only 14 percent eat whale meat.

When Tokyo called off the 2014-15 season for its Antarctic hunt, the country proposed to redesign the controversial whaling mission in order to make it more scientific. Japan has continuously battled for its right to hunt which has put the country face to face with anti-whaling nations like Australia, which brought the case to the international court, arguing that Tokyo’s research was aimed at skirting a ban on commercial whaling. At the same time, Japan has hunted whales under a loophole in a 1986 global moratorium that has allowed it to conduct lethal research on the mammals, but has openly admitted that their meat somehow made it to dinner tables.

Tokyo has always maintained that the whale population was large enough to sustain commercial hunting. In the 19th century, both Japan and the US hunted whales extensively as they were a source of fuel and food.

The Dire Condition of Animals in Iran

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Loin-gheshm3Many species of animals are in ominous and dire condition in Iran due to lack of proper training and education in preservation of environment and protection of animals. In addition, because of irresponsible attitude of the government authorities, no measures and restrictions have been taken in order to change the conditions. Even in zoos across the country, animals endure very though conditions and have no security, living in conditions comparable to the dark-ages.

The following photos show 30 African lions being kept in a small cage. The location is a circus in Gheshm Island in the south of Iran as well as a bear kept in Babolsar zoo in the north of the country.

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Destruction of Historic Baha’i Cemetery in Iran

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headstoneLate last week, the news came from Iran that the historic Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz, Iran is being destroyed. The reports indicate that workers for the Revolutionary Guards had already completed an excavation in the old cemetery that is believed to have disturbed many graves as reported by several groups. There have been reports that several appeals have been made to the authorities in Shiraz but the city authorities have made plans for constructing a building on the site.

The cemetery is owned and used by the Baha’is in Shiraz since early 1900s. However, after the Iranian revolution, the site was confiscated in 1983. In that year, the government destroyed the main building at the site and all the grave markers. It has been reported that there were over 950 Baha’s buried in the cemetery including many who were killed in 1983 and a group of ten Baha’I women.

Since 1983, over 42 Baha’i –owned cemeteries have been destroyed in Iran and many Baha’is have been prosecuted and executed.