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ISIS Rampages Across Nineveh, Destroying Christian Churches


isis-2The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) produced a photo gallery of the Islamic State’s church vandalism, reprinted by the UK’s Daily Mail.  The photos show “ISIS terrorists toppling crosses, smashing Christian relics with hammers, and erecting the black flag of ISIS on churches in Iraq.”  Collecting the images wasn’t difficult — ISIS has been triumphantly posting them on its website.
isis-1As the Daily Mail explains, ISIS believes “ancient relics promote idolatry that violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.”  This has the useful (for them) side effect of allowing them to obliterate cultural resistance through genocide and vandalism.  The Vatican’s representative at the U.N., Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, accused the Islamic State of perpetrating genocide just yesterday, as part of a rare Vatican endorsement of military force.


Happy Nowruz


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(Nowruz 1394 video link click here)

Nowruz is first day of Spring and the beginning of the Iranian year.  Nowruz is celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox, on 21st March or the previous / following day depending on where it is celebrated.  Nowruz is celebrated and observed by Iranian people as well as several other countries across Asia including Afghanistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Tajikistan and many more.   The new year starts at the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day or exactly when the Earth has completed one cycle around the Sun.

The celebration has its roots in Ancient Iran. Due to its antiquity, there exist various foundation myths for Nowruz in Iranian mythology.  The Shahnameh dates Nowruz as far back to the reign of Jamshid, who in Zoroastrian texts saved mankind from a killer winter that was destined to kill every living creature.  In the Shahnameh and Iranian mythology, Jamshid is credited with the foundation of Nowruz.  In the Shahnama,  Jamshid constructed a throne studded with gems. He had demons raise him above the earth into the heavens; there he sat on his throne like the sun shining in the sky. The world’s creatures gathered in wonder about him and scattered jewels around him, and called this day the New Day or No/Now-Ruz. This was the first day of the month of Farvardin (the first month of the Persian calendar).   On Nowruz, families gather together to observe the rituals and celebrate the beginning of the new year.

In addition, it is believed that originally the celebration was the holiest Zoroastrian festival, and Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin.  Since the Achaemenid era, the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox.

International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

World Cultural Heritage Voices

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Ancient Nowruz artifacts from the Sassanian Dynasty – 224 CE to 651 CE.


Nowruz during the Safavid Dynasty circa 1501 to 1722 and 1729 to 1736.



Nowruz Award for Performing Arts: Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam


shahrokh3Mr. Shahrokh Moshkin-Ghalam, Ballet dancer, choreographer, playwright and member of French National Theatre, receives Nowruz Award as the artist of the year due to:
– His valuable endeavors in the past and especially during the last year, in introducing Iranian arts and culture to the audiences outside Iran.
– His dance design and choreographies based on Iranian literary and historical text, shown to American and European audiences.
– His dance-theatrical creations with reference to local dance traditions of Iran and folkloric sources.
– His role in creation of Nakisa Dance Group.
– And above all, his successful undertaking to keep the Iranian Dance alive in a time when this art is forbidden in his country.
Although Mr. Moshkin-Ghalam left Iran when he was quite young grew up and then academically was trained in performing arts in France, he has followed the love of his motherland and Iranian culture. He is well known as a member of French National Theatre, a member of La Comedie Française and has repeatedly appeared on the stage of Sullie Theatre (Mushkin). After familiarizing himself and training in the Art of Dance of Indonesia, India and Japan, he focused his attention on the dances of his country and embarked on an extensive research. The beauty of his art comes from mixing two sources of folkloric dances and literary works, creating a new, beautiful and modern work of art.
His work has attracted the attention of Iranians (especially the second and third generations) outside Iran as well as the young generation inside Iran who have been familiar with his work through social media. This welcoming attention shows that his work and art has the potential to attract and be suitable for the new Iranian youth. Especially in an unfortunate time when the art of dancing is forbidden in Iran and no theatre or cinema can present it while its teaching is also banned.
The other important aspect of Mr. Moshkin-Ghalam’s creative and artistic talent and style is the fact that although his creations are inspired by Iranian sources, their representations are based on international standards.
He not only has proven to be an educator and contemporary artist, he has also proven that there is a significant place for his role in keeping alive a forbidden art for generations to come.

Pasargad Heritage Foundation

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian modern dancer. Mr. Ghalam received his degree in History of Art and Theatre from the University of Paris 8. He is a choreographer, actor, and director, and the founder and artistic director of Nakissa Art Company.
Mr. Moshkin-Ghalam was born in Shiraz, Iran, but moved to Paris in his early teens to be trained in various styles of dance. His choreography style is usually based on Persian classical music that brings Persian myths, poetry, and dance together to create an atmosphere of magical quality. He has danced in Seven Pavilions of Love, Sohrab and Gordafarid, and Khosrow and Shirin. In his Dance-Mythologic (a collection of Dances based on Persian mythology) piece, Shahrokh is a story teller translating the lines from thousands of years ago into movements familiar to today’s audience all over the world. In Moshkin- Ghalam’s view, movement is to convey a message; he does not believe in using movement for the sake of movement. His extensive training in world dances, along with his open-mindedness, allows him to take all that he feels necessary from other cultures, and add to it, or sometimes re-invent it in a new context for a different purpose.
Mr. Moshkin-Ghalam draws inspiration from diverse Eastern traditions to create a unique style of dance. Persian, Kurdish, Soufi and Indian influences blend with a contemporary training in both dance and theatre.
“I came to realize the importance of my roots, my heritage, my being Iranian after I left Iran. It happened over the course of my six-year collaboration with Ariane Mnouchkine, who reminded us that every single one of us, who came from all over the world, had something to contribute to this magical world of theatre.” “I turned to our myths, our legends, our great epic Shahnameh and tried to learn as much as I could.”

Performed Works
In 2002 the Royal Opera House of Covent Garden invited him to perform Seven Pavilion Ballet based on the works of great Persian poet Nezami. Dance Variations on Persian themes created in 2007 was a collection of his best choreographies performed with Karine Gonzales, the major dancer of his company. His Omar Khayyam Ballet inspired by the Quatrains of 12 century Persian poet Omar Khayyam has been performed in Paris, London, Stockholm, New York and Los Angeles. The Mythological Dances inspired by the three love stories (Khosrow and Shirin, Bahram and Dorsatti, Sohrab and Gordafarid) was also a very successful series of Persian dances which has been performed in Europe and North America several times.

Acting career
For six years, he appeared under the direction of Ariane Mnouchkine with the THEATRE DU SOLEIL and had major parts in plays such as Tartuffe, la Ville Parjure and Les Atrides. His theatre performances include “Twelfth Night” of Sheakspear with the Terrain Vague Company, “Romeo and Juliette” directed by Lionnel Briands, “Dionysos, the Baccantes” of Euripide directed by Usevio Lazaro, “Soldier Tale” of Strawinsky in theatre Athenée directed by Antoine Campo, “Tramway named Desire” of Tenesee William directed by Phillip Adrian, and “Abduction in the Serai” directed by Jérome Deschamps.
He has performed and directed plays in Persian including:
• Zohreh va Manouchehr by Iraj Mirza
• Mardha va cheez from Makki
• Kafane Siah a play inspired by Mirzadeh Eshghi the early 20th century Iranian poet
Since 2004 he has been an official member of La Comédie Française one of the most prestigious theatre companies in Europe and has taken part in plays including:
• Pedro et le commandeur, Felix Lope de Vega
• Molière / Lully, Molière, m.e.s Jean-Marie Villégier
• La Maison des morts, Philippe Minyana, m.e.s Robert Cantarella,
• Yerma le Bonheur, Cyrano de Bergerac and others all played in French

He and his company Nakissa have performed in many countries. He has attended international festivals or events, such as the Internaitonal Dance Festival in Boulder Colorado, Festival Meridas, Festival d’Asturias Festival de Chartres, Rotterdam, Rome, La haye, and the Tirgan festival in Toronto.
In 2009 he signed an open letter of apology posted to Iranian.com along with 266 other Iranian academics, writers, artists, journalists about the Persecution of Bahá’ís.

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Nowruz Award for Natural Heritage: Dideban-e-Hoghough-e-Heivanat (The Animal Rights Watch)


ARW“Dideban-e-Hoghough-e-Heivanat” (The Animal Rights Watch), an Iranian non-governmental organization receives the Nowruz Award for the best N.G.O in the natural heritage category, for:
– its continual and constant support of the rights of animals as an important part of the natural heritage of Iran.
– Introducing the Animal Rights Project and establishing it as a serious subject both in media and Environmental circles.
– Endeavoring to elevate the public knowledge of the animal kingdom.
– Showing the ugly face of mistreatment, and abuse of animals.
– Introducing a special day for “Preventing cruelty against animals” as well as appreciating the works of the animal supporters
– Initiating several campaigns for saving the animals and preventing their extinction.
Against the alarming condition of cultural heritage and the environment of Iran, due to negligence of the relevant authorities, as well as the majority of uneducated people, one can seldom find individuals and organizations which are forcefully active in preservation of the natural heritage in Iran.
“Dideban-e-Hoghough-e-Heivanat” (The Animal Rights Watch) is such an organization that has been set up by some compassionate youth. Although it is an entity with only 5 years of work, it has been successful in implementing works that the large governmental environmental departments have been unable to do during many decades.
Reports, photos and videos produced by this organization show the dire condition of animals in Iran over many years. From household animals to those in the wild, from birds to fish, to rare species, one can see the miserable and deplorable conditions created by either ignorant or greedy people who torture and slaughter the animals.
The unfortunate fact is that such atrocities take place in a country where the thousands-years-old traditions, culture and religions dictated the welfare of the animals and plants.
This organization not only is the carrier of those ancient qualities and practices, it also is the representative of modern thoughts and practices required for protection of animal rights.
A glance at what it has done in a short period of time would demonstrates why it is worthy of receiving the Nowruz Award.

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Nowruz Award for Intangible Heritage: Ms. Gordafarid


Gord A3Ms. Gordafarid, a narrator and storyteller of Shahnameh (“The Book of Kings” penned by Iranian poet, Ferdowsi, in 10th century A.D.), a researcher and an activist in the field of intangible heritage
receives the Nowruz Award for the best personality of the year in the intangible heritage category, for:
– Her persistence to learn how to tell Shahnameh stories in a traditional way; a domain traditionally solely belonging to men.
– Her courageous performance as a raconteur of old Persian stories in public places such as tea-houses, traditional sports clubs and street of a country where such activities are preserved for men only.
– Her innovations in the way traditional storytelling is performed and, thus, bringing it to a contemporary level.
– Introducing classes for children and youth to familiarize them with this art.
– basing her works on reliable texts of Shahnameh.
Undoubtedly, Gordafarid’s decision to embark on a journey into the realm of telling stories of Shahnameh was an important one. Narrating the stories of the “book of Kings” (penned by Ferdowsi in 10th century A.D.) in a traditional way has always been an undertaking for men. Gordafaris’s insistence and persistence to enter this realm coincided with her decision to learn the traditional methods from the distinguished Masters (Morsheds). She successfully finished her apprenticeship, gaining the Masters’ approval.
However, she did not stop there. She decided to perform in the public just like trained men did. Her appearance in teahouses, traditional sports clubs, gathering of dervishes, as well as performing in the streets has thus become a significant event in the history of story telling in Iran.
Although her involuntary forced departure from Iran was as difficult as it is for anyone who is forced to go into exile, her presence in the West has resulted in the introduction of this ancient art to Iranians outside Iran and especially the younger generation. Her presence (in the West) has also resulted in the introduction of an art form to the Western world that is an original form of Iranian performing art, based on unforgettable stories coming from the ancient history of Iran.

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1394 (2015) The Year of Omar Khayyam


khayam2Pasargad Heritage Foundation (PHF) was established a decade ago outside Iran with the aim of preserving Iranian cultural heritage. For the last nine years, on the advent of each Iranian New Year (which coincides with the beginning of spring), PHF designates a name for the coming new year that signifies certain aspects of its mission. The main purpose of this “name designation” is to emphasize the priceless value of the ancient cultural heritage of Iran that are exposed to constant destruction due to intentional and accidental negligence of the relevant authorities n Iran.

This year PHF has named the New Year of the Iranian calendar as the “Year of Omar Khayyam”. Khayyam has been an internationally known Iranian poet (known by his famous Rubaiyat or Quatrains), philosopher, mathematician and an astronomer. In addition to being known for his poetry or Rubaiyat, he also created one of the three major world solar calendars, based on the ancient Iranian chronometry which was also accepted as a major accurate calendar globally.

Unfortunately, due to his non-religious opinions and his scientific outlook, Omar Khayyam has not been popular with the religious authorities of his country. During the last seven years, Iranian authorities have forbidden teaching about his work, personality and as a result account of life story has been changed.

            Naming the New Iranian year, the “Year of Omar Khayyam” would hopefully bring more recognition and awareness of his contributions not only to Iranian Cultural Heritage a country he was from but also to the human civilization.