This year, the twenty-ninth day of October 2015, coincides with the annual celebration of “Cyrus the Great Day” by Iranian people and many friends of culture across the globe. In 2005, the Pasargad Heritage Foundation – the first international NGO for preservation of the cultural heritage of Iran- that introduced the idea. At the time, Cyrus’ mausoleum in Iran- a monument registered on the UNESCO’s world heritage list – was in danger of being inundated and eventually destroyed. However, the hard work of this Foundation and timely intervention of UNESCO, human rights activists and organizations removed the danger and led to a world-wide recognition of Cyrus’ seminal contribution to the survival of our common human civilization. Such recognition has been further evidenced by the exhibition of Cyrus cylinder in a number of museums in major cities in United States of America.
October 29, the “Cyrus the Great Day” and the anniversary of the first declaration of human rights. Twenty six centuries ago, when savagery was the dominant factor in human societies, a civilized and compassionate declaration was written on clay and issued to the “four corners of the world”, addressing important issues relevant to human rights; the very same issues that today we face and could also inspire and mobilize those who believe in human dignity and rights.
This document, known as “The Declaration of Cyrus the Great,” emphasized the removal of all racial discrimination and slavery, and bestowing to all people, freedom to choose their places of residence, and practice their own chosen faith and religion, therefore, attempting to create peace amongst all nations. This Declaration could actually be considered a present from the Iranian people to all humanity, expressed through the words of Cyrus, the founder of the first empire in the Iran. In 1971, the general assembly of the United Nations recognized this declaration as the first Declaration of Human Rights.
According to the Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency, Marco Giovanni Brambilla, PhD in architecture and Urban development, and a professor in Harvard and Penn Universities, gave a lecture on the Sultanieh Dome, in Iran. The lecture is to be convened in the Study Center of Farhangestan-e Honar, an academic setting for art studies.
This is important due to the fact that, after the Islamic Revolution, the historical heritage of Iran was neglected systemically and their repair and up-keeping were commissioned to unprofessional repairing teams. Thus, most of the repair-works done in important historical sites such as Pasargad Mausoleum, Persepolis, Bisotun and many others were handled unprofessionally and in an ugly manner.
As reported by the Associated Press (AP), the main suspect in the destruction of Mali’s historic city of Timbuktu has been arrested and been sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC). This is the first time that a suspect is being tried and sent to ICC for war crime, for deliberately destroying religious or historical monuments and a World Heritage Site.
Mali’s government asked the court in 2012 to investigate crimes committed on its territory, and the prosecutors opened an investigation in 2013. However, this individual is the first suspect detained but the government of Mali believes that he is not the only person responsible for the destructions of the Heritage sites. The officials have announced that they believe that this is the start of a trial against the people who destroyed the Timbuktu mausoleums, and they expect other individuals will be tried too.
The suspect is charged in the destruction of 10 historic buildings, including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu. Niger sent him to the court based on an arrest warrant issued a week ago and he was transferred to The Hague early Saturday. No date was immediately set for his arraignment.
The entire city of Timbuktu is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. At the peak of its influence in the 15th and 16th centuries, Timbuktu counted 180 schools and universities that received thousands of students from all over the Muslim world.
Islamic extremists who overran Timbuktu in 2012 destroyed 14 of the city’s 16 mausoleums, one-room structures that house the tombs of the city’s great thinkers. The extremists condemned the buildings as totems of idolatry. The 14 mausoleums have since been restored by the United Nations.
The militants were driven out after nearly a year by a French military intervention.
“Today’s arrest signals that there will be a price to pay for destroying the world’s treasures,” said Corrine Dufka of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, as stated in the AP article.
The Islamic State group on Tuesday August 25 2015 published images showing the destruction of the Baal Shamin temple in Syria’s Palmyra, after international condemnation of the act.
The series of images showed militants placing barrels and small containers, presumably containing explosives, into the temple, as well as similar containers placed on parts of its columns.
The Temple of Baalshamin was an ancient temple in the city of Palmyra, Syria, dedicated to the Canaanite deity Baalshamin. The temple’s earliest phase dates to the late 2nd century BC. It was rebuilt in 131 AD, while the altar before the temple is dated to 115 AD. With the advent of Christianity in the 5th century AD, the temple was converted to a church. Uncovered by Swiss archaeologists in 1954–56, the temple was one of the most complete ancient structures in Palmyra.
In 1980, the structure was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As UNESCO puts it, “the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences.”
The head of the UN’s cultural watchdog, Irina Bokova, called the act a “new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity.”
Palmyra ancient ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage site and IS’s capture of the town on May 21 raised concerns the group would lay waste to it as it has done with heritage sites under its control elsewhere.
A historic section of the capital of Yemen, Sana’a, which has recently become a stronghold for Houthi rebels was bombed on May 11th by a coalition of Saudi-led Arab states. The World Heritage site that has been inhabited for more than two Milena contains over 6,000 houses, hammams, and mosques built before the eleventh century, and was recently restored by UNESCO in the 1980s. It is one of the four World Heritage sites in Yemen and have been on the UNESCO tentative list for 13 years.
The coalition also carried out several airstrikes in Saa’dah, partially destroying Al-Hadi Mosque, the oldest Islamic learning center in the center of the Arabian Peninsula at 1,100 years old, and on the city of Barakish. “I condemn these destruction and I call on all parties to keep cultural heritage out of the conflict,” says UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement that asked those fighting to respect international treaties, namely, the 1954 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and the 1972 World Heritage Convention. “I am particularly distressed by the news concerning air strikes on heavily populated areas such as the cities of Sana’a and Saa’dah,” she continued. “In addition to causing terrible human suffering, these attacks are destroying Yemen’s unique cultural heritage, which is the repository of people’s identity, history, and memory, and an xceptional testimony to the achievements of the Islamic civilization.”
Including 3 new pictures of Maharloo (August 2015)
by Farzad Arian.
“Maharloo” or “Pink lake”, located 27 kilometers southeast of Shiraz, Iran, and considered as a beautiful salt lake that was flourishing with abundance volume of water just a few years ago has now have completely dried up and turned into a vast salt desert. Experts contribute this situation to the plan-less use of underground water resources and un-regulated building of dams over the rivers that use to end in the lake. Unfortunately, Maharloo is only one of the last additions to a long list of rivers and lakes that have died or are dying due to such careless exercises.
Maharloo, photographed in 2011
Maharloo, August 2015