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Municipalizing Historical Sites Seems Inevitable

Municipalizing Historical Sites Seems InevitableMunicipalizing Historical Sites Seems Inevitable

The head of Tehran Province’s office of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has tried to assuage concerns about municipalizing historical sites by assuring activists and concerned citizens that the organization “will not abandon its supervisory role.”

Speaking to ILNA, Rajabali Khosroabadi said, “Some things are done better with the help of others. The same (concept) applies to transferring the ownership of some historical sites to municipalities.”

The official added that the organization is committed to protecting historical heritage sites and municipalization of these sites “doesn’t mean we’ll stop monitoring the preservation.”

Cultural heritage officials have generally commended the attention given to historical sites in the proposed sixth economic, cultural and social development plan (2016-21). But at least one part of the plan has irked activists: giving  ownership of some historical sites to municipalities.

An article in the plan (still to be ratified by the Majlis) states that ownership of historical and cultural heritage sites in cities with a population above 100,000 that are not inscribed on the National Heritage List will be granted to municipalities.

When reports first emerged about the ICHHTO decision to let municipalities take charge of the sites, activists and academia alike protested and voiced dismay, prompting  news outlets to report that the ICHHTO might scrap the section altogether.

However, ICHHTO chief Masoud Soltanifar later dismissed the reports, stressing that the measure “will remain in place,” making it all but clear that opposing the municipalization of cultural heritage sites is an exercise in futility.

Last month, Hekmatollah Mollasalehi, an Iranian archeologist and academic based in Athens, told ILNA that the municipalizing historical sites will “impose a heavy cost on the country’s history.”

“Measures like these should have no place in the next economic development plan, because they will allow a selected few to take undue advantage of valuable historical sites for personal profit,” he said.

Drawing a contrast between historical structures and modern buildings, the expert argued that “it is dangerous” to hand over the reins of cultural heritage to an entity (municipalities) whose primary expertise lies in making money by demolishing old structures to building skyscrapers.