People, Travel

Soltanifar Defends Ceding Historical Sites to Municipalities

Soltanifar Defends Ceding Historical Sites to MunicipalitiesSoltanifar Defends Ceding Historical Sites to Municipalities

Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization has officially transferred the ownership of 28 historical houses to Shiraz Municipality following the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Shiraz City Council earlier this week.

The move is in line with an article in the next five-year economic development plan (2016-21) that permits the transfer of ownership of historical and cultural heritage sites in cities with a population above 100,000, which are not inscribed on the National Heritage List, to municipalities.

The measure has been taken despite widespread criticism by activists maintaining that it will be at the expense of the country’s cultural heritage. However, ICHHTO has not given in to the pressure and constantly dismissed the criticisms.

Speaking on the sidelines of the signing ceremony, ICHHTO chief, Masoud Soltanifar, defended the move, stating that it is essential to preserve and restore the sites, Mehr News Agency reported.

The official pointed to the lack of funds as the main driving force behind the decision.

“Our financial resources don’t meet the requirements of the organization. Therefore we looked for alternative solutions, one of which was to cede historical buildings to municipalities,” he said.

Out of about one million historical sites in the country, 32,000 have been inscribed on the National Heritage List and 19 world heritage sites. Experts have estimated that around 1.6 trillion rials ($4.6 billion) are needed to restore the country’s historical buildings alone while the total state budget for the year is 294 trillion rials ($8.5 billion). The current fiscal year started on March 20.

Hekmatollah Mollasalehi, an Iranian archeologist and academic based in Athens, Greece, had earlier said measures like this allow a few individuals to take undue advantage of valuable historical sites for personal profit.

“It is dangerous to hand over the reins of cultural heritage to an entity (municipalities) whose basic expertise lies in making money by demolishing old structures to build skyscrapers,” he said.

To assure activists and concerned citizens, ICHHTO announced that it would not abandon its supervisory role.

“The organization is committed to protecting historical heritage sites and ceding them to municipalities doesn’t mean we’ll stop monitoring the preservation,” Soltanifar said in response to concerned activists.