People, Travel

Officials Continue to Defend Commercialization of Historical Sites

Officials Continue to Defend Commercialization of Historical SitesOfficials Continue to Defend Commercialization of Historical Sites

Following the transfer of 28 historical houses to Shiraz Municipality, which has drawn widespread criticism, cultural heritage officials spearheaded by Masoud Soltanifar, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, continue to defend the measure.  

Last week, Soltanifar cited a lack of funds as the main driving force behind the decision, saying: “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,”

Now, Mosayyeb Amiri, the head of ICHHTO office in Shiraz, Fars Province, has told ILNA that the transfer of these sites to municipalities does not mean that the ownership of properties will be completely ceded, but “only puts the municipality in charge of restoration and utilization of the houses”.  

Activists also asserted that the houses must be transferred via auctions by Iran’s Revitalization and Utilization Fund for Historical Places and approved by the government. In response, Amiri said the municipality “does not stand to make a profit from restoring the sites and making them available to the public, therefore there is no need for auctions”.

He also stressed that ICHHTO could not have ceded the houses if it had been against the law.

Apparently, the municipality is restoring these structures and repurposing them into restaurants or guesthouses for the sake of offering public services.      

The houses, 11 of which are inscribed on the National Heritage List, are all located in Shiraz’s historical texture.

According to Amiri, a comprehensive plan has been devised for all of them and the municipality will invest in the projects.

Stressing that a yearlong feasibility study was carried out for each of the houses, the official said, “The buildings will be turned into guesthouses, traditional restaurants, libraries, handicrafts markets and traditional hotels, which will eventually prevent the residents from leaving the area.”

The latter claim is highly suspect because the presence of old and poor residents of those historical houses does not make legal or business sense. Owners forfeit all rights when they sell a property and will be forced to relocate to poor quarters.

The whole project is ostensibly 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. This is while, as stated above, 11 of the houses are inscribed on the list.

The measure is being implemented despite the widespread criticism of 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 dismisses the criticisms outright.