The Flip side of Privatizing History

The Flip side of  Privatizing HistoryThe Flip side of  Privatizing History

Transferring ownership of historical sites to the private sector is dangerous and harmful, ILNA quoted an archeologist as saying.

Pointing to the recent privatization of Bisotun Caravansary, Hekmatollah Molla Salehi said, “Our cultural values are being destroyed so that a select few can make a profit.”

The norm is to seek the assistance of the private sector to help preserve cultural and historical structures, not repurpose them, he asserted, a direct reference to plans to turn Bisotun Caravansary into a lodging facility.

Asked if privatization of historical sites is a common practice in other countries, Molla Salehi, an associate professor at the University of Tehran, said, “Yes, but the purpose and method of privatization is completely different from Iran.”

“Cooperation between the public and the private sectors ultimately benefits historical sites. The private sector strives to protect ancient structures to the extent of its resources, without any ulterior motives, such as financial gains.”

Privatization requires planning and expert analysis. Qualified professionals need to determine whether or not the private sector can help preserve a structure, he said.

Molla Salehi expressed concern that the same fate may await other sites, such as Persepolis in Fars Province and Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan Province.

“If the trend continues, I fear not only for the heritage sites, but also natural resources and the environment.”

The private sector in Greece - a small country with limited financial resources – spends a fortune on the preservation of the country’s history because Greece’s top officials value the importance of their past, Molla Salehi said. “It is a pity we do not care as much for our own history.”

The expert voiced discontent, and said, “Historical sites are our cultural heritage, passed down to us over thousands of years; how is it okay to sacrifice them for the sake of money?”

Tehran is replete with historical textures in disrepair; maybe if the municipality was willing to spend on the city’s historical sites the same money it splurges on bridge construction, Tehran could become a tourist attraction, Mollah Salehi said.

“Historical structures must be restored and turned into museums; that way, history is preserved and everybody benefits.”