A Losing Battle

A Losing Battle A Losing Battle

Destruction of the historical textures of Iran’s ancient cities is becoming less of an exception and more of a norm. After the demolition of over a dozen historical houses in Shiraz, now it is Isfahan’s turn to suffer at the hands of a handful of people looking to line their pockets.

New Jolfa neighborhood in Isfahan is the Armenian quarter of the city, dating back to the early 17th century.

According to official records, Shah Abbas I of the Safavid Dynasty established the quarter to house over 150,000 Armenians who had been displaced from their hometown of Julfa, in present-day Azerbaijan. Famous for their silk trade, the Armenians were treated well by Shah Abbas, in the hopes that their expertise would benefit Persia.

The historical texture of New Jolfa was first marred when, during the Pahlavi era, new roads were constructed straight through the neighborhood, essentially dividing New Jolfa.

Ever since, the destruction of the historical quarter has continued. Wily individuals have been buying the historical houses of the neighborhood for low prices, only to demolish them.

  Greed-Driven Creativity

Speaking to ISNA, Alireza Jafarizand, an archeologist, said, “Destruction of the houses in the neighborhood has sped up in the past two weeks.

“One of the houses that has succumbed to their owner’s greed is a Safavid-era structure with a unique architecture.”

According to Jafarizand, an expert on Isfahan history, the owner of the house was not granted a permit to demolish the house, so he took matters into his own hands. “He blocked the house’s drainpipes to let moisture destroy the structure from the inside out.”

 Other houses have been left at the mercy of weather. “It is not just New Jolfa; other neighborhoods, such as Khaghani, are also falling prey to human greed,” Jafarizand said. “The situation is getting worse by the day.”

New Jolfa is inscribed on the National Heritage List and should be safe from destruction. Yet, Isfahan is losing a part of its heritage, and Iran, a part of its history.