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UNESCO and the World Registration of National Monuments

Each country’s ancestral and historical monuments are the symbol and manifestation of the civilization, culture, and history of that land, which has been formed over millennia and centuries, and its traces have survived to the present time. These monuments each, are the identity of a nation and part of the ups and downs of history and the world’s cultural memory.

Each year, a number of these historical, cultural, and natural monuments are recorded on the UNESCO World Heritage List by the member states of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. After review, they join the world heritage list.

Inheritance means something inherited from the past and can be given on to the next generation. Meanwhile, cultural heritage (tangible or intangible) is the creative expression of human existence in the ancient past, recent past, and present, which has been passed down from previous generations to the present generation. Cultural heritage reveals the traditions, fortifications, and achievements of a country and its people. Also, natural heritage is a combination of geological and geographical-physical features that have unique global value in terms of habitat, science, conservation, and nature.

Some monuments have both cultural and natural features. It should be noted that the term “cultural landscapes” or “cultural prospect” is also used in international documents, which refers to the combined effects of nature and man; like some settlements.

There are cultural and natural heritage sites worldwide that are of unique value to humanity and are referred to as a “UNESCO World Heritage Site” during the registration process.

Including a heritage site in this list is especially important because it brings more and more attention to the extraordinary importance and can lay the foundation for better preservation and protection. It also contributes significantly to attracting tourists and growing the economic foundation of indigenous and national communities by accurately promoting and observing conservation standards.

For a heritage to have such a status, it must meet one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Demonstrates a masterpiece of human talent and creativity
  2. Represents the exchange of human values over a period of time in a cultural area in terms of advances in architecture or technology, urban planning, or landscape design
  3. An individual or at least exceptional testimony to a living or lost cultural tradition or civilization
  4. An exceptional example in architecture or technology that represents an important stage in human history
  5. Be a prime example of the interaction between humans and the environment or represent a culture
  6. Directly or tangibly related to life events or traditions, thoughts and ideas or works of art or literature of great global importance
  7. Be a unique natural phenomenon with exceptional backgrounds and aesthetics
  8. Be a notable example of the stages and changes in the history of geology
  9. Be a Prominent example of environmental and biological processes in terrestrial evolution, coastal and marine ecosystems, and plant and animal communities
  10. Includes natural habitats important in terms of biodiversity and contain endangered species

What is UNESCO World Heritage?

UNESCO World Heritage is the name of an international treaty approved by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972. Its theme is the preservation of historical, natural, and cultural monuments of human beings that are of global importance and belong to all human beings on earth, regardless of race, religion, and nationality. Under the convention, UNESCO member states can nominate their country for historical, natural, and cultural monuments. The protection of these works after registration while remaining within the country’s sovereignty will be the responsibility of all member states. UNESCO World Heritage Sites are forests, mountains, ponds, deserts, tombs, buildings, complexes, or cities.

Iran joins the UNESCO World Registration Committee

Iran joined the UNESCO world heritage convention three years after ratifying the General Conference of UNESCO on February 26, 1975. So far, 26 works of Iranian historical-cultural and natural sites have been registered in UNESCO World Heritage. This list includes 24 cultural heritage sites and two natural heritage sites.

World-registered monuments of Iran from the beginning until now

The three historical sites of Choghaznabil, Persepolis, and Naghsh-e Jahan Square were the first places in Iran to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. After that, for almost 24 years, no records were filed for world registration. After more than two decades, Takht-e Soleiman, the Bam Citadel complex, and the Pasargad complex were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The process of registering important Iranian works continued in the following years, and Gonbad Soltanieh and Biston were registered as the seventh and eighth works from Iran in UNESCO. The collection of works of the Armenian monks of Iran, including the four churches of St. Thaddeus, St. Stephen, Zorzar, and the Church of the Shepherd, and the water structures of Shushtar are the 9th and 10th registered works of Iran that were registered in the world list.

By following this process, Iran managed to register two works in the world list; Tabriz Bazaar and the tomb of Sheikh Safi al-Din Ardabili were included in the world memory due to their architectural and historical features. With the registration of Iranian gardens, including nine gardens of Pasargad, Eram Garden, Chehelston, Finn Garden, Abbasabad, Shahzadeh Garden, Akbariyeh, Dolatabad and Pahlavanpour, Isfahan Grand Mosque and Gonbad-e Qabus, and Golestan Palace Cultural and Historical Complex in UNESCO, the number of world monuments in Iran reached 16. Shahr-e Sukhteh was registered by UNESCO in 2014, and a year later, the cultural landscape of Meymand village and the ancient site of Susa was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In 2016, Iran was able to register two valuable national works in the UNESCO World Heritage List. First, the Loot Plain, which stretches in Kerman, South Khorasan and Sistan-Baluchistan, gained global position. Loot is the twenty-first nationally registered work of Iran in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The second UNESCO World Heritage Site from Iran this year was a collection of eleven aqueducts, one of the world’s oldest and most amazing water supply systems, and a masterpiece of Iranian architecture and engineering.

With the registration of the historical city of Yazd, the Sassanid archeological landscape of Fars region, Hyrcanian forests, the national railway of Iran, and the villages of Horaman, until 1400 AH, with 26 tangible cultural and natural works of the UNESCO world heritage list, Iran ranks 9th in the world list.

In addition to the registered monuments, monuments such as Naghsh-e Rostam, Naghsh-e Rajab, Taghbestan, Damavand, the historical city of Masouleh, Alamut Cultural Landscape, Golestan National Park, Arasbaran Protected Area, Sabalan Mountain, Hegmataneh, Kabood Mosque, are also proposed for UNESCO world heritage.

World registration

It was mentioned earlier that the member states of the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) have the opportunity to participate in the World registration of their monuments.

The member states of this convention can submit their proposals to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The UNESCO Committee is made up of elected representatives of the member states, following the views of its advisory bodies such as the International Council on Works and Sites (ICOMOS), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), and the International Center for Property Protection and Restoration Studies. Cultural” (ICCROM) decides on this.

Using “Wikipedia encyclopedia” and “UNESCO-Iran National Committee website,” by Dr. Seyed Shahaboddin Mousavizadeh (with some changes and editing)

The next article will introduce the world registered works of Iran.


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