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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
First anniversary of the earthquake at World Heritage city of Bam (Iran)

23-12-2004 4:00 pm The inscription of Bam and its Cultural Landscape, the ancient Silk Road landmark, on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and on the World Heritage List in Danger will be celebrated in a ceremony on December 27, marking the first anniversary of the earthquake that destroyed much of the site and killed more than 26,000 people.Bam_insid.jpg

The Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hossein Marashi, who also heads the country’s Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (ICHTO), will be among those attending the ceremony at the Citadel of Bam, the Arg-e Bam, which was severely damaged in the quake. Assistant UNESCO Director-General for Culture Mounir Bouchenaki, will also take part on behalf of the Director-General, as will representatives of other United Nations Organizations working on the site (UNDP, UNIC, FAO, WHO, UNICEF) and representatives of the governments of France, Italy and Japan. Mohammad Khatami, the President of Islamic Republic of Iran, may also attend the event.

UNESCO, which is spearheading international efforts for the cultural preservation of Bam, began assisting the Iranians in safeguarding the remains of the site and providing relief to the population, particularly in education, immediately after the earthquake. UNESCO and the Iranian authorities, in consultation with other international organizations and donors, have defined priorities for the preservation of the site’s “outstanding universal value” that warranted the decision, taken by the World Heritage Committee in July this year, to inscribe it on the World Heritage List. Priority will be given to studying the archaeological remains, which have been made accessible by the quake, and the population’s strong attachment to the site will be mobilized in programmes for its preservation.

The following priorities were defined during the Second Meeting of the International Steering Committee for Bam earlier this month1:

  • Develop a new management plan containing legal, institutional and technical provisions to ensure the protection of the listed site, which is much larger than the Citadel, as it extends to the surrounding landscape with the traditional irrigation system of underground canals, the qanat.

  • Use traditional techniques and local manpower to restore the qanats, which have allowed Iranian civilization to prosper over millenia and are still used today for agricultural purposes.

  • Revitalize traditional earthen architecture, which has proved resistant to seismic stress. This should provide employment opportunities for the inhabitants of Bam and serve as a model for hundreds of other cities in Iran and the Middle East, where earth was the main building material in the past.

  • Develop guidelines for the management of archaeological heritage, including the enormous quantity of unknown archaeological heritage found under the debris of the Citadel and in other locations, enabling the study of these finds.

  • Conserve and restore selected monuments, including architectural elements of the Citadel, as test projects to assess approaches and techniques that could be applied later to the rest of the site.

    Iran is planning to hold international workshops, meetings and conferences during the first quarter of 2005 to raise awareness of Bam and projects for its rehabilitation. An International Conference will be organized in cooperation with the Italian authorities during the second half of the year to mobilize international support for the safeguarding and rehabilitation of the site.

    Situated in the desert on the southern edge of the Iranian high plateau, Bam developed as a crossroads of trade in silk and cotton. Its origins can be traced to the Achaemenid period (6th-4th century BC). The main ancient remains of the site, which reached its heyday from the 7th to 11th centuries, are within a fortified citadel area (Arg), which contains 38 watchtowers, Governmental Quarters, and the historic town with one of the oldest mosques in Iran, dating from the 8th or 9th century. Bam is the most representative example of a fortified medieval town built in vernacular technique using mud layers.

    Bam Cultural Landscape represents an exceptional testimony to the development of a trading settlement where various influences met in a desert environment in Central Asia. It is an outstanding example of mud layer technique (Chineh) combined with mud bricks (Khesht). The qanāts further provide an outstanding representation of the interaction of man and nature in a desert environment.

    By submitting sites for inscription on the World Heritage List, states parties to UNESCO’s 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, undertake to preserve the outstanding value of the property. Inscription on the World Heritage List in Danger is intended to mobilize support to save sites facing serious threat to their integrity.


    1 The meeting, at UNESCO Headquarters brought together the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Themba Wakashe; the Assistant Director-General for Culture, Mounir Bouchenaki; Cristina Carenza, Counsellor of the Italian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO; Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti, Head of the Research Organization for Cultural Heritage and Tourism (Iran); Rasool Vatandoust, Director of the Research Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Relics (Iran); Hossein Rayati, Director of Conservation of Historical Buildings and Sites (Iran); Francesco Bandarin, Director of the World Heritage Centre and a representative of the UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office.

    Photo © UNESCO/M. Bouchenaki






  • Source Press Release No 2004 - 126
    Author(s) UNESCOPRESS


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