One of the historic houses in the ancient city of Shiraz that will be demolished to expand Shia shrines (file photo)

One of the historic houses in the ancient city of Shiraz that will be demolished to expand Shia shrines

Historic Houses In Shiraz Being Bulldozed To Expand Shrine

Thursday, 02/09/2023

The government’s plans to demolish tens of historic houses in the ancient city of Shiraz to expand Shia shrines has outraged many Iranians.

Media reported earlier this week that residents of the historic houses marked for demolition in the vicinity of the shrines have been given an ultimatum by the authorities and the municipality’s contractor to evacuate immediately as the demolition work was soon to begin. Several of these houses which date back to Zand (1751-1779) and Qajar (1789-1925) periods have been listed as national heritage sites.

The plan to expand the Shah-e Cheragh shrine is meant to transform Shiraz from a destination for historic tourism to a pilgrimage destination, Mohammadreza Javadi-Yeganeh, a professor of sociology at Tehran University tweeted. “[They are] targeting the Iranian [national] identity again [as opposed to Islamic Shiite],” he wrote while criticizing the manner of appropriation of the properties which he said amounted to robbing the owners.

The area highlighted in red will be demolished.

Nasir Farrokh-Mehr who is the secretary of the National Campaign to Save the Historic Structures of Shiraz, said locals are planning to rally Thursday in the area to prevent what they call a cultural disaster.

The campaign had petitioned the minister of cultural heritage Ezzatollah Zarghami last year to order the historic buildings within the confines of the area to be surveyed and listed as cultural heritage before any final decisions were made.

In its online petition which over 17,000 have signed, the campaign said many of the city’s invaluable historic buildings had been destroyed in the past few decades on the grounds that they were not listed and that influential entities had obstructed the listing of the many buildings that fell within the confines of the are to be destroyed to expand the shrine.

Zarghami said last year that the plans to expand Shah-e Cheragh, which were first proposed a few years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, were to be reviewed by various government agencies. The plans now seem to have been set in motion following President Ebrahim Raisi’s decision during a visit to the city a few months ago to expedite the project.

Etemad newspaper warned Monday that there is evidence that the plan to expand the shrine “to make Shiraz the biggest pilgrims’ destination in the Middle East” would affect 360 hectares of the historic structure of the city.

Some of the historic sites that will be demolished

Shah-e-Cheragh is a mosque and the mausoleum of two of the brothers of the eighth Shia imam, Imam Reza, who is himself buried in the northeastern city of Mashhad. The tombs turned into a pilgrimage site in the 14th century when a mosque and theological school were built in their vicinity.

Imam Reza’s shrine has several times been expanded during the Pahlavi era and after the Islamic Revolution and many of the historic neighborhoods around it have vanished. Much of the surrounding neighbourhoods of Shah-e Cheragh have likewise been demolished in the past few decades, as late as four years ago, to build connecting roads and facilities to serve pilgrims.

Shiraz is one of Iran's most popular tourist sites for foreign tourists and Iranians alike. Pasargade and Persepolis, about 60 km to the north of Shiraz, which date back to the Achaemenid period (559 BC-330 BC), and the tombs of two of Iran's most famous poets, Hafez Shirazi (1325–1390) and Saadi Shirazi (1210 – 1291) are among the city’s most visited sites.

Some of the historic sites that will be demolished

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