During its three-decade-long rule, the Islamic regime of Iran has proven that it doesn’t pay the least attention to the maintenance of cultural monuments, especially if the building belongs to non-Islamic religions.
According to the Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News, the Islamic Republic’s negligence in the maintenance of cultural monuments has resulted in the destruction of these historical sites either by unknown trespassers or by a lack of preservation. Some cultural activists believe that these monuments have never been in greater risk of destruction than the risk they have been facing in recent years.
Church buildings are no exception. In some cases, even church buildings have been demolished with the permission of government organizations.
Recently, some domestic papers reported, that although the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) passed a law in 2003 to form the Organization of Tourism and Cultural Heritage, by 2011, at least 40 nationally registered historical monuments and sites had been destroyed. The destruction of churches is only one segment of the Islamic regime’s irresponsibility towards Christian monuments and the historical identity of Iranian Christians.
Some recently obtained reports indicated that the head office of Cultural Heritage in Hamedan has built an ice-cream booth in Saint Stepanos church’s property in Ecbatana Hill which has ruined the view of the church. The ice-cream booth is made of steel and has ice-cream advertisements all around it.
Built 335 years ago, the Saint Stepanos (Stephen) Armenian Church is considered one of the historical monuments of Hamedan. The ice-cream man in the booth, who is absolutely satisfied with his sale, said, “The booth is owned by the Cultural Heritage Organization. I have just rented it.” As the man says, the booth was installed somewhere else and was moved recently to the property of the church.
It is not clear on what basis the Cultural Heritage organization and its office in the Ecbatana Hill decided to move the booth to the church compound, which is a historical monument. At least, the same booth could have been used to provide information about the church and historical Ecbatana Hill rather than ice-cream, to visitors. However, it seems the organization has preferred the booth’s rental fee over everything else.
- Islamic Republic’s History in Demolishing Historical Church Buildings
In April 2012, some news reports said that “The Historical Haftvan church in Haftvan village near Salmas is about to collapse.” The church that was built at the end of Safavi Kingdom in Iran, was registered as a national monument on March 10, 2002. However, despite being registered, the church is in tragic condition and is at risk of collapse and total destruction.
Other reports in September 2011 stated that un-named Islamic Republic authorities ordered the destruction of a historical church building in Kerman. Following this order, the church building was demolished overnight using bulldozers. The church had been registered as a national monument but was flattened instantaneously.
Another report dated April 02, 2012, said a historic Christian graveyard, built more than 200 years ago in Kerman province, “was thoroughly destroyed”. The age of the graveyard is estimated by local residents.
The Jolfa neighborhood in Esfahan is one of the oldest neighborhoods of the city and is home to the well-known Armenian Vank Cathedral. Jolfa has been an Armenian neighborhood since the Safavis ruled Iran. The church has suffered increasing decay for the last 15 years. Although the Jolfa neighborhood still bears signs of Christianity, and some efforts are being made to preserve it, a considerable number of these Christian signs have been cleared from the face of the neighborhood and the cleansing process is still underway.