UNESCO raps Trump, reminding U.S. committed not to harm cultural heritage

January 7, 2020 - 18:56

TEHRAN - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday rebuked U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent threats to target Iranian cultural sites, saying the United States has signed treaties committing it not to harm cultural heritage.

The UN body reminded that under provisions of the 1954 and 1972 conventions - which have been ratified by both the United States and Iran - signatory states must not damage cultural and natural heritage, Reuters reported.

Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the IRGC Quds Force commander, was martyred in a U.S. terrorist assault in Baghdad on January 3.

In a tweet on Saturday, Trump warned that the U.S. will hit important cultural sites in Iran “very fast and very hard” should the Iranians kill any Americans or attack American assets.

Trump on Sunday stood by his threat to go after Iranian cultural sites, warning of a “major retaliation” if Iran strikes back for the assassination of Soleimani.

Meanwhile, the director of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Hojjatollah Ayyubi, in a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, called for the UN body to both condemn the U.S. president’s threats and inform the public of dangers of such behavior.

The official also reminded a 2017 UN Security Council resolution condemning the destruction of heritage sites, prompted by the actions of ISIS and other armed factions in Syria and Iraq.

“Threatening cultural heritage is a war crime,” Iran’s tourism minister Ali-Asghar Mounesan announced on Sunday in a reaction to the hostile message from the U.S. president.

Iran is home to two dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including Persepolis with its ancient ruins that date back to 518 BC, the 17th-century grand mosque of Isfahan located in a teeming bazaar, and the Golestan Palace in the heart of Tehran.

The country’s cultural sites reflect the expanse of Iran’s history: Geological and archaeological sites date back several thousand years, while 1,000-year-old sites reflect Iran’s contributions to the Golden Age of Islam. In Qom, the Feizieh Religious Science School and the holy shrine of Masoumeh (S), attract Muslim pilgrims from around the world.

More recently, though, some of the most iconic cultural sites have come to embody the nation’s defiance in the face of the United States. For example, the iconic Azadi Tower, or Freedom Tower, with its famed white marble arch is where hundreds of thousands gather in Tehran each year and chant slogans against the U.S. to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

AFM/MG

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