Historical Christian monuments in Iran are being destroyed or allowed to fall into a state of decay in what appears to be an attempt by the authorities to wipe out the country’s Christian heritage.
Churches and Christian cemeteries are particularly vulnerable, as experts warn that pre-Islamic historical monuments are at greater risk than ever before.
Earlier this month, Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News reported that a Christian cemetery, which was over 200 years old, in the Ghal’e Dokhtar area of Kerman province had been completely demolished without the permission of its owners.
Mohammad Mehdi Afzali of the Cultural Heritage organisation of Kerman was quoted as saying:
Destruction of this cemetery was conducted as part of a project by the municipality and Cultural Heritage organisation to release lands around Ghal’e Dokhtar and Ghal’e Ardeshir.
This followed the flattening of the Church of St Andrew, also in Kerman, last year. It was pulled down by bulldozers overnight despite having been registered as a national monument in March 2009, a status that required the 60-year-old building to be protected and restored. The church had previously been converted into an office for a taxi service.
The Church of Haftvan, in Salmas county, has been repeatedly attacked and is in danger of collapse. It was registered as a national monument in 2002 but has been left to decay; plants have grown into the building, causing the walls to crack. Trespassers have vandalised the building, and the yard in front of it has been dug up in search of jewels and antiques; this has caused soil erosion, weakening the walls of the church.
A Christian from Salmas said:
The Islamic Republic is practically destroying monuments of Christians. It is not Haftvan alone; the church of Ashnak village has become the same or even worse because of some trespassers who are actually officials of the regime… The laws of the Islamic country do nothing to prevent the destruction of these monuments.
Large crosses on gravestones at a Christian cemetery in Bushehr that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century have been removed, and what remains of the site is overgrown and neglected.
Mohabat News said:
It seems that Islamic Republic officials, unsuccessful in stopping the growth of Christianity among the people by pressuring them, arresting them and banning Christian converts from attending church services, want to destroy historical Christian monuments to totally wipe the Christian heritage from the face of Iran.