Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 12.COM 11.B.14

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Islamic Republic of Iran has nominated Chogān, a horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling (No. 01282) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Chogān is a traditional horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling; it has a history of over 2,000 years in the Islamic Republic of Iran and has mostly been played in royal courts and urban fields. In Chogān, two rider teams compete and the aim is to pass the ball through the opposing team’s goal posts using a wooden stick. Chogān includes the main game, a corresponding musical performance and storytelling. Bearers include three primary groups: the players, the storytellers and the musicians. Chogān is a cultural, artistic and athletic element with a strong connection to the identity and history of its bearers and practitioners. It has a strong presence in the literature, storytelling, proverbs, handicrafts and ornaments that are valuable parts of the symbolism of its practitioners. As an element that promotes the health of the body and soul, Chogān also establishes a connection between nature, humankind and horses. Traditionally, transmission has occurred informally within the family or in workshops, and Chogān techniques continue to be actively safeguarded by families and local practitioners. However, over the last decades, Chogān associations have also been established, which hold training courses, support local masters and provide assistance in transmitting all aspects of Chogān while safeguarding local diversity.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The element refers to a traditional horse-riding game, accompanied by music and storytelling. Depending on the region, it differs in terms of the size of the Meydan (open area), the number of Chukken (rounds) and the number of Choganbazan (players). The file describes the variety of values associated with Chogān, the connection between nature, humankind and horses that it establishes, the exhilaration and entertainment value of the game and the sense of belonging to society and history that it fosters. Knowledge and skills related to Chogān are transmitted informally or through training courses carried out by the Central Chogān Association and the Chogān Living Museum. Great respect is exhibited to masters and veterans of the practice. The file asserts that no dimension of the element is incompatible with existing international human rights instruments.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would contribute to increasing the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general and raising awareness of its importance since the element fosters an interaction and engagement between humankind, nature, oral traditions and craftsmanship. Associated with other widely practised traditional practices such as Nowrouz, the element would encourage dialogue among communities, groups and individuals and would foster intergenerational dialogue within families in cities and rural areas.

R.3:   Past and current efforts to safeguard the element have been constantly initiated or supported by communities, groups, individuals and non-governmental associations. For example, 70 per cent of the cost of the safeguarding activities is covered by local bearers of the element. The description of the five-year plan for implementing the measures covers funding, the organization of seasonal and annual festivals at both the local and regional scales, research activities, the publication of booklets, the organization of annual tribute ceremonies, the establishment of an archive for the oral history of Chogān, youth field training for the players and training workshops for apprentices. The State has supported the activities, with a primary focus on legislation (such as tax exemptions), annual budget allocations and documentation. The State Party has a policy in place to include the historical sites and cultural spaces where the game is played on the national cultural heritage lists. Modern media are very involved in the process, with new technologies mostly targeting young people. Research is also planned to examine ways to mitigate the potentially adverse impacts of over-commercialization and any subsequent loss of meaning related to the element.

R.4:   In a meeting held in February 2009, it was decided that an Inscription Committee would be formed by the representatives of the five provincial associations, the representative of the Office for Inscription of Heritage and the representative of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO. After numerous meetings and discussions, the file was compiled. Various stakeholders provided their consent, including other bearers, experts and government representatives, as documented in the file (including a traditional Chogān or wooden stick belonging to one of the Associations as a sign of consent). The file states that there are no customary practices restricting access to the element and there are no prohibitions in observing, studying or documenting it.

R.5:   The element was included in the National Representative Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2010. The inventory is maintained by the Office for Inscriptions, Preservation and Revitalization of Intangible and Natural Heritage, affiliated with the Deputy for Cultural Heritage, the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO), and is updated every one to three years. It was drawn up with the participation of the communities concerned, who contributed actively throughout the proposition, compilation, inclusion and monitoring stages.

  1. Inscribes Chogān, a horse-riding game accompanied by music and storytelling on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party for innovative safeguarding initiatives involving awareness raising among youth through the creative use of multimedia and invites it to report the outcomes of such initiatives in the following periodic report on the status of this element;
  3. Further invites the State Party to avoid the use of inappropriate vocabulary and concepts when referring to intangible cultural heritage, such as ‘World ICH List’, which may lead to confusion with the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.