The Iranian cultural heritage, handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) is the implementing body for the 2003 Convention, acting through the Office for Inscription of Cultural Properties, Reservation and Revitalization of Intangible and Natural heritage (OFI). The OFI works with the thirty-one provincial Directorate Generals of ICHHTO. Other governmental bodies as well as nineteen NGOs that act in partnership with the OFI are also listed in the report.
ICHHTO is the main responsible body for training on intangible cultural heritage in the Islamic Republic of Iran, holding seminars and workshops. Since 2008, the OFI has offered a continuing education course for public servants on the 2003 Convention. Specialized research centres and three scientific institutes also hold training courses, workshops, seminars in both specialized and general topics on intangible cultural heritage. A few universities and other higher education institutions also provide specialized training on heritage management, including intangible cultural heritage.
The documentation of intangible cultural heritage in the Islamic Republic of Iran dates back to 1958 and documentation collected by ethnologists, archaeologists and other researchers is held in a number of institutions such as the Folklore and Ethnology Research Centre established in 1972. In addition, there is a long-term project on the ethnography of Iranian people. All the data and documents held in governmental bodies are publicly accessible. The public can also access information on nationally inscribed elements at the OFI on request and a database of the associated files (photographs, videos and other documentation) will soon be available online. The bearers of each element decide which aspects should or should not be presented to the public.
The inventorying process was initiated in 2007 under a National Committee with representatives from the Deputies for Cultural Heritage and Handicrafts (of ICHTTO), the Institutes of Archaeology and Ethnography, the Research Centre for Cultural Heritage and Handicrafts and other scientific experts. This Committee developed the principles, criteria and guidelines for inventorying intangible cultural heritage. The Islamic Republic of Iran has five National Lists: the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (created in 2007); the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (created in 2007); the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Revitalization (created in 2016); the List of Identification and Primary Documentation (created in 2016); and the National Inventory for Living Human Treasures (created in 2016). There are now 1390 elements inscribed on these Lists, classified according to their degree of viability and all five domains of intangible cultural heritage as set out in the Convention. The List of Identification and Primary Documentation includes many sub-categories classified by domains and specific subjects, such as the intangible cultural heritage of refugees and foreign residents in the Islamic Republic of Iran, traditional medicine, the intangible cultural heritage of religious communities, and dialects and languages. Criteria require, inter alia, that elements have a social or cultural value for communities, are transmitted inter-generationally, face a threat of disappearance and are recognized by the communities as representative of their heritage. The viability of the elements is considered and elements of intangible cultural heritage that have disappeared but can be revitalized are listed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Revitalization. The Lists are updated at least every three months, with new inscriptions, and previously inscribed elements are updated annually. Nominations of elements/bearers should be submitted to the Directorate General of ICHHTO by provincial intangible cultural heritage Boards for evaluation by the National Committee for Evaluation of intangible cultural heritage Files and Living Human Treasures for possible inscription on the Lists. Communities and NGOs may also propose elements for inscription directly to the provincial Directorate Generals of ICHHTO or, in some cases, the OFI. No elements are inscribed on any of the Lists without community consent. The National Inventory for Living Human Treasures of Iran is ordered according to bearers of intangible cultural heritage active in the domains of the Convention and now includes ten distinguished bearers.
Safeguarding measures and initiatives have been undertaken to promote the functions of intangible cultural heritage in society and incorporate it into the country’s Fourth and Fifth Five-Year Development Plans (2004-2008 and 2011-2015). The ICHHTO has undertaken actions for research into and the identification, documentation, protection, inventorying, revitalization, archiving and promotion of intangible cultural heritage elements throughout the country and has also held national and international exhibitions and seminars, established living museums and supported NGOs active in the safeguarding and revitalization of living heritage. A number of seminars, conferences, workshops, exhibitions and expert meetings have been held and numerous publications, documentaries and TV programmes have been produced to raise awareness about the importance of intangible cultural heritage for sustainable development.
Research in the areas of folklore, ethnology, ethnography, linguistics and anthropology has been conducted in the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1937. Following the ratification of the 2003 Convention, scientific institutes, universities, cultural institutes and similar bodies have initiated research on intangible cultural heritage and its role in contemporary society. These include the ICHHTO Research Centre, the Institute of Linguistics, the Research Centre for Humanities and the Research Centre for Culture, Art and Communication. New Laws on the Legal Protection of Folklore and on the Protection of Traditional knowledge are being prepared by the policy-making Council for Intellectual Property of the Ministry of Justice.
Various awareness-raising programmes have been undertaken locally and nationally during events aimed at the general public, especially young people and schoolchildren, such as travelling exhibitions, festivals, talks, workshops, seminars and conferences. In order to inform and motivate children, schools often visit museums, and children participate in cultural events and workshops (detailed) where the bearers of elements present their knowledge and skills and they have hands-on experience. The mass media also play an important role in awareness raising and promotion. Elements of intangible cultural heritage are mainly transmitted within families and local communities in a master-apprentice fashion, as with carpet weaving skills, drawing miniatures, calligraphy, pottery and culinary practices. Traditional and non-formal means of transmitting knowledge and skills are more widespread than formal means, although governmental bodies now provide formal means of transmitting the knowledge and skills through training courses in academies, universities, cultural institutions and municipalities. Since women play a key role in the family in the transmission of intangible cultural heritage, cultural institutions and local communities have provided special cultural training for them. With regard to educational and training programmes, schools organize extra-curricular activities during which children learn about intangible cultural heritage and its importance. Shahid Beheshti University offers a dedicated course (for the Master degree in Archaeology) in intangible cultural heritage, its domains and its safeguarding, while postgraduate studies in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology have addressed aspects of this subject for several decades; it is now becoming more prominent in academic literature.
A number of capacity-building workshops, seminars and training courses on aspects of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage have been held from 2007 to 2016 for experts in the Directorate Generals of ICHHTO in thirty-one provinces, as well as representatives of research centres, the relevant Ministries and governmental organizations, NGOs and institutes, the media and others. Traditional approaches to the protection and management of natural spaces and places of memory are important in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as in the management of Persian qanats (aquifers). Some universities include courses on the traditional protection and management of natural spaces and places of memory in heritage-related subjects.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been active in promoting intercultural dialogue and is keen to promote cooperation and the exchange of information and experiences. A number of bilateral, regional and international activities, projects, seminars, expert meetings, festivals and events have been held since 1998 to foster cooperation over safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The Islamic Republic of Iran cooperates closely with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), as in the International Festival of ECO Countries Cuisine, Located on the Silk Route (Zanjan, 2016). The Islamic Republic of Iran is the host country for the Regional Research Centre for Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in West and Central Asia under the Auspices of UNESCO (category 2 centre), which has organized international seminars, forums, capacity-building workshops and festivals, such as the International Expert Panel on Nowruz Dolls and Puppets (Tehran, 2016). The Islamic Republic of Iran played the role of moderator for the multinational Nowruz nomination, with the participation originally of seven countries in 2009 and fourteen by 2015. It also joined the multinational inscription of Flatbread-making and Sharing Culture: Lavash, Katyrma, Jupka, Yufka (2016, with four partner countries).
The Islamic Republic of Iran has two elements inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List and nine elements inscribed on the Representative List. However, for the latter, its report does not cover two elements, namely ‘Traditional skills of carpet weaving in Fars’ and ‘Nawrouz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowrouz, Nawrouz, Nauryz, Nooruz, Nowruz, Navruz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Navruz’.