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News > Foreign Minister’s Interview regarding the Inclusion of Qajar’s Historical Maps into the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO

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Foreign Minister’s Interview regarding the Inclusion of Qajar’s Historical Maps into the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO

Following the qualifying of a collection of historical maps, which dates back to Qajar dynasty, to be included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, Dr. Salehi, the Foreign Minister gave an interview on the issue. In the following comes the full text of the interview as published by the Press office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Question: UNESCO announced last week that a collection of exquisite maps pertaining to Qajar dynasty, which are archived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, qualified to be included in the Memory of the World Register. Would you kindly speak a bit about what these maps are and where they are preserved?
- Its a collection of manuscript maps and lithographs pertaining to Qajar era dating back to the years 1193 to 1344 Lunar Year (corresponding to 1779-1925), which was proposed to UNESCO at an initiative by the Center for International Research and Education to further illustrate the significance of Iran as a country located at the main crossroads of the world, namely the Silk Road. As a matter of fact, our archive at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs serves as an important resource for research and studies on the cultural geography, culture, natural and human environment of different regions such as Central Asia, Caucuses, India, Anatolia and the Eastern regions of the Middle East. The collection is comprised of the detailed maps of water sources, aqueducts, canals and other means of transferring water from one point to another; the maps of ponds, lands and states, population distribution and ecological characteristics and maps for building cities, monuments, roads and other institutes and icons of civilization.
Question: what are the qualifications and characteristics of the collection based on which UNESCO assessed the significance of them and approved their being added the register?
- One of the main characteristics of this collection undoubtedly its unique exquisite quality, that is; some parts of the collection were mapped by Iranian cartographers who were graduates of the European institutes of higher education or had been trained in Iran. The maps drawn by these surveyors and topographers contains:
• Water distribution systems and sources and basins
• Delineating the roads and connections between cities
• Depicting cities, streets and neighborhoods
• Determining the boundary lines
• Calculating the distance between different locations
• Preparing building blueprints for monuments and compounds
• Calculating the precise number of settled nomads

The core body of these maps were in possession of the royal court of Iran which later on, on an order issued by Nasir Al-din Shah, were transferred to the first archive for historical documents (established by the then prime minster Mirza Taghi Khan e Amir Kabir in the year 1850), and as years passed the richness of these maps increased by every new piece added to the collection. Another practical characteristic of this collection is its merit for interdisciplinary studies. The collection includes documented historical, social, anthropological and natural geography information and is a significant reference for studying environmental changes, socio-cultural diversity, ecology, urban and rural development, establishment of new institutions of civilization in areas of Central Asia, Caucuses, and India, Anatolia and Eastern regions of the Middle East. In terms of creating an image of Iran and depicting its capacities, this collection has its say; its introduction can illustrate the process of homogenizing the cartographic knowledge in the world or in other words it could elaborate the notion of standardization in this field. The collection is also significant in terms of its preserving various measurement units, cartography methods and the educability of global styles and methods and also for breaking new grounds. Another significant aspect of these maps which transcends national categories is a sub-collection of maps implicating the ethnic and religious heritage. The maps of Ghurian and Harat, and ones of Ghare Kelisa [the black church] signifies the mutual understanding and cultural interaction and also the peaceful coexistence of Irans various folks and religions.
Since cultural diversity and peaceful coexistence of folks and nations are keys to regional peace and stability, registering this collection in the Memory of the World Programme facilitates the access of researches to the information and will contribute to preserving human achievements and global peace, specifically in the region where we live.
Another quantity well addressed in these maps is the allocation of the bulk of the work to water sources, streams and rivers, basins and etc. considering the climactic severity and harshness in the region, and unchecked exploitations of subterranean water sources which has resulted in the exhaustion of this vital source in the region, using these maps to retarget the information for new studies and help better realize the Millennium Development Goals.
Another characteristic of a part of these maps is their being allocated to historical whereabouts of periodic habitats of migrating birds from Siberia to their temporary habitat on the fringes of the Caspian Sea. As an example; we can point to Ashuradeh island which is now inundated or to the Anzali Lagoon pollution which has been caused by uncontrolled exploitations of sea resources or dumping industrial wastes into the sea. The current situation thus requires that documented researches and studies be carried out by international institutes and be backed up by historical documents and maps.
Another dimension of the maps is the inclusion of roads and connection which are of vital importance in reconstructing the World Memory as a tool to promote international cooperation and deepen its scope. Another aspect of the maps which is, without a doubt, of ultimate importance is the introduction of Iranian Style in cartography and its antecedence in the field.
And finally, this collection and other similar ones are great contributions to the defragmentation of the World Memory and placing due importance on geographical implications. We should also bear in mind that the information provided by these maps regarding ecological changes could be great importance to geography research centers and specifically for historical geography studies.
Question: Hereby I would like to express my gratefulness for your detailed and articulate answers and extend the interview on this last point you just mentioned. Facing false, sometimes malevolent and biased, cultural policies of the neighbors who try to present historical and geographical facts and documents in a slanted way or give biased account of history, what could be the role and importance of these programmes in defending and preserving historical and geographical righteousness? And, what measures have you and the Ministry upon which youre incumbent taken so far to enrich and broaden the reach of this collection? Would care to share your achievements as the Foreign Minister?
- Well, let us postpone the judgment to future generation, but what I need to say is that we are not indifferent in this field, but there are restraint on divulging the measures taken and efforts made. We live in a hostile environment under the sharp eyes of rivals and enemies, thus we need a smart command in this situation. In my opinion an example can illustrate the significance of this measure; since two centuries ago, our ancestors and foreign ministry officials have toiled to delineate the maps of boundaries and also sovereignty maps and now we owe them our stability. However they were not aware of the fact that, some day, their work would earn global prestige and value and be of avail to interdisciplinary studies and help facilitate the peaceful coexistence of folks and religions. Its a fact that our assets of the present time, is the very result of the sweats they broke and efforts they made, however the compiling the documents and maps of the two hundred years ago and presenting them to the world has been a task which I am proud to have undertaken during the years of my career as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, all these efforts are not enough because as you mentioned earlier, some of the neighbors, either unwittingly or based on some misunderstandings, try to confiscate our cultural honors or distort long-established concrete geographical facts. What should be our policy in this regard? Should we not making greatest possible use of the opportunities provided by international institutions within the framework of such programmes and initiatives to reiterate our historical and geographical rights? What could our response be facing inaccurate literature on history, geography and culture, used by a foreign person or institute to make judgments on us? The simplest way is to protest, however this way is wont yield any results. Only when we have set the frameworks for this documents and registered them with international organizations, can we reap the results. Suppose you fought a war to preserve you national integrity and retain control over the lands you lost and succeeded in so doing, but this is not the end! From this stage onward you have to fully exploit to the international community and the potentials it has to offer in order to mobilize all the members to acknowledge you historical and cultural rights. This is our duty as the diplomatic service. We are not alone in this and a set of other institutes and organizations should come to our aid to create satisfactory results. To that aim, weekly meetings has been organized with the academia, officials, the National Commission for UNESCO and other elites in the country. We have only been a member of this campaign, a member which dutifully stood up and carried out its responsibilities and shared its knowledge in order to realize national goals.

12:33 - 28/07/2013    /    Number : 622    /    Show Count : 1548


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