It was the first of July that Honar Online published a report on the presentation of Islamic calligraphy as an intangible heritage of Turkey, quoting the website of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Sabah Daily newspaper. A report, which has been widely reported in the local media over the past month, has drawn mixed reactions from Calligraphy masters repercussion to the Turkish reflection on the Islamic calligraphy and directors of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts of Iran.
The latest reaction to the report was Calligraphy masters Iran 's official objection to Turkish bid to record" Islamic calligraphy ", which was announced a few days ago by Mohammad Hassan Talebiyan, Iran's Deputy Minister of Cultural Heritage. A protest that seems to be a late and even irrational act after various negligences, Mustafa Pourali, Director General of the Registration of Works, Preservation and Restoration of Spiritual and Natural Heritage Department said.
To clarify this issue, we look at what has happened in the past, the negligence of government agencies, the calligraphers' association, and the new dimensions from the list of intangible heritage files by UNESCO in the 2021 category.
Negligence, administrative bureaucracies and union conflicts
In recent years, Iran and Turkey have had various competitions and conflicts in the field of calligraphy, and since 2015, this issue has taken on more serious dimensions. Turkey, which in recent years has sought to restore the political power of the Ottoman state due to the political power of Islamist and Nationalist parties in the parliament, has recently taken various steps to revive its past holdings as an example the latest revival was the Hagia Sophia that, after 85 years of being used as a museum, was renamed by the Turkish Supreme Administrative Court last month as Mosque again and last Friday, after eight decades, Friday prayers were held there.
In this regard, Turkey in 2015 began its determination to register calligraphy, especially the Nasta'liq calligraphy under its name in UNESCO, a type of calligraphy that is known all over the world as the Iranian calligraphy and the bride of Islamic calligraphy. Turkey, citing the presence of Mir Emad Qazvini - one of the calligraphers of Iran, who promoted the Nasta'liq script for several years - In Turkey and the upbringing of Ottoman calligraphers, Turkish governmental in charged associations for this registration goal intended to raise the issue of the Nasta'liq calligraphy in the intangible heritage of UNESCO in the name of Turkey. They have even introduced Mir Emad Qazvini as one of the 100 Istanbul calligraphers by publishing a book called "One Hundred Istanbul Calligraphers" and have distorted history.
But the historical past of Turkey shows that the Ottoman state did not exist at all before the ninth century AH, and this has been proven in historical texts. On the other hand, the oldest Qurans obtained from the Ottomans belong to the tenth century AH, while nearly 5 centuries before that, the Qur'an was written in Iran, and In fact, Turkey intends to tie its 500 years of activity in the field of calligraphy to the entire history of Islamic calligraphy and record it all under its own name.
After Turkey's attempt to submit the Nasta'liq script to UNESCO, in 2016, Javad Bakhtiyari, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Iranian Calligraphers Association, reacted to Turkey's move and announced efforts to register the Iranian Nasta'liq script in cooperation with UNESCO. He mentioned that we must surpass Turkey in this regard. In the same year, Dr. Farhad Nazari, explained in an interview with the Jam-e-Jam Newspaper about Iran's efforts to register the art of calligraphy with the collaboration of Ali Moradkhani, Deputy Minister of Art under the spotlight of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance at that time. 'It was decided to prepare a file for the international registration of Iranian calligraphy, Our goal is to send a file with a total of Iranian fonts such as Solths, Naskh, Nasta'liq, etc. to UNESCO for global registration, or to emphasize only the Nasta'liq'. Nazari promised in 2016 that the issue would be discussed in the National Working Group on Intangible Cultural Heritage, which includes ten ministries, such as the Ministry of Guidance, etc. In the end, a final decision will be made in this council. He said that the Nasta'liq registration file would be sent to UNESCO for 2017, a move that never took place, but Turkey submitted a new file entitled "Islamic Calligraphy" to UNESCO in 2021 season.
Due to the non-fulfillment of the process of submitting the file of Iranian calligraphic Fonts to UNESCO in 2017, apart from the negligence that is always done in the field of cultural heritage, there are two main issues: first, The process of changing the Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization to the Ministry caused this government institution to neglect this issue and second, Internal conflicts of the Calligraphers Association as an institution that should provide advice, solutions, and assistance to the Ministry of Cultural Heritage in this regard.
Will the name of Iran be removed from the history of writing the Quran?
In 2021, two important files have been submitted to UNESCO by a group of Arab countries and Turkey, which shows that these countries are working together to distort the subject of calligraphy, especially the writing of the Qur'an and Islamic calligraphy distorted in such a way that there is no sign of Iranian efforts in the field of this Islamic art.
March 30, 2020, by Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen; the joint file No. 1718 is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List entitled "Arabic Calligraphy, Skills, and Techniques". On the other hand, on March 25, 2020, Turkey registered the file of "Islamic calligraphy" with the number of 1684 in the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List. Simultaneous presentation of these two files and their registration in the names of these countries shows that the place of Iranian calligraphy in the Qur'an, which dates back to the fourth century AH, will be marginalized, and perhaps the file that Iran is supposed to prepare for season 2021-2022 to UNESCO only is Iranian calligraphy which causes ignoring more than a thousand years of Iranian efforts in the history of calligraphy and tradition of writing the Quran.
Earlier, Gholamhossein Amirkhani, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Calligraphers Association, had warned about the calligraphy movements in Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries: 'For more than three decades, we have seen holding festivals and auctions called Calligraphy Arts Center in Istanbul, Turkey. There are 50 Islamic countries and several non-Islamic countries in this field, and of course, it is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia also supports the holding of this summit. By reason in the early years of these events, even Iranians received a subscription to attend the festival, and even Iranian calligraphy professors were not selected as judges which all were by reason and settled mindset while our calligraphy and fonts have a special place in the world-class, but due to the shortcomings of the officials in art, our historical and artistic history in the field of calligraphy has been overshadowed. Despite the fact that Turkey and the Persian Gulf countries hold festivals in Naskh and Solths scripts, Iran has always been able to gain many honors in these ways, and it should not be forgotten that the source of these arts was all from Iran. Therefore, we expect cultural and artistic directors to pay special attention to this area'.
Now, considering these warnings, it seems that Turkey, together with the Organization of the Islamic Conference, is trying to distort history and the tradition that was established in Iran and Iraq and gained maturity in Iran.
Will the protest get anywhere?
However, the Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism as a Turkish proposal to UNESCO for calligraphy that has the tag of "Islamic" has formally protested because the Islamic adjective cannot be limited to Turkey but considering the issue of Arabic calligraphy by a group of Arab countries and the support of ARSIKA, a subset of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, it seems that Iran's protest will not go anywhere. On the other hand, contrary to what Mohammad Hassan Talebian, the Deputy Minister of Cultural Heritage of Iran, said
has submitted his calligraphy file to UNESCO for the year 2021 as part of the list of good protection measures. In the list published by UNESCO for 2021, the only Yalda heritage file with the number of 1572 has been registered.
Earlier, Mustafa Pourali, director-general of the Registration of Works, Preservation, and Restoration of Spiritual and Natural Heritage Department, told Honar Online: "some Items should be attached to the file that we are compiling, and God willing, additional items will be sent'. He also mentioned that: ' It should be emphasized that the inclusion of an intangible cultural heritage element in the World Heritage List is not a matter of monopoly and the 2003 Convention under which the subject of the registration of intangible heritage takes place is not exclusive. That is, if the issue of calligraphy exists in different countries, all those countries can register this element in their own name, and since there is no issue of monopoly, the objection to this issue is also non-technical, non-expert and immature'.
At UNESCO, we have three lists: the Intangible Heritage List, the List of Identifiers, and the Good Conservation Action List. So far, Iran and many other countries have not included an element in the list of Conservation Actions. It is more difficult to register in this list due to its nature, and we hope that Iranian calligraphy will be registered in this list, Mustafa Pourali said.
With looking at Mustafa Pourali although a glimmer of hope can be found for not losing the art of calligraphy, a review of some of the sayings can reveal other aspects of the issue; although a significant effort; but in a way, it cannot express the thousand years of tradition of writing the Qur'an which is the main root of calligraphy in Iran and in a way it reminds us that we still protect this art in the field of calligraphy and writing.