(Persia Digest) – Despite multiple protests by citizens and even the official orders of the Prosecutor's Office and members of the Islamic City Council, the demolition of Ray Cemetery just outside Tehran has not come to a halt and there is no end in sight before its total annihilation.
Old graveyards are places to remember loved ones who are no longer with us. All that remains from them is a gravestone and memories. The destruction of cemeteries, some of which also have historic and cultural values apart from sentimental values, can affect the collective memory of a nation and erode its historic background.
Demolishing graves is demolishing our past
Niloufar is a Tehrani citizen and has more than six members of her family buried in the cemetery in Ray. In an interview, she told Persia Digest: “Burying loved ones is not the end of the road; it is an ongoing process with the passage of time. Moreover, the ownership of the graves belongs to those who have purchased it and their demolition without formal notice to use the land for other purposes is tantamount to grave-robbing.”
Niloufar added: “My mother passed away in 1989 overseas; exactly 28 years ago. But she loved Iran and bequeathed to be buried in the soil of her country. We brought her to “Emamzadeh Abdollah” cemetery in Ray, to rest alongside her parents. And now, we have had this bombshell dropped on us that the graves have been demolished. Carrying out such an act without the consent of the families is inhumane. They say they put up a banner informing people that this was going to happen. But if you are not there every week you won’t find out. They could have written to the families, or called them, or maybe placed a notice in the papers and not demolish the graves without formal notice.”
She ended by saying: “They say it is just a piece of cold stone; but our past was entirely in this cemetery. By taking it, they take a piece of you. It is as if you have lost a piece of yourself.”
Arzhang Amirfazli: Did the graves have no owners?
Arzhang Amirfazli, television comedian, went to “Emamzadeh Abdollah” in Ray to visit his father’s grave a few days ago, where he was faced with the heartbreaking scene of a demolished cemetery. He posted photos of this in his Instagram account with his protest and hurt feelings: “This is “Emamzadeh Abdollah”. All the gravestones have been exhumed. There is nothing left here. I don’t know where my father is buried. Apparently, a banner was put up here two months ago that works would be carried out and the gravestones cleared out.”
Ali-Mohammad Sa’adati, Director of the old city fabric and monuments of Tehran, has also written to the cemeteries administration office in Tehran and asked for the works to be stopped in this area. Hassan Khalil-Abadi, member of Tehran’s Islamic City Council, also says that even the order issued by the District Attorney of Ray – in Tehran Province – could not stop the works being carried out by the cemeteries administration office in “Emamzadeh Abdollah”: “The cemeteries office has disregarded the order and carried on with the demolition”, he said.
“Emamzadeh Abdollah” cemetery in Ray – Tehran Province - holds the collective memory of many of us. Apart from its historic monument dating back to Safavid times, many famous personalities are buried here, the mention of whose names recalls parts of the nation’s history and literature. People like Hossein Qollar Aghassi, Taghi Arani, Sheilk Al Raees Afsar, Ali-Akbar Shahnazi, Emad Al Ketab, Hosseingholi Nezam Al Saltaneh Mafi, Touran Mir-Heidari, …