Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 15.COM 8.B.33

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Islamic Republic of Iran and Tajikistan have nominated Ceremony of Mehrgan (no. 01570) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

The Ceremony of Mehrgan is an annual festival that marks the autumn equinox and expresses the communities’ gratitude for an abundant harvest. It is celebrated by Iranian Zoroastrians (a religious ethnic group) and by the people of Tajikistan. The ceremony of Mehrgan is named after Mehr, the Zoroastrian god of friendship, peace and solidarity. The Zoroastrian faith reaches back to antiquity and the festival is a major part of the group’s identity. In its religious manifestation in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ceremony includes reciting parts of the Zoroastrian holy book, setting a traditional tablecloth, preparing specific dishes, playing music and many other rituals. It is also practised as a Muslim rural ceremony that serves as a blessing and thanksgiving for the harvest. Participants perform local wrestling, rope walking, and distribute food and drinks. In Tajikistan, the element is celebrated during or after the harvest and includes many of these same customs. Farmers and gardeners are notable bearers of the element. The ceremony of Mehrgan is considered as the second big national celebration related to nature for the Tajik people. The ceremony functions to integrate people socially. People of all ages, genders and backgrounds come together. The ceremony promotes mutual respect among communities and peaceful relationships.

  1. Considers that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity are satisfied:

R.1:   The nomination file fails to provide a clear and comprehensive description of the ceremony of Mehrgan and of the intricacy and interwovenness of different aspects of the ceremony. From the information included in the file, it is difficult to understand how this celebration is a shared practice of cultural heritage with regional or local variations, based on different beliefs and national specificities. The nomination file draws a strong distinction between the particularities and forms of development in each country, without elaborating on the aspects that establish this as a shared element of intangible cultural heritage.

R.2:   The nomination does not sufficiently demonstrate that the inscription of the element will contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage. It also does not illustrate how the inscription would encourage dialogue, thus reflecting cultural diversity worldwide and testifying to human creativity. Furthermore, the nomination file provides information that suggests that the inscription of the element contributing to increased tourism may lead to the denaturation and decontextualization of the element, which goes against the spirit and principles of the Convention.

R.3:   The nomination proposes a long list of safeguarding measures to be implemented in the two submitting States. However, though it lists the names of the relevant governmental bodies, it does not specify how these bodies were involved in the planning process, or how they will partake in the implementation of the measures. The same is also true for the participation of the communities concerned in planning the measures. The names of the relevant communities are provided, but the file does not elaborate on how they contributed to planning the safeguarding measures, or how they will be involved in their implementation.

R.4:   In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nomination process seems to adopt a top-down approach, with a group of drafters being responsible for the file, some experts for its assessment, and local bearers for providing the information. In Tajikistan, the process was more community-focused, with many meetings held with community members to discuss the file. The documentation submitted by both States is insufficient to attest to the widest possible community participation in the nomination process.

R.5:   The element has been inscribed in the Iranian National List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage since 2010 and in the National Inventory List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tajikistan since 2014. Both inventories are updated on a regular basis. However, the nomination file does not specify the names of the elements. In addition, there is no information provided on how the element was identified and defined, including how the relevant information was collected and processed with the participation of communities, groups and relevant non-governmental organizations.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Ceremony of Mehrgan to the submitting States Parties and invites them to resubmit the revised nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle;

  2. Reminds the States Parties to pay specific attention to the linguistic quality of files submitted in the future;

  3. Encourages the States Parties, when submitting nomination files in the future, to provide information in the appropriate sections within the file;

  4. Further encourages the States Parties, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid standardized letters of consent and to provide up-to-date letters of consent.