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’.

Sobre elementos de la Lista de salvaguardia urgente

El Naqqāli, narración dramática iraní , inscrito en 2011


Naqqāli which is performed by naqqāls (traditional storytellers) is the oldest form of play in the Islamic Republic of Iran that has its origins in ancient Iran. It is a dramatic performance comprising the telling of an historical or legendary story, based on a variety of genres. It plays a role in forming Iranian identity and also has important social and cultural functions. Notably, there is a small community of female naqqāls who perform to mixed audiences and also assist in transmitting the element orally to younger women and girls.
Effectiveness of the safeguarding plan. Three main actions, with a number of sub activities, have been taken towards safeguarding the element. The first was establishing the Naqqāli House in 2015 in northeast Iran (four more are planned). Its activities are geared towards research, training and performance, which include: recordings of oral heritage; engaging bearers and practitioners and providing financial support to them; master-pupil apprenticeship training (and recording it); and re-establishing performances in coffee houses and other appropriate spaces. The second action is establishing a Naqqāli Foundation (still in the planning stage) to process recordings and other information provided by the Naqqāli House(s) and provide it in print and digital formats; as part of the Foundation, an Archive Centre will promote the element and create documentary films. Finally, several naqqāli festivals have also been organized made up of two main sections for traditional performances of naqqāli and modern day works inspired by the play’s traditional conventions.
The establishment of the Naqqāli House proved to be an effective strategy since it can operate as a strategic centre for implementing planned safeguarding activities and devising new and innovative measures, through its membership, which includes many performers as well as other experts. The viability of the element, its status as well as that of the masters, have been strengthened by attracting younger male and female apprentices. It is reported that family members of naqqāls have begun to return to the art since they can now rely on several years of support to do so, allowing the element to become financially viable. A core of trained individuals that has built up seems to now play a key role in undertaking safeguarding activities. The efforts of non-governmental organizations have attracted more audiences, especially outside Tehran.
Community participation. The report states that the aforementioned safeguarding measures were developed with the full participation of bearers of the element from various ethnic groups, their representatives and relevant non-governmental organizations. In addition, the main safeguarding activities of research, promotion and transmission were undertaken with the involvement of naqqāls (12 of whom named are from different provinces and include one woman). Several Iranian theatre experts who work on recording and researching Iranian Naqqāli have also played an important role. In addition to these experts, three non-governmental organizations are mentioned in the report. The Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization managed the overall process of preparing the report, while attempting to have participation as wide as possible from the various institutional actors (non-governmental, scientific and artistic) all providing reports on their safeguarding activities.
Viability and current risks. The viability of the element has improved since inscription. The number of naqqāls has increased to some degree and traditional modes of transmission have been strengthened. The report mentions that 65 individuals have been trained as naqqāls of whom 24 are women and, although most are living in cities, some come from rural areas. However, no naqqāl can currently support him/herself solely from performing the element. A major aspect to the element’s future viability might be to provide support to naqqāls for their living costs for some time. In addition, in the report it is stated that the international sanctions placed on Iran over the past few years have affected the ability of the government to secure the budget necessary for safeguarding this element.

Las competencias tradicionales de construcción y pilotaje de los lenjes, barcos iraníes del Golfo Pérsico, inscrito en 2011


The Lenj boats which are used for trading, fishing and pearl-diving are built using traditional craft skills and are sailed through the application of traditional knowledge and know-how. In addition, there are a number of ceremonies and customs associated with sailing Lenjes, such as traditional sailor songs, the Fisherman’s New Year and the Shushi (a traditional performing art symbolizing the sailors’ respect for nature) which forms part of that event. Most of the population of the northern Persian Gulf earn their living from the sea. The Lenj element is, therefore, an identity-marker for the local people that gives them pride, and ensures a cohesive social order that preserves peaceful co-existence among their communities.
Effectiveness of the safeguarding plan. The raising of awareness among communities and the wider society on the value and significance of the Lenj element has provided bearers with a sense of pride in their element, a feeling of being respected, and encouraged them and other local communities, groups and individuals to make efforts for its protection. Safeguarding activities are divided into five main categories as follows: i) identification, classification and documentation: using a field survey of the current state of the Lenj element and all its associated aspects; ii) awareness-raising: organizing local performances and enactments of all aspects of the Lenj, including short sea journeys and customs and rituals; iii) capacity-building training: a number of Lenj builders/repairers and experienced captains have been employed to transmit their knowledge, skills and know-how to young people, many of whom are university graduates in engineering, mechanics and industrial design; iv) a database: created by the Research Centre, it lists books, journals, magazines and multimedia on research by universities, other institutions and individuals providing a scientific basis for combining traditional and modern methods of sailing and navigation; v) revitalisation projects including documentaries and other actions to attract young people to the element. Although the traditional knowledge, rituals, festive events, oral culture and performances associated with the Lenj have generally been revived, only a few remaining Lenj building workshops have been restored and no new workshops have been built.
In addition to these safeguarding activities, the report mentions the important effort that has been made to improve the financial situation of bearers. Since 2012, younger captains and sailors have been encouraged to take out private insurance on the basis of arrangements negotiated on their behalf. From 2013, free or low-interest loans have been made available by the Ministry of Constructive Jihad, the main authority for fisheries in Iran, and some provisions concerning bearer pensions have also been adopted.
Community participation. Since inscription, bearers and local communities have become very active in safeguarding the element, presenting some of their own initiatives, collaborating with researchers (e.g. in data collection) and training apprentices. Some urban dwellers (mostly from bearer families) have provided coastal properties to serve as Lenj workshops and the Ebrahimi family gave over their house to be the Research Centre. Two professors of sociology and anthropology have voluntarily assisted in documentation and teaching locals at the Research Centre and several academic experts have organized workshops in maritime law. The report was prepared under the overall direction of the Iranian Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation operating through its provincial branches. The Research Centre was also directly involved and this helped to bring in local communities who provided documents, photos, videos and other information.

  • Viability and current risks__. Building and sailing traditional Lenj boats does show signs of revitalization but the element faces a number of serious threats at the same time. The community of practitioners is very small and generally composed of elderly people who are currently not being substituted by the younger generation. In addition, traditional wooden boats are being replaced by the modern fibreglass variety and the traditional know-how required for building them is being lost as a consequence. It is reported that Lenj boat builders have no trade union, work for only 10 days per month and receive low wages. As a result, young people are not motivated to take up the profession. Knowledge on navigation and sailing Lenjes using for example, a traditional compass, is also being eroded by the accessibility of weather forecast broadcasting and modern GPS technology. Young people, however, are still being trained in the traditional methods by captains and combine both modern and traditional methods.