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Nowrouz Vital Meeting to be Held in Tehran


As six countries featuring Persian culture agree to hold a joint coordination session prior to submitting Nowrouz for the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces, the chances of registering one of the grandest celebrations in the world on the UNESCO's document has doubled, Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency reported on Wednesday.

In 1998, UNESCO created an international distinction entitled "Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" to honor the most remarkable examples of the oral and Intangible heritage of humanity. According to this proclamation, traditions and rituals observed in several countries must be submitted as a common file by all those member states. As the biggest nation with Persian culture, Iran has, thus, invited 10 other countries including Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, and India to attend a meeting August 6-9 to coordinate the file.

"So far Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Afghanistan have accepted the invitation and we are expecting Kazakhstan to introduce its representative to the meeting in a couple of days," said Fatemeh Farahani, cultural head of Iran's National UNESCO Commission.

Though it has often been associated with cultural sites, monuments and museums, the cultural heritage also includes the intangible heritage, which can be defined as the body of cultural and social expressions that characterize communities and are based on tradition. These intangible forms of heritage, passed on from generation to generation, are modified through time by a process of collective recreation. They are ephemeral and therefore particularly vulnerable.

On May 18, 2001, for the first time, UNESCO proclaimed 19 of the world's most remarkable examples of the oral and intangible heritage. Selected by a 18-member jury, the winning entries were chosen for their outstanding value as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The global proclamation emphasizes the importance of protecting this outstanding but endangered heritage - cultural spaces and forms of popular and traditional expression - and of preserving cultural diversity.

Upon the recommendation of the International Jury for the First and Second Proclamations (2001 and 2003), UNESCO has so far proclaimed 47 "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" from all regions of the world. In a Circular letter, CL/3698 of 23 January 2004, the Director General invited UNESCO Members States and Associate Members to submit candidatures for the Third Proclamation of Masterpieces which will take place in Paris in July 2005.

Nowrouz is the New Year holiday in Iran, Azerbaijan, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, parts of India and among the Kurds. The word itself literally means "new day" in Persian, and the festival marks the beginning of the solar year and new year on the Iranian calendar, as well as among several other nationalities.

Nowrouz traditionally celebrates the awakening of nature, and even the triumph of good over the oppressive darkness of winter. It is a time to celebrate life at the time when life begins or is renewed for much of that which is on the earth. The new year is marked at the instant the sun leaves the astrological sign of Pisces and enters that of Aries. This renewal of nature is the essence of this millennia-old tradition. Originally held as a spring festival, it is believed to have been first acknowledged and named "Nowrouz" by the mythical Persian emperor Jamshid. Others credit the Achaemenid dynasty of the 12th century B.C. for institutionalizing the Nowrouz festival.

There is also a tradition, mainly in Iran, of cleaning everything in the house before Nowrouz, which may even play a role in the origins of the "spring cleaning" practiced by many American households. The spirit and significance of the holiday has often made Nowrouz a target for foreign invaders and anti-nationalist forces throughout the history of Iran. Alexander the Great and the Arab conquerors a thousand years later tried to eliminate the holiday.

The Soviet Union banned it in Central Asia and Azerbaijan, as it was considered a nationalist or Islamic holiday. The celebration was banned in Kurdish sections of Turkey, though, for the last few years, Turkish officials have allowed some festivities. Even in Iran, the birthplace of the tradition, some conservatives favored banning it just after the 1979 revolution, but public opposition was strong and the ban proved impossible to enforce.

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