Donald Trump said that the US is preparing to target 52 Iranian sites, including those important to “Iranian culture,” if the country retaliates for the US’s assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.
This could be considered a war crime, but Trump has only doubled down on the idea.
Trump has not offered any further hints as to where the US might considering as a target, but Iran is home to centuries-old tombs, monuments, mosques, and other stunning sites, some of which are considered world heritage sites.
Take a look at some of the most important cultural sites in Iran below.
President Donald Trump said that the US is preparing to target 52 Iranian sites, including sites “important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” if the country retaliates for the US’s assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike.
But Trump has since doubled down on the idea, defending the US’s right to target cultural sites if Iran retaliates. He said of Iran: “They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way.”
And while White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said on Monday that Trump “didn’t say he’s targeting cultural sites,” she said that he had “identified those sites and said it may happen if Iran retaliates in a certain way.”
Trump did not specifically name any sites in Iran, but the country has many stunning, historic places that are not only important to Iranian culture, but also transcend Islam and pre-date the Islamic Republic as it is formed today. Iran is home to 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Here are just some of Iran’s most important cultural sites, which could be at risk of damage or destruction if Trump follows through with his threats:
Many of Iran’s most-famous sites predate the founding of the country. The ruins of the city of Persepolis, which are now a UNESCO world heritage site, are the remnants of the capital of the Achaemenid Empire. The city dates back as far as 518 BC.
Other ancient cities are also recognised by UNESCO. The Historic City of Yazd is thought to be Iran’s oldest continuously inhabited city, and its desert location means it is close to the ancient Spice and Silk Roads.
Many of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important sites are religious. The Nasir ol Molk is famous for its vivid colours and stained glass windows. It was built in the 1870s, during the Qajar dynasty, and is now one of the country’s most-popular attractions.
Mosques are among the most important and most beautiful sites in the country. Construction started on the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque in the 1600s.
The mosque is in Naqsh-e Jahan Square in the centre of the city of Esfahan. It’s one of the world’s largest city squares, and itself a UNESCO world heritage site.
But other sites act as symbols of a diverse religious history. The 17th-century Vank Cathedral was built by the Christian Armenian community who left Armenia during a war with the Ottoman Empire.
Other sites serve as monuments to major figures in the country’s history. The Tomb of Hafez pays tribute to the Persian poet Hafez, who died in the 1300s.
Others significant locations are lavish palaces for past Iranian royals. Tehran’s Golestan Palace was once the seat of kings, and is now a UNESCO site.
Bisotun, in the west of Iran, is another one of the country’s world heritage sites. Its inscriptions and carvings date back thousands of years, including writings from the Persian Empire dating back to 521 AD in ancient languages: Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian.
Naqsh-e Rostam Necropolis is another one of Iran’s ancient sites, home to tombs cut into a cliff face surrounded by figures of kings, soldiers, and gods. It was the official cemetery of the Achaemenid dynasty, which ended in 330 BC.