On January 28, workers at the Chogha Zanbil-Haft Tapeh World Heritage site — an ancient Elamite complex founded in 1,200 B.C. in the southwestern province of Khuzestan — staged a protest against four months worth of unpaid wages. They blocked access to the site.
“Over 150 workers at three world heritage sites including Chogha Zenbil-Haft Tapeh have not been paid from October through January. The Cultural Heritage, Handicraft, and Tourism Organization has failed to provide the necessary credit to cover the salaries of these workers,” ILNA, the Iranian Labor News Agency, reported, quoting a manager at Chogha Zenbil-Haft Tapeh World Heritage.
On January 26, a guard at the Izeh World Heritage site —an ancient Elamite complex in Khuzestan Province — whose wages and that of his fellow workers had been in arrears for a few months, reportedly used a sledgehammer to break some of the stone pillars and damage graves at the ancient site. On the following Monday, Ayoub Soltani, the director of the Izeh World Heritage site, resigned, citing health reasons. He denied any connection between the incident and his resignation. “The guard in question remains at large. We still don’t know the reason for his action,” Soltani told reporters.
Workers at the Bam World Heritage site, in southeastern Kerman Province, have staged a number of protests in recent months over unpaid wages. Arg-e Bam is the largest adobe building in the world. It requires greater maintenance than almost all other ancient sites in Iran. The site employs over 135 workers and experts. The employees have consistently complained about unpaid wages in the past two years.
Atefeh Rushavi, the director of Chogha Zanbil-Haft Tapeh World Heritage, said: “Workers’ wages are guaranteed by the government’s Planning and Budget Office. Experts, security staff and guards are day laborers. Due to budgetary problems, workers haven’t been paid for a few months.” Rushavi added: “It was decided that workers’ wages should be paid from the total income of all World Heritage sites. We were subsequently able to pay the wages all through September. However, the wages for the past four months have not been paid yet, because we haven’t been extended the credit by the government.”
The workers, security staff, guards and specialists working at World Heritage sites are sometimes paid in cash and at other times with treasury notes.