June 28, 2001
They may have survived wars and changes in dynasties but some of Iran's historic monuments are now falling prey to new landlords determined to use the lucrative properties for their own purposes. One such victim is the Palace of Ahmad Shah - now a training centre for the "Sister's" paramilitary unit of the Revolutionary Guards.
Many facades of the building, the oldest of a dozen palaces at the 200 year-old Royal Niavaran Grounds, have been damaged, according to Tehran's Aftab newspaper.
The mirrored walls and plaster moulding have been removed, the grounds are being sealed behind barbed wire and several thousand fruit trees are left without watering, the paper said.
The current manager of the palace, Mr Jamali, accepts that some rebuilding has taken place but says it the National Heritage Organisation should have supervised the work. He also denies the area is being used for military training.
National Heritage head Abdolali Pour says the changes are illegal.
The unauthorised changes have taken place despite a court order banning the work until full investigation.
The paramilitary forces which control the building do not answer to the authorities under the moderate and reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.
The judge investigating the case and several members of parliament are to meet on the building site in a show of protest, the paper reported.
A member of the parliamentary cultural committee, Asghar Sherdust, has said the body is also looking into the case.
The two-storey palace is named after Soltan Ahmad Shah - the last ruler of the Qajar dynasty. He was declared monarch at the age of 12 in 1909 but was forced into exile only 14 years later.
In Paris he resided at the Hotel Majestic and died at the age of 33. He was buried in Kerbela, Iraq.
The newspaper also reported that "night-raiders" had completely destroyed a 500-year old tower in the town of Bastam, in northern Iran. The destruction took place over a holiday period.
The head of the local Heritage Organisation said one tower and parts of the town's four-meter-thick wall were destroyed in the raids.
He told the Aftab Yazd newspaper the owner of the land is probably the culprit. The landowner has said he has rights over the historic artefacts on the property.