Iran: Dispute with Azerbaijan Over Polo

Rick Gladstone
Iran said Monday that it would oppose attempts by Azerbaijan to officially register polo with the United Nations as a purely indigenous sport, arguing that polo is an international game and Azerbaijan has no right to claim that it originated there. The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mohammad-Ali Najafi, the head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization [ICHHTO], as saying in a letter to Unesco that “Iran strongly requests the rejection” of Azerbaijan’s application to register polo — which both nations call chogan — as an entry on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. (*)
Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are among the countries that also have a claim on the game, the world’s oldest known competitive team sport, in which players on horseback use mallets to swat a ball through the opposing side’s goal posts. Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — will decide on Azerbaijan’s application during a meeting of its Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan, Dec. 2-7.

"The New York Times," October 28, 2013

(*) The October 28 dispatch by IRNA added:
"Meanwhile, ICHHTO Deputy Director Mehdi Hojjat said that Iran forwarded its objection to Azerbaijan application to register chogan (polo) on the list for Azerbaijan alone.
'We will tell UNESCO that the traditional game is a common element that should be not registered exclusively in the name of a single country.'
Hojjat said that Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, along with Iran, have a claim on the game, adding that there is a consensus among all these countries that Azerbaijan does not have the right to register it for itself.
'Cultural records show that chogan has been played in Iran since ancient times. Ferdowsi in Shahnameh has made many references to this sport, and it has been portrayed in many historical miniatures,' he said.
(...) Iran also raised an objection to UNESCO’s decision in December 2012 to inscribe the performance of the tar and methods for the construction of the Iranian musical instrument on its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity for Azerbaijan." (italics by "Armeniaca")

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