In the aftermath of Qasem Soleimani’s killing, President Trump on Twitter threatened to attack 52 Iranian sites that are important to “the Iranian culture,” a threat that has drawn criticism and condemnation as “cultural cleansing” and an action in violation of international law.
Seema Golestaneh, professor of near Eastern studies at Cornell University, studies the anthropology of Islam and culture of Iran. She says threatening to attack cultural sites shows a lack of understanding of the Iranian peoples’ day-to-day lives.
"The threat to attack Iranian cultural sites is akin to threatening to bomb Notre Dame or the Sistine chapel. And to make such claims so cavalierly, without any regard for the deep emotional ties that people have with these sites, seems especially cruel.
“Some of these sites are not just tourist destinations but are still in heavy use and are woven into the fabric of their respective cities. For example, the bazaar of the Imam’s Square and the Khaju Bridge of Isfahan, which were built nearly four hundred years ago, are used by hundreds of thousands of people every day.
“The term ‘cultural heritage sites’ in a way seems to fall short to describe these places and things and their role in the popular imagination. They are ways of life, ways of understanding the self. The United States is a young country and perhaps it is hard to understand this deep affection. But outside of the loss of life, for Iranians, nothing could be more painful."