The Tehran Bust Job
by HANA H. in Tehran
05 May 2010 18:27
All over the capital, bronze busts and full-length statues have been disappearing without a trace, right under the noses of Iran's vigilant police officers.
The thefts were first noticed when a reporter with the Asr Iran website observed that the bust of Constitutional Revolution leader Sattar Khan was no longer on its pedestal. The park maintenance crew initially claimed that the statue had been taken down for repairs. However, when it became known that Baqer Khan, Shariati, and Moein had also gone AWOL, it was acknowledged that Sattar Khan was missing too.
It soon became apparent that the serial bust robbers had pulled off ten of the biggest heists in history -- if not in value, at least in size -- despite the ever-watchful eyes of Iranian law enforcement. It also became clear that the thieves had a single-minded interest in items of bronze. The implications were dire. Sixty percent of the statues in Tehran now had a target on their backs.
Mojtaba Mousavi, an official with the Municipal Beautification Organization of Tehran, regretfully informed city residents that the installation of two new bronze statues would be indefinitely postponed. Implying that citizens could not be trusted with statues, he noted the impracticality of defending them around the clock: "The statues are scattered all across the city and we can't have a guard stand by all of them." Tehran Governor Morteza Tamadon retorted, "Our people are cultured and intelligent enough and there is no need to stand a guard next to each statue."
Sculptor Hamid Shans, whose Sani' Khatam and Shariati busts were stolen from Melat and Shariati parks, respectively, found it "interesting that the police with its surveillance and authority in municipal security had never encountered the thieves," given the busts' weight and location. "The 450 kg mother and child statue was located within walking distance of the main street and required the use of a crane and at least 45 minutes of time to remove it."
Shans's comments led Tehran police chief Abbasali Mohammadian, who has assigned his top detectives to the case, to confirm that "the thefts are not the work of ordinary thieves, as such thefts require special equipment." He added, "So far, we have a few suspects. The locations that the members of this gang may try to hit next or where they might stash the stolen goods have also been identified." However, surveillance cameras have failed to assist in unraveling the mystery of the missing busts, leaving authorities no choice but to plea with citizens to notify them of any encounters with individuals intent on stealing bronze statuary.
An investigation that appeared to be at a dead end may now in fact be solved, as cultural heritage expert Hassan Mohammadi has come forth with the identity of the thieves: the British. "Considering the UK's track record in stealing the historical and valuable artifacts of other nations and considering its record in plundering the religious and national possessions of our country over the past 200 years, there is a strong belief that British experts and dealers...are the main culprits in the case of statues disappearing from city squares in Tehran." Declaring the British notorious for buying stolen artifacts and sitting on them for 100 years before their public display, Mohammadi vowed to enlist UNESCO in a campaign of robust retribution.
Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau