ICMA Advocacy Committee requests intervention at Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan

The ICMA Advocacy Committee recently wrote to UNESCO requesting intervention in Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan's urban redevelopment plans.

You can read the text of the letter below:


Mr. Feng Jing,
Asia Pacific Unit
World Heritage Center UNESCO

May 5, 2016


Dear Sir,

The International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA) is very concerned to learn from colleagues that the town of Shakhrisabz in Uzbekistan, location of Timur’s Ak Sarai and several other important Timurid monuments, is currently undergoing substantial urban redevelopment. The town, which preserved a considerable historic late-medieval core, as well as these outstanding individual buildings, was inscribed in its entirety on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. We respectfully request that UNESCO pursue every avenue to ensure that local and national authorities in Uzbekistan follow the protocols and regulations of the UNESCO agreement.

We understand from colleagues that in recent redevelopments, almost the entire town has been flattened by bulldozers, the urban community relocated, and the ground completely torn up for extensive paths, fountains and infrastructure, seemingly without any archaeological recording, or heritage planning for the monuments left standing (which have also been refurbished). UNESCO has been alerted to the situation and has asked for an immediate cessation of building and a full report of works (see request http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6329). The documentation was submitted in February 2016, but in view of the extensive destruction of the site and the ongoing redevelopment that continues to have a severe impact on the city and its inhabitants, the ICMA feels that this matter urgently needs to be brought to the attention of UNESCO officials once more. We are also informing our broad and international community of scholars of medieval art through our social media and website. Although some academics are aware of the situation, the ICMA would like to raise awareness in this broad community and to speak on behalf of colleagues whose work would be jeopardized in the country if seen to be advocating personally for this UNESCO intervention.

With many thanks for your kind attention, and respectfully yours,
Nancy Patterson Sevcenko