Persia And Iran are geographic (not racial) terms
June 11, 2002
I have not been reading iranian.com or contributing to it for a while and I have
left it alone except someone sent me a copy of their reply to a piece called "The rest"
recently. Reading it was very distressing as it confirmed the continuing trend to
give the term Persia or Persian a racial connotation. Such misrepresentation of Iran
and its culture cannot go unanswered.
rest" in my view should not have been published because of its inaccuracies
and underlying scandalous attempt to misrepresent the term Persian as a racial term.
There is nothing racist about to calling oneself Persian, there have never been and
there never will be. Although there seems to be a continuing effort by some in the
West, Islamists in Iran and elsewhere as well as those Iranians not old enough to
come under the influence.
After the name change in the late 1930's requested by Iranian government, there
has been a certain tendency, specifically by some of the Western scholars to reserve
the term Persian to describe ancient Iranians of whom if the truth be told we know
next to nothing, thereby making it into a racial term. In recent times this has been
propagated and further fuelled by Islamists for obvious reasons.
The proposition that Persian is anything other than a term of historical geographical
reference is total nonsense and all Iranian patriots we must resist the concept regardless
of ethnic origin. Persia is simply the term that was used by Latin cultures or Western
countries to describe our country THROUGHOUT history till the middle of last century.
IT IS THE NAME OF A LAND, NOT A RACE.
For centuries it has not had any racial connotations (other than Iran's enemies,
the Arab came up with such terms as Ajam) and anyone who says it does is playing
into the hands of those who wish to divide and rule the Iranians. If you want to
play the imperialists' game then you should argue that there is more racial connotation
in the name Iran 'the land of Aryans' than Persia.
But I don't even want to go there because the whole idea of playing the racist
card is abhorrent. Just consider this, prior to the name change in the West say a
hundred years ago anyone coming from Iran regardless of their ethnic background would
introduce themselves as coming from Persia and therefore a Persian.
Persia was known as an oriental country of mixed races.
How can we ignore at one stroke of revisionism all the wealth of maps and documents
in the West about our recent and not ancient history? Which nation in the world is
prepared to give up the heritage of its future generations like we are?
It is indeed absolutely ridiclous to either think or suggest that the ancient Perisan
race has survived to this day or for anyone to be mad enough to claim Persian purity
after centuries of different nations ruling Iran. It should be treated with contempt,
derision and ridicule that such a proposition deserves.
As you know, most of Indian middle class used to claim to be Parsees or Persians
(not so much now that Iran is part of the "Axis of Evil"). I remember being
lectured by one about it and then on the same breath being told that Persian cooking
is too bland.
No Iranian can trace their ancestry more that a few generations at best owing to
the lack of records and the fact that our country has been a melting pot of different
races throughout the ages. On one side of my family, I can trace some of my roots
for two centuries perhaps three at best. I only parts. I am part Semitic (known only
because the one Jewish ancestor converted to Islam), part Kurd, and part Azari. This
is at best sketchy and impossible to prove.
Given the constant changes in Iranian history there are simply no tradition of
keeping records. No one can really tell us who these ancient "Persian"
races alluded to are, because we have no written history of our own. But using such
subtle arguments or classification of Persian as a racial term the enemies of Iran
have clearly confused us about our identity.
If our forefathers were not so blinded by their sense of outrage against the British
colonialism they would have never changed the country's name and without realising
it broken the link between the country's name, Persian Language, Persian Culture
and last but not least the Persian Gulf.
I don't know where you are but you can kiss the latter
good bye if you live in Europe. I recently noticed yet another example: the Times
World Atlas has finally relented to Arab nationalist pressure and changed the
historical name of Persian Gulf to The Gulf (and they are being neutral!). You don't
have to worry about eradicating the term Persian as the European media is doing a
good job. It is partly because of this that I believe we should not let the term
It is sad that Iranians despite good intentions play to the hands of foreigners without
even recognising it. We have suffered enough revisions of our history in the hands
of tyrants to suit their aims, so now please do not play into their hand or foreigners'
hands by making Persian a racial term. One thing we should be proud of is the lack
of racial divide in Iran or Persia (compared to other countries or in the West).
Iranian or Persian are interchangeable terms. I have never afraid to call myself
Iranian or to call Iran by any other name, neither have I sought to hide it, because
that is the - modern (as far as the West is concerned) - name of our country. I will
invite all Iranians to fight to preserve the term Persian in order to preserve the
link to our past and culture as it was known in the world for centuries.
Finally I would like to leave you with a message left on Persian Gulf Online, if
a foreigner can see it why can't we?
Subject: Persian Gulf without Persia?
Posted b by Rupert Johnson
Date: 5/23/2002 5:49:58 AM
Many of you are investing valuable time in what seems a lost cause. While I understand
your pride in the Persian Guld name you going about it the wrong way!
First, you are aproaching the so called 'abusers' with abusive language which in
itself does not help you cause. Secondly, you do not accept any reasonable explanation
for the use of Gulf or Arabian Gulf with kindness. Your best route to get the Arabian
Gulf officially renamed 'Persian Gulf' is to change the name of Iran back to Persia
- now this is something that you should concentrate on with perhaps more success!
Once you have done this, I am sure that the world would be keener to rename all
their geographical references to the Gulf or Arabina Gulf into Persian Gulf. At the
moment, Persia does not exist, and so, how can a non-existent country 'own' or give
its name to a gulf?
Some food for thought....!