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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


August 18, 2000

This isn't a joke

In response to Mr. Hossein Tabrizi's letter, "Racist jokes", we are very happy to know that there are people with your point of view out there. Your criticism towards Jokestan.com opens doors to a vast spectrum of social problems/crisis within the Iranian society. Frankly, it is hard to find a starting point for this issue.

We think you would agree with us that many jokes have roots in ethnicity and this is not restricted to Iran. English jokes against French and vice versa, Polish jokes, Red Neck (Southerner) jokes, Mexican jokes, Italians, Jewish, etc. are all examples of ethnic humor and reflection of the fact that no matter why, humor is related to ethnicity. Interestingly enough, a good portion of these jokes are created by people belonging to the very same ethnic background.

In Iran, ethnic jokes have a long history and was not invented by Shahanshah . These anecdotes go back at least 700 years to Obeyd-Zakani jokes. The subject of these jokes are Ghazvinis, Turks, Esfahanis, Khorasanis, Turkmans, Arabs, and even Coptics! Believe it or not, Obeyd's work should be considered as one of the more recent works of Iranians on the subject of humor. Definitely there are older sources that are not available to us for reference.

Ethnic jokes are everywhere. Apparently, people take pleasure in teasing and making fun of each other. But, to what extreme? Why have Iranians pushed the limit so far?

In our opinion there are more than one or two reasons. For Iranians, the twentieth century was the beginning of so many drastic changes. After more than a 1,000 years of stagnant and sometimes demolished social life, Iranians finally began their renaissance and the whole event circles around the transformation of the traditional/feudalistic society to a modern/capitalistic one. This is marked by the Constitution Revolution (Enghela'b-e Mashrutiat) as the beginning point and continues until today. Some of the most important attributes of these events are:

a) A population growth.

b) Mass immigration from villages to cities, especially to Tehran (compare today's Tehran population with 200,000 at the end of the Qajar era.

c) Centralization of the government in the Pahlavi era and creation of ethnic conflicts between various ethnic groups living in Iran

d) Technological progress in field of transportation and construction of paved roads.

e) Exposure to modernization which resulted in different reactions in various sectors of society.

f) Unfamiliarity with democratic culture and its outcome such as respect for individual rights, pluralism, and the rights of minorities .

g) Loss of feudalistic morals/family values and inability to replace it with any other set of values.

These issues added to some psycho-social factors such as segregation of men and women (which has provoked sexual deprivation and child molestation as the most prevalent form of homosexuality) has resulted in creation of a series of jokes which not only aims ethnic minorities, Rashtis, Esfahanis, Azaris, etc., also, it is cruel to women and children. These jokes are rude, sexually explicit and offensive, and not even funny.

Regarding sexual jokes, it should be added that we are not qualified to psycho-analyze the motivation of people who use raping women or children as a subject for a joke. Presence of these jokes (which are not scarce) are a sign of mental sickness.

Unfortunately, we are not psycho-therapists. All we know is that hiding these inclinations has not solved any problem. It is better to reveal them. Perhaps, public exposure would isolate these jokes.

Going back to ethnic jokes:

These jokes have become a tool in the hand of supposedly "Tehranis" to humiliate other Iranians. The most interesting issue however, is that these supposedly Tehranis are people who migrated to Theran in last 50-60 years. In 1920 Tehran had a population 200,000. Now, it is said that 13 million people are living in Tehran. This means that only less than 2% of the population in Tehran are Tehranis. The fact that these newly Tehranis were so eager to lose their accents and make fun of their own relatives and ancestors has a very interesting story:

Before these 98% newly Tehranis move to Tehran, this city, as the capital of Iran, was home to thousands rapidly multiplied Princes and Princess of Qa'ja'r dynasty, their servants, courtesans, and eunuchs.

Knowing that majority of these "nobles" were not particularly interested in art, science, culture, vocation, or even politics, it is not hard to guess how they spent their times. The historians of that era have produced interesting reports on Qajari's "Bazm" and

famous court Dalghaks of that era. One of the specialty of these Dalghaks was imitating various accents. Most likely, this tradition goes much further than Qaja'r's time. But, since it is not in scope of this discussion we leave it here.

Therefore, to that 2% Tehranis, any non-Tehrani accent was reminder of Dalqaks jokes and at most, reminder of poor strange villagers who rarely traveled to Tehran. Therefore, a new immigrant to Tehran perceived losing his/her accent as the most urgent.

Of course, getting rid of any cultural characteristics was the following obligation. In addition, there is an old reaction pattern in human psycho which guides him/her to the notorious formula of : If you can't fight them, join them!

At the same time, modernization of Reza Shah era with implications such as uniform outfit for men and unveiling women, return of students from Europe, and opening European style restaurant and clubs, created a cultural vacuum in Tehran. Actually, it is not far from truth to say that Tehran was the first city in Iran which became victim of deculturalization and lost its traditional culture without replacing it (with anything substantial).

This whole situation added to the crisis. Since Tehran became a "melting pot", it was not possible to identify Tehranis with any behavioral characteristics or even a distinct accent. While others were easy to label. Azaris' language barrier which could create miscommunication, turned them to unintelligent beings (who in reality could control Tehran's economy in Bazar and change the government occasionally). Rashtis who in compare with their desert-dwelled counterpart have a milder temperament and accepted changes such as education for women and music education earlier than others, became "biqeyrat" and their women became promiscuous and ....

As you may have noticed, we started from jokes but it is becoming rather serious. It is a long time that non-Tehrani Iranians are hurt and wounded. It might be interesting to you to know that after Second World War, when a group of Azaris (Ferqeye Demokra't e Azarba'yja'n) decided to separate Azarbaijan from Iran, in their announcement, they have mentioned this issue as a reason for their wish! And, this is not a joke anymore!

Of course, it should be noted that contrary to the information found in always-falsified textbooks of history, Iran has rarely been governed by Non-Turk kings in last 1,000 years. Qajars, Afshars, Safavids, Aq-quyunlu, and other Teymurs off-springs, Mongols, Saljuqis, Qaznavis, and .... were all considered as Turks governing Iran. Iran has rarely been governed by non-militant, peaceful, passive/Sufis Persians (Zands and Kharazmshahian). We are not authorities on this matter. But, maybe this is a hidden way of revenge, which now unfortunately, has gone too far and aimed our own people.

Now you may ask why Jokestan allows these jokes: Jokestan is merely a mirror, reflecting the jokes that are present in our culture. Unfortunately some people have taken advantage of this issue to corrupt it. Jokestan is not a puritan site, so some sexually oriented jokes , minority or ethnic jokes are permitted, but to a limit. We filter over 75% of the jokes and what you read is the remainder.

Thank you again for your critisizm and we hope you can help us toward having a better Jokestan.

Jokestan's Self Appointed Board of Directors!


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