March 12, 2001
Confusing everyone about our identity
A friend who lives in the UK, recently said that a globe recently purchased
from W.H. Smiths, a large chain of book/stationary shops, for his son's
school project had Arabian Gulf on it. It did not really surprise me since
the Brits have always used any chance to divide and rule. One such tactic
has been to encourage the Arabs.
But I must say as someone who has spent most of his adult life in the
West, we Iranians have succeeded in confusing everyone about our identity
and cultre, ourseleves included ["Bring
back Persia"]. I have also come to believe that we Iranians have
diluted our identity by over-educating foriegners. In our eagerness to
defend the Iranian image outside we have created confusion about the name
of the country, the name of our people, the name of our seas and the name
of our language.
Is the country Iran or Persia? Are we Persians or Iranians? Farsi or
Persian? And because of the questions we have created we are not helping
the fight to keep the Persian Gulf, Persian.
The English name for our language is Persian. Yet because of our blind
patriotism we have confused the people in the West by imposing Farsi --
the word used in the Persian language, which in reality is not even Persian
but the Arabic name for our language. Small point? Read on.
When our forefathers in the 1930's asked to change the country's name,
they were so eager to escape the colonial powers' influence and establish
Iranian rights over their own affairs that they did not think about the
consequences. One consequence is that because of the phonetic inadequecies
of the English alphabet, Iran and Iraq sound the same.
This may seem insignificant. However, it has made it very easy for average
Westerner who is very provincial and has very little knowledge outside
his small sphere to consider Iran as part of the Arab world. Small point
but it adds up.
More importantly, it contributes to the dilution of our identity. By
calling the country Iran, we broke the link between the country's name
and the Persian Gulf. The Brits cleverly refused to accept Iranian Gulf
and it provided them with the perfect divide and rule tactic between us
and the Arabs.
After the revolution, in their eagerness to take the lead in the Moslem
world, the Islamic Republic forgot the basic historical fact that Iranians
chose Shiism as means of unification in order to preserve their own culture.
It did not defend Iranian rights and was happy in its competition to be
more Arab than the Arabs until it was rudely and disastrously awakened
by Iraq's war. By then it was too late. The Arabs intensified their efforts
to use the name Arabian Gulf.
You only need to look at the language used in the shipping and oil industries.
All the tanker brokers are using the term (Arabian Gulf) and would not
dare use the historical name (Persian Gulf), see the relevant sites for
shipbrokers. It applies to trade journals in the oil industry (look at
the Internet sites for McGraw Hill's Platts or Petroleum Argus).
Olympic Airlines is now using Arabian Gulf in all its literature.
The use of this term was spilling into less specialist areas and general
use. Action by Iranians in exile and late action by the IRI representatives
has now caused some commercial organizations feeling like pigs in the middle
to use the term Middle East Gulf.
I am pessimistic that we can get agreement about this issue as we Iranians
are often incapable of reaching consensus or organizing ourselves effectively.
Yet every one of us is proud of our history and is aware of our constant
struggle against Arab influence.
Please beware that our bind patriotism on the one side and our ignorance
of history on the other, directly leads to a dilution of our identity.
Let's accept that the English name for our language is Persian and its
equivalent in German, French etc. The country is called Iran and the people