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Stick to 21st century values
The Persian empire was not really anything to be proud of


December 28, 2005

I have often written about the Iranian identity and its links to the past. Any nation needs to acknowledge its past, agree with its faults or problems, try to resolve any problems relating to the past, and eventually move forward beyond that.

Iranians are generally very proud of their past, which is something noble. Some of the Iranian heritage are really something to be proud of. Here we can mention the many scientists, writers and poets who have had great contributions to the Iranian, as well as the world, scientific or cultural standing.

Saadi, Ferdousi, Hafez, Khayyam, Raazi, Ibn Sina and many others are names that resonate all around the world, especially among the intellectuals. Ibn Sina was not born actually in an area that can nowadays be considered Iran, and even when he was born Iran's current and historical territories were actually occupied by invading central Asian peoples.

But that has little relevance and Ibn Sina is as large a personality that two, three or more peoples can easily take pride in, such as the Uzbek and the Turkmen, beside the Iranian. He is nonetheless buried in a city which belongs to Iran now, Hamadan.

But there are a few issues that have been misinterpreted and easily misunderstood among the Iranians that need to be addressed and properly discussed.

As long as Iranians link their presence to a very distant huge and powerful empire, this connection bears some responsibilities as well. Mohammad Reza Shah, or the Shah as he is known in the West, was like his father, very keen in exploiting Iran's imperial past, trying to build a nation based on that lost glory.

This can easily be the case for many other nations, such a Egypt, Greece, Iraq and so on. What the Shah, his father, and their then entourage actually missed (beyond the dodginess of the link between such a distant past and the modern realities of the Iranian society) was that the Persian empire was not really anything to be proud of.

It is so interesting that the English today do not really talk about their huge empire (which was by far greater than the Persian empire could ever be) with a great sense of pride, but just as a historical fact. The English or even the British, including the Scottish and Welsh, agree that their empire was a rather unjust one which did wrong, abused rights and exploited other peoples.

The British talk about someone, like Gandhi, who fought against the British empire with admiration and respect. The British have gone forward. They have acknowledged the past, agreed to their misdeeds and even tried to make mends.

And we shall not forget about a more recent historical fact about Germany. Germans caused a huge deal of misery for Europe, America, and indeed the world, but because they agreed to their mistakes and tried to right the wrongs Germany is a completely different respected country today.

But us, the Iranians, still take pride in a lost empire that had the bad habit of casually committing mass murder, torture, abuse, invasion and so on. Most Iranians reading this will get angry shouting with discontent that the Persian empire was a just, decent and honest one who treated everyone well and trampled no rights.

Let me have my own fundamental doubts that a tyranny, ruled by a man, the king, who does as he wishes, not just with his own people or tribe but to millions of others, cares little about these new concepts such as human rights etc. And lets' not forget that there are clear historical facts that prove that the Persian empire was a really violent one, like most other powerful nations at those times.

Another fact is that we are living in the 21st century where new concepts such as human rights, respect for individual liberties and social responsibilities are the main pillars of the most prosperous countries in the world.

Whether we, the Iranians, want to belong to the civilised world where we need to acknowledge the past, with its wrongs and rights, or stick to our own rules of short-sighted self-enjoyment and disregard for others' rights or facts, is just a matter of choice for each one of us.

For letters section
To: Ben Madadi

Ben Madadi




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