It is saddening for me to see so many Iranians, especially Persians, still think that what they think is right is right for others too
January 4, 2007
Although I learnt Persian, to some extent, before going to school, my Persian to this day, is still about the same Turkish Persian it was when it came out of my mouth around the age of 4 or 5 when I started to imitate what I saw on TV. I think it takes between two and twenty words before the Persian (what we call Fars in Iran) I am speaking to realises that I am a Turk. Maybe other Iranian Turks (or Azerbaijanis) speak better Farsi than me but having in mind that I never truly lived in a city with almost any significant Persian population, and having learnt Farsi from the media, my Farsi speaking is as good as it gets. It is not that bad actually, but it doesn’t ever sound like a Persian speaking, by any means.
I remember that when I was little I thought that Farsi was a language and Turki was what everybody I knew spoke but it was not a true language, but more like a habbit, or something like all those informal other things we just did. Actually the first time I found out that there were Turki (the way Iranian Turks, or Azerbaijanis, call their language) books, Turki alphabet, Turki poetry or even Turki TV and radio from Baku it just struck me if it was a hilarious joke.
It took me a very long time, probably until I was 12 at least, before I truly realised that Turki was also a language, beside Persian. When I realised this (I don’t quite remember exactly when) it was the starting point from which I started to realise, in time, what it meant to be a Turk and what it meant to be a Fars. I was a curious type of person and as a little teenager I wanted to know more, so I searched for writings and literature in Turki. It was very difficult to find much and I could not ask about anything like this at school because even as a child I had started to notice that some things were not tolerated. I had started to understand that arguing about religion and the Persian language were the two most sacred untouchables of the society and if I wanted to stay out of trouble I had to keep quiet about my personal ponderings about Mohammad, God, and the reasons behind the reverence of the Persian language. Even small children who live in oppressive societies can understand the invisible lines that shall not be crossed. But there were rare books in Turki literature and I was able to find some, especially one from Fuzuli and another from Sabir (Sabir is from north Azerbaijan). I did not understand Fuzuli’s writings very well but Sabir’s writings seemed quite simple to me. And there was also Shahriar and some others. But all I did was to satisfy my curiosity rather than read whole books out of pleasure. Poetry and, what I saw as unpractical fields, never captivated me much.
This is the beginning of my life in an oppressive society in which I could not learn who I was, so I had to find out by myself. This is exactly the same thing that is happening to half of Iran’s children (who are not ethnic Persians) who go to school. These children go through a very similar process as mine, in which their minds start to develop and they struggle to find out who they are. They look for ideas to discover themselves simply because they start to realise that what they are taught in school is not the same as what they see at home and in the society.
Iranian children who are born to Turki, Kurdi, Luri, Turkmen, Arabic, Baluchi, Gilaki and Mazandarani families are forced to accept ideas that are not their own, ideas that are manipulative and misleading and mark their whole lives as they grow up. The same thing is also true about religion when it is not kept out of school.
Prior to Reza pahlavi Iran did not have a strong all-intrusive central government and there were provinces with their own ways and rules, and the country as a whole was a sort of confederation of those provinces, or states. During the Qajar there being no official Iranian system of judiciary, public registry, taxation, schooling or alike obviously it was mostly up to the local rulers to find ways of sustaining whatever administering they were charged with.
Reza Pahlavi ascending to the throne things changed dramatically and there started the struggle between modernity, conservation and liberalism. The fiercest opponents of the Pahlavi were the clergy because of being cut off their very important role in the society and becoming nothing more than simple clergymen, without any judicial or fiscal authority.
The other official measure taken by the Pahlavi regime was the establishment of a policy of forced assimilation of all Iranians into a single nation, the Persian nation. All use of local languages in any official sense was banned and the education system that was created became the most efficient tool of propagating what the new Iranian society was supposed to be like. Children started to be taught about a glorious Iran based on vast empires that stretched from central Asia to India and from Egypt to Macedonia, and all the areas in between. Iranian children were taught about how Aryans migrated to the Iranian plateau and how today’s Iranians are the descendents of those Aryans that have to a very insignificant degree been influenced by Turkic and Arabic invaders. The education was based on uniting all the Iranians behind the idea of having existed pre-Islamic vast Persian empires who were one of a kind in the world. These texts magnificently-described and offered to the little children of various Iranian peoples created pride among the Farsi-speakers, and confusion among the rest. Some of the rest when grew up a little bit adopted the same ideology as the Farsi-speakers, especially those who were much closely related to the Persians, like the Gilaki and Mazandarani or the Luri. While others, such as the Turks, Kurds, and Arabs usually had a much tougher choice to make, because they had a much more distinct popular culture and a much more different language that made the idea of being the descendents of the Persians seem a little bit out of touch with reality.
The policy of assimilation also had other traits that were no less odious than the force-feeding of the non-Persian speaking children with Persian language, culture and history. The Pahlavi regime neglected minority-populated areas in investments and poured most of the resources in infrastructure and other public works to Persian areas. The result was a mass migration from non-Persian areas, especially Azerbaijan, to the capital city of Tehran and other Persian cities, in search of jobs. This policy, also followed through after the Islamic revolution, helped dilute the population of Azerbaijani areas of Iran. Iranians from separate ethnic groups seeking to gain any government post or official ranking had to assimilate with the Persians so that they would get any chance. Although non-Persian language and culture is terribly suppressed in Iran, non-Persians have been able to obtain official administrative, or even political, ranks along the Persians, as long as they behaved like Persians, as long as they assimilated properly.
So, the Iran of today is not just a theocratic oppressive regime, but it is rather a Persian chauvinistic theocratic oppressive regime, that has followed the policies of the Pahlavi regime in forcing other non-Persian Iranians to assimilate, destroying their own distinct languages and identities.
I am sure many Persians (Fars, not being mistaken with Iranian) would disagree with me on this. Maybe even a majority of the Persians would probably disagree with me. It’s not that they would disagree with what I presented, because of inaccuracy, but many Persians would disagree with me because they would argue one of the following:
1) All Iranians are Iranians;
2) All Iranians are Aryans;
3) All Iranians, according to genetic examinations, are identical;
4) All Iranians are the descendents of the Persians.
It is saddening for me to see so many Iranians, especially Persians, still think that what they think is right is right for others too, even if those others do not agree. And this obsessive attachment to the large glorious Persian Empire is haunting the Persians’ minds so much they simply cannot comprehend that the only possible way of building an empire is to force it upon others. So, as literally correct as it seems, one has to accept that an empire is unjust as long as it is based on force. So fellow nationalistic Persians need to think this through. Either you want an unjust Iran which forces being a Persian to many other peoples within its boundaries or you want a free and democratic and civilised Iran!
Science cannot be used as a means of oppression. It was not meant for this. Nazi Germany used science to prove the superiority of the Aryan race, using historical proof, genetics and everything else as they saw fit, and forgetting about other scientists or scientific studies that did not agree with them.
You cannot go to your neighbour and tell him “You see mate, I just cut some of your hair and sent to the laboratory, and the doctor examined your DNA, and he told me that we are very close, genetically speaking, about identical, so please go to that little room you have in the backyard because I’m moving in with my whole family here.” Non-Persian Iranians are not Persians and no matter where they have come from, what their genetic or DNA structure is (this is really what is bothering me most as I see it as an insult to my humble intelligence) or what Persian history says, they are what they are, as they see fit.
Every people must have the unalienable right to study and practice its own language, culture and history, and also teach its own children. Every nation or people are quite capable of writing their own history and choosing their own leaders. This does not mean there cannot be a strong constitution to defend the territorial integrity of a country. A territorial integrity that is kept with the cost of destruction and suppression needs not to be respected. Iranian peoples were united for centuries long before the policies of Persian assimilation and chauvinism were introduced
The continuous policy of forced assimilation is leaving a big moral wound over Iran, and especially over Persians as being the scapegoat of the authoritative and oppressive regime, and this policy does and will always do nothing but harm to Iran and Iranians. Iran is a lucky country to have so many peoples that get along well and share many traditions, so why not study, discover and explore those riches rather than destroy and suppress them? Iran’s territorial integrity will not be harmed by any but the same selfish manipulative leaders who seek nothing but to satisfy their desire for power, and they do not avoid any possible deceptive manoeuvring for their getting there. Arousing nationalism is one easy trick, another being religious bigotry, the two common means of mass use of one man or group against the other in the race for power. And Iranians have a long history of playing into the hands of these evils. Comment