Blue blood? So what? Get to work!
It is ignorance and a great waste of time to blame Arabs for the problems of the Iranians
June 20, 2007
I just read an "How shallow have we become" about a subject that has captivated my imagination and thinking for a long time, and about which I have often written, becoming the target of many angry fellow Persian-Iranians. The writer, Mr Khodayari, points out a good question, and I shall continue my own struggle to extend the subject and possibly offer my own (nothing new) view/version which will definitely disappoint still a lot of Iranians, and that is okay (many questions or subjects that are considered sacred or taboo often do so).
One thing must be cleared from the start, in order to understand the identity crisis of the Iranians. My dear fellow Iranians, we are not all Persians (Fars). I am not Persian either. That is just a simple fact! Half of all Iranians are not Persian and do not think they are either. One of Iran's unique and important characteristics is that Iranians of various backgrounds, languages and cultures are able to live together, and we shall protect and preserve our linguistic, cultural and historical riches, whether we are Fars, Turk, Kurd, Luri, Mazandarani, Turkmen, Arab and so on. However it is indeed unfortunate that these riches are in demise because of the policies of the past 80-something years; policies directly meant for Persian assimilation.
Persian history and culture is a very rich one, worth being proud of. That doesn't mean various pre-Islamic Persian dynasties or empires are also worth being proud of. Post-Islamic Iranian plateau has actually missed Persian leadership and it has been ruled by mostly Turkic tribes or dynasties for about a millennium. Persian literature, culture and scientific contributions to the world are indeed worth being proud of, and interestingly many Iranian Turks, or other non-Persians, have had extensive contributions to the Persian literature, culture etc. There is also some history that is not worth much talk, and that is the Persian pre-Islamic imperial past and what the Persian rulers have done. Maybe not all they have done are bad but their actions are simply out of context for the present-day world in which there are different values and ideals.
Those who are so fond of the pre-Islamic Persian imperialism must have serious problems about the present stage of human evolution that values freedom and pluralism, not deity and idolatry (having so much, almost godly, admiration for some powerful and ruthless historical figures). And of course the pre-Islamic Persian Empire has very little in common with the present day Iran. Yes, if Iran did not include the non-Persians (who are actually half of the population and that is huge) then it could have been a different issue. But even if Iran was indeed the country of the Persians it would still be wrong to give so much importance to the pre-Islamic imperialistic past and it would show an inferiority complex because of the present non-flattering economic, social and political conditions of our homeland.
Just imagine how absurd, irrelevant and pathetic it is to arrogantly talk about your great great great grand father who used to be some prince in the Qajar family while you are nothing but a waiter in an American restaurant! Just stick to your present-day realities and conditions and in case you are unhappy about it (being a waiter is nothing to be ashamed of anyway) then try to change it rather than trying to show to the others that you are of noble blood and have some great history behind you. So what? All you are doing is showing that you are not simply incompetent and very dissatisfied with your present conditions but that you are also doubly incompetent that you have actually wasted so much great history and legacy that you could have built upon.
And we shall not blame Arabs for Iranian perceived failures! Arab invasion of the Persian Empire more than 14 centuries ago was not the cause for all the ills of the Iranians. Iranians converted to Islam and they are still Muslims. Any person is free to convert to any other religion in case he/she is unhappy with Islam. It is ignorance and a great waste of time to blame Arabs for the problems of the Iranians. Why did the Iranians accept Islam? Was it because the Arabs forced all the Iranians, though being numercially in a huge inferiority? It does not sound very convincing to me.
I think Arabs were smart enough to know what they were doing but in the end it was up to the Iranian masses. They decapitated the Persian and various other local leaderships of the Iranian plateau and this did indeed help their cause for spreading Islam, but in the end it was up to the Iranians in general to accept Islam or not. Armenians who have lived under Islamic rulers never accepted Islam, but Zoroastrian Iranians accepted Islam. Maybe the very powerful or the very rich did not accept Islam and were removed from their positions but people in general found Islam attractive and converted willingly. This is indeed what I believe, and we'd better stop talking about Arabs having done the most horrendous crime against the Iranians, because it is one thing to be defeated militarily, and it is a whole different thing to be defeated ideologically.
And it was the elite who were defeated ideologically because the masses of the Iranian plateau embraced Islam willingly. Did they make a mistake? In case some Iranians believe that their ancestors made a mistake by converting to Islam then we cannot blame the Arabs for it. Arab invaders of Iran were not only good in their fighting, but they were also very good in spreading their religion. Though they did not succeed in converting the Christians or the Jews, they did very well in almost annihilating Zoroastrianism and various other smaller religions or sects. This is a simple reality. And it is not worth living in the denial of such historical simple realities.
The crisis of identity for Iranians will continue for a long time because there are very strong ideological battles taking place that do not find each other tolerable and are often pushed to the extreme. And this is actually the whole problem. The best way to find an identity for Iran is to accept one clear and simple undeniable fact that cannot be disputed; Iran is nothing more than a cat-shaped map of a land built by no more than the result of the fights of various kings, foreign or domestic, and being an Iranian is nothing but a historical coincidence. Is there anything wrong with this? I don't see anything wrong with this reality. The cat-shaped map has a pretty good geographical and strategic position, a relatively numerous and educated population, it has sees, mountains, valleys, forests, deserts, natural resources aplenty, and tolerant people, all in one place. That is not bad at all.
Was Iran built around a people that were exclusively descended from the mythical Aryans? I doubt neither the Safavid, nor the Afshar, nor the Qajar (the three of whom were Turkic dynasties and who shaped the present-day Iranian map) had any serious idea about the genetic mix of their subjects and all they cared about was to have as big a country as possible, and the result is a country relatively big. Was Iran built around the imperial pre-Islamic Persia?
It could have been a serious inspiration for the Safavid, and later copied by the other dynasties (especially the Pahlavi, though they did not dare changing the map even a bit though they may have liked to), but the fact of the matter is that in case this was the point, the outcome has been a miserable failure because most of the pre-Islamic Persian Empire is left outside the present-day Iranian map. What shall we do about those areas that are left outside the Iranian map? We can do nothing, but in case there is any relation to the pre-Islamic Persian Empire then Afghanistan is no less entitled to it, especially regarding the Parthian Empire (which is always included among the Iranian-Persian empires by various Iranians though its heartland was closer to Afghanistan than central or southern Iran, the heartland of the authentic Persians).
So, I shall repeat the same solution for the identity crisis, and that is to accept that the map of Iran is nothing special, nor being an Iranian anything more than a simple historical accident. It is nothing but a citizenship (or a feeling of belonging because of not being able to adapt to the host nation), and a just a simple fact. It is worth being a proud Iranian, simply because it is a fact. The son of a plumber is no less entitled to be proud of his father as is the son of an aristocrat. But the important thing is to accept the facts as they are. Comment