Whats in a NAME?! (Persian vs. Iranian: The Timeless Debate)

The famous quote goes “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet…”Obviously Shakespeare was not from Shiraz (even though I am pretty sure there is an Iranian father that swears he was. “Shake Espeere khodemoon!”)

The argument of are we Iranian or are we Persian has been one going on since before 1935 when Reza Shah Pahlavi formally had the name changed in the Western world to Iran. However in recent times due to “certain circumstances” (code word for political conflicts) the age old argument of Iranian vs. Persian has come back with a vengeance.

Though inside of the country we are Iranians in the United States we transform into Persians.

There are 2 sides to every story.

Pro-Persian: [Side A]

Those who are for the term Persian have many doctrines to back their belief. Some of their arguments are educated, some are philosophical, and others simply egotistical.

The scholastic basis of the argument Pro Persian (for the word Persian) is that typically the Western world has accepted and academically denoted most of the achievements of the country as Persian for the past 2500 a.k.a. 5000 years. Google terms, such as Persian literature, Persian poetry, or Persian art; and a variety of educational and culturally authentic articles appear as if by magic detailing the lives of Hafez, words of the Shahnameh, and pictures of Miniatures. Google “Iranian” anything; and most likely a picture of Ahmadinejad stoning Soraiya immediately shows up. The West knows us as Persians, or at least they did.

The philosophical basis of the argument is along the same lines. The concept of Persian is romanticized in history classes through out the West. The infamous struggle between the Greeks and Persians is a basis for the Art of War. The immortal teachings of Cyrus the Great gives us modern day understanding of Human Rights. The gardens of ancient Persia serve as the model of paradise from the word pardis. The 3 wise men who foretold the birth of Christ, all 3 Persian magi. As is the protagonist in Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Persians have had a major impact on shaping the philosophical world.

The egotistical argument is the most humbling of the group. We want to be acknowledged. Every Persian man sees himself as Shah of the Persian Empire. Every true Persian house is adorned with Persian Rugs which is laid upon by a fluffy elegant Persian Cat. Alpha Gruis the star is known as The Persian that is gazed off the shores of the Persian Gulf. The Persian is the official pastry of Ontario. The Phantom of the Opera would not be the same without The Persian, a main character. We even have a Pokemon, the Persian who was a stronger faster Pokemon unimpressed by level 28.

So we are Persian…like the cat “meow!!!”

Pro-Iranian: [Side B]

Claiming to be pragmatic those who argue for the term Iranian have their own set of reasons. Choosing to focus on realism, practicality, and terminology their arguments contain a sense of commonplace logic.

Realistically, in 1935 Iran formally introduced itself into the Western world politically. Spearheaded by the efforts of Reza Shah Pahlavi, governments were asked to rewrite treaties, rename maps, and readdress statements in the interest of diplomacy. Majority of governments and all Superpowers complied. Eager for a new start they welcomed Iran into the political world with open arms (if only they knew).

Practically speaking Iran is on the map and Persia is not. Iran is marked on every globe, atlas, and country diagram. Iran is the 18th largest country bigger than France, Spain, England, and Germany combined with a population of over 75million Iranians. Iran is second in both Oil reserves and Natural Gas reserves. Iran has been home to Azeris, Kurds, Lurs, Arabs, Baluchis, Turks, Armenians, Assyrians, and Georgians for hundreds of years none of which are ethnically Persian. The IR in IRan is the exact same as in Ireland, meaning Land of the Aryans. A name that Iranians have called themselves for hundreds of years. Iran is a member of the United Nations. Persia is not.

Terminologically speaking in Iran we call ourselves Iranian. The argument stands why should it be any different here. The French do not call themselves Gaul. The English do not call themselves Saxons. The Italians do not call themselves Latin. Therefore Iranians are not Persian. It is a term that is outdated and out-used.

So we are Iranian…like the CNN lady said.

There is always 2 sides to every story and then there’s the truth.

The Truth: [No Sides]

The truth is that most people don’t think of any of that when they use the term Persian or Iranian. They say the one that is most easily understood by the other person. If “Jack” looks like he confuses Iran, Iraq, and Al Qaida then Persian it is. If “Jill” looks like she’s more likely to make out with an Iranian in a BMW over a Persian on a rug then Iranian we are. Sometimes it seems a term of convenience.

Other times Iranians are Persian and Persians are Iranian based on their political affiliation or lack there of. Persian sounds less like the Iran on CNN and FOX news. Persian is less harsh, less edgy, and a lot less likely to hijack the next flight. Others are Iranian because they want to be in your face or maybe they just don’t care. It then becomes a matter of political agenda.

However most of the time, people say Persian because it just sounds better, cooler, more romantic. Its like Zsa Zsa Gabor…even if it sucks it sounds so nice. Iranian is misspelled and misspoke so often Persian becomes a term of comfort.

Me, myself, I am proud to be Iranian. I am happy to eat Persian food. I don’t care which name you choose but choose wisely. Never be ashamed of who you are or where you are from. Iran is not a country of politics but a nation of people. A proud strong people who I am proud to be a part of. I am not Persian out of comfort or convenience. I am Iranian because it is my blood, my heritage, and my heart.

The only shame I feel is when I see a fellow Iranian who is not proud of his or heritage. I feel shame when I see a Persian who feels that if something is American then it is better than if it is Iranian. One who thinks its good NOT to have “Iranian” friends or go to “Persian” parties. I refuse to justify Western short comings because “they” cant pronounce Iran correctly. “They” will give me the same respect that “I” give them and learn my countries name.

To me its not as important to be connected to an Empire from so long ago, a cat that I’m allergic too, or Rug stores that are always having “Closing” sales. To me its more important to be connected to a culture that spawned the concept “good words, good thoughts, good deeds.”

I am proud to be Iranian/Persian and I am only half. SO I implore most of you to be twice as proud as me.

A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, just be careful every rose has its thorns. Don’t get pricked. Not a lecture, just a thought.

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