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Great, in spite of
A great nation, in spite of our government


May 30, 2006

"Are we really a great nation?", Kianosh Saadati asked. It's not necessarily a silly question to be brushed off quickly by rabid nationalists who don't feel a need to even justify their immediate growls of "yes." I must admit, it did catch me off guard when I first read it, "of course we are" I thought to myself without questioning why I felt this way. The question, in itself, is quite valid, but unfortunately the reasons presented as to why we may not be "a great nation" are not quite as compelling.

Attacking such issues as disorganization and driving habits are not going to outweigh the contributions that Iran has indeed made throughout history. Italy is notorious for the driving habits of its citizens, as is Turkey; do we then discount the remarkable contributions both nations have made to the world because of erratic traffic behavior? Again, I do not believe such silly issues really give merit to the idea that we may not be a "great nation."

Regarding technology, just because the internet was pioneered in a country outside of Iran, Iran has therefore not made great contributions in the fields of "science and technology"? The father of modern medicine, Ibn Sina, was an Iranian; Sina's Qanun (Canon of Medicine) was read and taught throughout the Middle East and once translated into Latin was taught for over five centuries in Western medical schools.

The academy at Gundeshahpur was the first hospital of its kind in the world and is credited as the basis for modern day teaching hospitals. The oldest batteries in the world are believed to be the work of Iranians from the Parthian Empire. Ghanats were developed in ancient Iran and the technology spread throughout Asia, Europe and North Africa; they are still in use today, providing people throughout these regions with a steady supply of clean water.

Al-Khwarizmi, an Iranian, is considered the father of algebra due to his work Hisab al-Jabr w'al-Muqabala. Nasir al-Din Tusi and Ghiyaseddin Kashani contributed significantly both in the fields of trigonometry and astronomy and Omar Khayyam aided the development of non-Euclidean geometry and was crucial in developing the highly accurate Jalaali calendar. This is only a small group of notable pioneers in various fields of science, Iranians have left quite a mark in the sciences and to say that we have only "sometimes" achieved in the world of science is simply false.

A great point was made that Iranians are facing hardships economically and politically, I don't disagree, but am curious as to how this relates to the triumphs of our people? There is no country in this world that has not been (or is not currently) ruled by an oppressive government, a government that fails to cater to citizens economically, a government that fails to cater to citizens socially, or any sort of combination of these. Although this can hinder how much citizens may be able to contribute to society and the world, it does not render the citizens wholly useless, nor does it expunge everything they have done in the past.

Also, simply because a country is currently being governed by a regime which does not provide the most conducive atmosphere for citizens to contribute to humanity does not mean that the regime is interminable; how many countries have dabbled in theocracy, democracy, monarchy, plutocracy, oligarchy (etc. etc.)? Or perhaps more properly, how many countries have not experienced a little bit of it all, whether by choice of the people, the force of a few or influence from outside nations?

Which brings me to your point about our grandmothers and grandfathers placing the blame on foreign nations. I am of the belief that many of the younger Iranians (I am speaking about those under 30) do not give enough credit to what our parents and grandparents have lived through. Some of us have grandparents who experienced a taste of the Qajar Dynasty, and all have obviously lived through the Pahlavi Dynasty, the revolution and of course the Islamic Republic. If you consider the forces behind a lot of what occurred in Iran, it is not so outrageous that perhaps our parents or grandparents blame outside nations for their responsibility in the power shifts of our homeland.

The first example that comes to my own mind, and perhaps to most Iranians, is Operation Ajax: the overthrow of Dr. Mosaddegh and reinstallment of the Shah. At my young age I was not around when this happened, nor were my parents, yet it represents perhaps the most blatant example of foreign nations interfering with Iranian politics.

I have my own opinions regarding whether or not Operation Ajax, among other actions by external forces, aided in the "deterioration" of Iran, as you put it, but they are not important here. What is important is simply the recognition that the claims of our parents and grandparents are not unfounded, they are indeed well-documented facts taught in basic high school history courses throughout the world. I do not claim that no Iranian took any part in these actions, but I believe it would be wrong to also dismiss how much influence other nations have had in shaping the politics of Iran.

To reiterate, I do not believe the question presented is a foolish one, I think all of us should consider it quite carefully as I was forced to do after reading the short from dear Kianosh, but the reasons presented as to why we may not be as great a nation as we claim simply have no substance. I still believe we are a great nation, yes due to our achievements, due to our long, complicated history, due to our beautiful culture; the government throughout these times bears no influence on my opinion of our people. Perhaps instead of believing we are not a great nation due to our government, we should see that we are a great nation in spite of our government.     

As a university student Tahereh wastes away her the bulk of her life studying. In her spare time she drinks toxic amounts of tea while dreaming of a united Iran where she can raise her future children. She keeps a blog

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