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I'll show you Persian!
Most people who say "I am Persian" are afraid of being identified as Iranian

January 21, 2005

I found Roozbeh Shirazi's "Identity politics" amazingly refreshing because this very morning I had an email form a very eloquent Iranian (pardon me "Persian") who must have a great deal of time on his hands because he had written a one page email telling me I should have not use the word Farsi to describe Persian language (I had used it to introduce a favorite person).

I was so sad that someone has so much time to go through the wasteful process of quoting all kinds of sources so I would use "Persian" instead of Farsi. Of course he ventured to throw in Mr. Yarshater's name in the mix.

I had to politely inform him that I am pretty well read about the history of my culture and many others. I also happen to have met Mr. Yarshater and am very familiar with his work. Nevermind that I have been studying Persian Literature since 9th grade and have a bachelor's degree in this field. I also know Iran means the Land of Aryans which is why I chose the name Aryan for my only child (unlike many who choose names without knowing what they mean).

I had to point out that we have serous issues to deal with and this old subject has run its course.

I agree with Roozbeh Shirazi that most people who say "I am Persian" are afraid of being identified as Iranian and in their mind they are disassociating themselves form the current regime or the events in Iran. I always identify myself as Iranian as a matter of fact the joke is that "Azam always says 'that's because I'm Iranian'" and people are always receptive towards me.

Yesterday, I spoke to the coordinator of an international film festival (I have been asked to be the interpreter for one of my favorite Iranian directors in the event when he comes to the US) and she would not stop talking about how great Iranians were and how ignorant some Americans are for not recognizing that Iranians are totally different than most other residents of the Middle East region. It has been my experience that for the most part those who refer to themselves as Persian do not have a good knowledge of history either.

I was at an Christas party which had a good mix of people. Someone I have known for twenty five years introduced herself as "Persian". Yet she was totally lost when a guest pointed at my necklace and asked who was on the coin. I answered that the history book I've researched shows the coin to be Kiandokht or Azarmidokht, a princess from Sassanid dynasty. My Persian friend simply said, "You Devil, how do you find the time to read these boring stuff?!"

The bitch in me could not help it so I answered, "Because I can become a Persian and socialize with exciting Persians that can teach me something!" Needles to say, she did not say goodbye to me when she left -- which was just fine with this old dame.

The non-Iranian guest, however, was quite fascinated with the unusual coin and wanted to know if he could buy one and he also asked me to suggest some good books about Iran's recent history. I recommended one written by Mohammad Heykal the legendary Egyptian journalist which I found the most accurate one in describing the circumstances before the revolution.

We have more important issues to resolve. We can begin by trying to change the perception of one person about Iranians every day. That would be 365 person per year.

If you are well read about history (I am a real history buff and my TV is always on the History Channel when I am at home and I pay a lot of money for history books) then you can give books for those who are interested in the Persian Empire and different dynasties.

Please let's get real and accept that being Iranian does not mean one is pro-theocracy or monarchy but it simply means a person for the land of Iran whcih is now a samll section of what used to be the Persian Empire.

PS. Let's learn form one of the most amazing figures in history, Hassan Saba, who wanted to return Iran to its glory days. Instead of arguing which name to use, he made Farsi the official language, provided great social services and implemented regiments for the soul and body to keep both in good shape. How about it?

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