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Eenjoori beneveeseem?

In December1996 a subscriber to THE IRANIAN Bulletin asked for comments regarding the use of the international phonetic alphabet instead of the current Persian alphabet. The discussion that followed was focused on language issues at first. It then continued into arguments about the influence of the Arab/Islamic culture on all aspects of Iranian life, especially politics. Here are the various opinions expressed:

COMMENTS

(1) Iraj Dehghan: Phonetic alphabet
(2) Taher Dehkhoda: Good, but...
(3) Babak Nabili: Losing essense
(4) Bijan ? : Eurofarsi
(5) Khashayar Behbahani: More accessible
(6) Taher Dehkhoda: Horrible mistake
(7) Abaseh Mirvali: Persian perfect
(8) ? Mosavian: Persian in India
(9) John Porter: Pre-Arabic script
(10) Reza Behbehani: Proud Persian
(11) Jamshid Irani: Arab rule
(12) Reza Behbehani: Cruel Persians
(13) Jamshid Irani: Intellectual stifling
(14) Reza Behbehani: Blaming outsiders
(15) Golnar Mahmoudi: Our fault
(16) Vahid Rahbari: Persian splendor
(17) Sima Elli: Pinglish


Phonetic alphabet

From: Iraj Dehghan [email protected]

Salaam.

In an article in ROUZEGAR-E-NOW,#168 [bahman 1374,pp.6o-66], I suggested using IPA [international phonetic alphabet],instead of Arabic alphabet,temporarily, for the sake of our young children who live abroad, speak and understand Persian, but cannot read and write it.

I would like to hear your comments. Lotfan baa man tamaas begirid -- be faarsi ya be engelisi.

Qorbaan-e shomaa.
I.D.

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Sounds good, but...

From: Taher Dehkhoda [email protected]

I am a recent college graduate who can speak fluent Farsi. I've been living in the U.S. since the age of one, and unfortunately I cannot READ or WRITE Farsi past the "1st" or "2nd" grade level. In other words, I am "illiterate" ias far as reading and writing Farsi.

A phonetic script like "Salaam beh hameghee. Ruzeh khosh dashteh basheed" is easy for me to read. The Farsi text on the other hand would be a challenge for me.

Even though in practice I would benefit immensely from phonetic Farsi, my INSTANT gut reaction is somewhat negative towardsthe EXCLUSIVE USE of the Roman alphabet to phonetically spell Farsi words. Why? Well I feel that it will in some ways degrade some elements of culture and expression (even though it may at first allow for more individuals like myself to read and write in phonetic Farsi.)

This happened in Turkey (using the Roman alphabet instead of Arabic script), but I'm not so sure it is the best thing. Perhaps more emphasis should be placed on teaching resources and tools to educate those like myself to become better readers and writers of Farsi.

Khodahafez (I'm not against its use, just against its EXCLUSIVE use),

Taher Dehkhoda

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Losing essence

From: Babak Nabili [email protected]>

Dear Mr. Iraj Dehghan,

This very idea has been approached by numerous Iranian literaries both in Iran and abroad, and the response has always been very negative for very fundamental reasons.

To start with, I'd rather refer to what you call "Arabic alphabet" as Persian alphabet. Our alphabet, is much richer than its Arabic ancestor since it provides additional letters and sounds that merely don't exist in Arabic.

Now the response to your proposal...

Although using a phonetic Persian alphabet would capture a new audience, at the same time it would do that audience a big disservice by depriving them of all the cultural intricacies that are woven within our Persian based writing. Part of the beauty of Persian proverbs, poems, jokes, and even everyday conversations is through the manipulating the word structures, letters, vowels, and "spelling". There are numerous examples of such clever manipulations with which we are all familiar. To simply take that away by introducing a completely foreign alphabet would mean losing the essence of the language and culture.

A prime example of separation of language and alphabet is what Atatork implemented in Turkey when he was in power. As a result, the Turks are completely disconnected from their rich history simply because they can not read the old alphabet. Talk to a Turk about this!

Putting all this aside, the alphabet that a society chooses as standard is not dictated by an article written here or a speech given there. There has to be social, environmental, and cultural factors to drive such thing, which is what has shaped the Persian language and alphabet as we know it today. I do admit that due to technological limitations in the computer industry for example, communicating in Persian has been difficult through the Internet. But as new technologies and simpler methods become available, this environmental factor will eventually be eliminated.

Dear Mr. Dehghan, living abroad is a large enough impact on the second generation Iranians which drives them away from their maternal culture. Why do we have to introduce additional factors to push them even further away?

Regards, Babak Nabili

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Eurofarsi instead of Arabic script

From: Bijan (?) via Majid Ghorbani [email protected]

Dorod be hamegi,

For Iraj Dehghan and others who like to write in IPA [international phonetic alphabet],instead of Arabic alphabet, I have good news. There is such a thing and it is spreading. The alphabet is "Eurofarsi" and the homepage is:

http://home.earthlink.net/~eurofarsi/

Couple of things:

A) This has been set up by the Eurofarsi Convention (as you find out when you visit their homepage). I am only a reader and supporter. In their homepage they explain all the reasons why they chose to do so.

B) If you need any more info on speaking and writting in Eurofarsi, I will be glad to help.

It is not just the alphabet that bothers me. I don't enjoy it when someone tells me "SalAm, hAlat chetore?" This is not Persian. If someone wants to say "Hi, how are you?" in Persian they should say it in Persian, not in Arabic (or any other language}.

When someone from another nationality asks how do you say "Hi" a lot of times our answer is "SalAm". Or they ask how do you say "Thank you" and we say "Motashakeram".

I am creating a homepage for everyone who loves to speak Persian and promote the Persian language. This homepage is going to be interactive and hopefully a lot of people will get involved.

Here are some other sites about the Persian language:

http://www-ala.doc.ic.ac.uk/~rap/Ethnologue/wgt.cgi/Indo-European/

http://www-ala.doc.ic.ac.uk/~rap/Ethnologue/wgt.cgi/Indo-European/Indo-Irani an/Iranian/Western/

Bedorod

Bijan

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Make Persian much more accessible

From: Khashayar Behbahani [email protected]

Dear Mr. Dehghan,

I think a conversion from the present Arabic alphabet (AA) to IPA would be an excellent idea. It would make our language much more accessible to not only our children and those who have obtained their secondary and higher education outside of our country, but also to those non-Iranians who have an interest in our culture and history.

I do not however agree that such a proposed conversion should be temporary. Any movement promoting such a conversion should aim to eventually persuade others to adapt a permanent use for IPA, and eventually have the AA permanently removed from our language. By doing so, our children, and subsequently their children would be able to communicate with one another in Persian, and thus be able to uphold and promote our beautiful language.

Finally, those who may object to such a change, should be reminded that the use of AA is not part of our heritage. It is nothing more than a linguistic tool, with only one purpose, and that is to aid written communication in Farsi. Therefore, by using IPA instead of AA one is merely using a different linguistic tool to achieve the same purpose, i.e. communication in writing, and one is not challenging our great heritage which goes back far beyond the Arabs.

Best of luck with your research, and please keep me posted.

Khashayar Behbahani
Reader of Law University of London

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Horrible mistake

From: Taher Dehkhoda [email protected]

Dear Khashayar Behbahani,

With all due respect, it is my belief that it would be a horrible mistake to convert from AA (current script) to IPA (Roman script). I agree with your observation that the script used (whether AA or IPA) is a linguistic tool. However, a "permanent" change from AA to IPA has some profound implications on the utility of our massive literary/cultural assets (our books, poetry, etc.).

Who would transliterate (from AA to IPA) tens of hundreds of years worth of Iranian writings (books, poetry, manuscripts) ? How long would this take ? This would be one of the most immense projects in the history of mankind to transliterate a community's entire history of literature... Is anyone going "redo" (in IPA) the calligraphy that exists on many monuments in Iran?

Who will "redo" the Shahnameh in all its glory in IPA? What about the tremendous impact it would have on separating the generations even further? What about how it would even further alienate Iranians abroad from Iranians in Iran? (Do you really think Iranians in Iran would adopt a Roman alphabet... especially considering the "political" complexities?)

Although I greatly appreciate your concern to make our language and culture more accessible to more Iranians and others, I believe that a change to another script is not the way to do it.

Remember again, that I *personally* would benefit from some sort of Romanization of the current script used to write Farsi. Why? Because having lived in the U.S. nearly my entire life has rendered me incapable of reading and writing Farsi past the 1st grade level. But I'm not going to let myself be content. Again, I'd be personally benefiting from such a change; but I'd rather pick up some books, or a CD-ROM that teaches Farsi (there are several out there) and learn it... the old-fashioned way.

Regards,

Taher Dehkhoda

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Persian is beautiful - and perfect

From: Abaseh Mirvali [email protected]

I just want to applaud Mr. Behbehani's for his comments on this subject. I couldn't agree more with his assesment.

I am currently residing in Uzbekistan and I must admit that when I first arrived here I advocated that those of us learning Uzbek learn it by using the Latin alphabet. However after four months I am now quite able at reading and writing Uzbek in cyrilic. Nothing is easy, learning new languages is always a challenge, regardless of what form it comes in.

I am a proud Iranian, our language is beautiful and sophisticated and perfect in its current form. Those who want to learn will do so at any cost and those who don't will use different excuses.

My husband is slowly learning Farsi and just as he learned cyrilic, he will learn our script and alphabet.

Thank you Mr. Behbehani for your comments.

Abaseh Mirvali Uzbekistan

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Persian influence in India

From: Mosavian [email protected]

It might be interesting for you to know that there are many countries whose language has historical links to Persian script. One of them is India.

Few years back, I attended a conference on the Persian language in New Delhi. It was mentioned by one of the speakers there that Persian was the dominant language there for about 800 year before British invasion, and the only way to study many source books on Indian history is to know Persian. The number of original handwritten (ketAb-e-khatee) books available in Indian libraries is more than in Iranian libraries.

There are many buildings in India with Persian inscriptions. If you visit Taj Mahal you will see Persian poems on all the walls. I have traveled a lot throughout India and observed Persian script on other important historical buildings from north to south. Even on the entrance to their forign ministry there was a Persian poem written in golden color.

The great [Indian prime minister] Nehru, knew all of Golestan-e Sa'di by heart.

Also, in some former Soviet republics, there is a strong link to Persian script.

I believe, instead of choosing Latin script and losing our connection to our language, we should make a bit of an effort to change ourselves. We should develope educational tools (such as software) to help interested individulas learn Persian the way it is.

Regards,
Mosavian

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What about pre-Arabic script?

From: John Porter [email protected]

Below I have given a response to Mr. Babak Nabili.

Babak Nabili wrote:

>To start with, I'd rather refer to what you call "Arabic alphabet" as Persian alphabet. Our alphabet is much richer than its Arabic ancestor since it provides additional letters and sounds that simply don't exist in Arabic.

The Persian version of the Arabic alphabet is not "richer", it simply has a few added letters. Writers of Arabic also employ a few letters not used for Persian; does that make the "Persian" alphabet poorer too? The alphabet is the Arabic alphabet, regardless of what language is written with it, added/dropped letters not withstanding. I speak English, and a write it with the Roman (or Latin) alphabet.

>There are numerous examples of such clever manipulations with which we are all familiar. To take that away by introducing a completely foreign alphabet would mean losing the essence of the language and culture.

You are saying that "clever manipulations" are "the essence of the language and culture"? And what about the alphabet that Persians used before the Arabic? Did it have no beauty? Did it not embody the essence of the language and culture?

>There has >to be social, environmental, and cultural factors to drive such thing, which is what has shaped the Persian language and alphabet as we know it today.

Yes, and there are indeed such factors alive in the West today -- although not as powerful as a new religion, which drove the adoption of the Arabic alphabet.

Peace,

John Porter

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Proud Persians need not be anti-Arab

From: Reza Behbehani [email protected]

Dear Khashayar Behbahani,

I read with great interest your note from the UK that was posted by THE IRANIAN Bulletin advocating the conversion of Farsi to Western alphabet.

But I must respectfully disagree with your point of view. As the American born and raised child of two Iranian immigrants who speaks Farsi with a moderate American accent, I can assure you that my acquisition of Farsi was in no way handicapped by the Arabic alphabet.

Those that claim the Arabic alphabet is intrinsically more difficult are wrong. For one thing, it is much faster to write. For another, there is an an absence of some vowels, but not entirely. Afterall, the "aleph", "oo", "ye", and "ain" are always written out. In addition, for someone like me who learned the alphabet as a child, there is nothing odd or difficult about the Arabic alphabet or akward about writing from right to left, i.e. it is all what you are used to. Finally, like it or not, Arabic lanaguage and/or the alphabet is part of the heritage of Iran and Farsi.

The Arabic alphabet has been used in Iran for 1,300 years (Can cuneiform [khat-e meekhy] claim a similar lifespan? Even if so, one could argue that Arabized Farsi is more legitimate than khat-e meekhy Farsi since throughout history more people have used the former since the population of Iran has exploded since the Arab invasion), and the Arabic language probably accounts for a good third, if not more, of the Persian vocabulary. If one wants to be a purist, why not argue for a return to khat-e meekhy?

Those that like to distance themselves from Arabic do so in large part, in my opinion, from a false sense of superiority of Persian culture over Arab culture. As proud as I am of my Persian heritage, I have noticed with regret that many Iranians look down their noses at Arab culture primarily on pidgeonholing Arabs as Gulf Arabs rather than on the knowledge of the artistic and other accomplishments of the entire Arab world, whose glorious history includes the Abbasids, Ommayeds, Mamluks, and Ottoman Turks, who were heavily influenced by Arabic culture.

I would, however, agree that conversion of Farsi to Western alphabet would aid Iranians living in Iran's acquisition of Western languages. One need only to look at Turkey for evidence of this. But it is also sad to see how cut off the Turks have become from their history and cultural roots by abandoning the Arabic alphabet. Nearly all Turks under 60 years of age can't appreciate the beauty of calligraphy in Ottoman art and architecture nor read any original historical documents that predate Attaturk.

As for the argument that conversion to Western alphabet will aid in the preservation of Persian language among second generation Iranians in the US or UK, I strongly doubt it. Second and third generation Italian-Americans, French-Americans, and German-Americans are no more likely to have a higher incidence of speaking the language of their forebearers than their Iranian counterparts, despite what you perceive to be the advantage of a Western alphabet. Migrants to a new country, regardless of origin and alphabet, eventually lose ties to their roots as succeeding generations are born and become a part of the society of their new host country.

In short, I wouldn't be so quick to throw out the Arab influence on Iran, depsite the fact that there are things about it that many resident and expatriate Iranians don't identify with. Even this very highly assimilated 37 year-old Iranian-American who has spent but 2 summers in Iran over 25 years ago as a small kid wouldn't advocate doing so. Why should closer to their roots expatriate Iranians need more distance from their Arabic influences than this Chicago-born, Kansas City-raised Iranian-American?

Sincerely, Reza Behbehani

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Iran is still under Arab rule

Jamshid Irani [email protected]

[In response to Reza Behbahani that it is wrong to get rid of the Arabic script in the Persian language and that Iranians have a false sense of superiority over Arabs...]

As a child going to school in Iran naturally I learnt the Arabic/Iranian script first and then learnt the Latin script when we started doing English in high school. The way I see it, it does not really matter what script we use if we are open minded, modern and progressive people.

However, at the back of my mind the voice of my High school history teacher lingers on. That the Arabs invaded our country like savages having no regard for our culture or our way of life. Enforced their religion and language on us cutting off the tounge of anybody daring to speak Persian. Destroyed all our books and historical buildings, and made life impossible for anybody wanting to live a different way of life.

You seem to think that we owe the Arabs our heritage in the past 1600 years. Well I dont think so. Whatever we have in the way of literature or the arts is ours, done by Iranians, and it is the artistic and intellectual content that counts, and not the script it is written in.

It is the Arabs who had and have the sense of superiority, who imposed anything and everything Arabic on us and by doing so have imposed such a rigid framework on our society that it has stiffled and hampered social and intellectual development in Iran for centuries.

Frankly speaking, Iran is still under Arab rule. Today it is ruled by people who dress like them, speak like them, have adopted thier customs and are still making life miserable for everybody by imposition saying do as I say or die. Is this the Arab culture that we should be proud of?

Regards

J. Irani

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Cruelty not an exclusive tool of Arab conquerers

From: Reza Behbehani [email protected]

Dear Jamshid,

Thank for your comments and response via THE IRANIAN Bulletin. However, I must say that your remarks savaging Arab culture are a reflection of the very mistaken sense of false superiority that Iranians have over Arabs referenced in my first note.

For starters, I would recommend that you base your views more on dispassionate research of scholars pf Middle East affairs (the PhD types) than on the opinions of one high school teacher you once had in Iran. Your teacher is, as are many other chauvinistic Iranians, iguilty of polluting your mind with a lot of half truths about Iranian history and cultural achievements.

For starters, if the Arabs have been guilty of cruel conquest and domination, so has Iran. The Achamenid and Sassanian (Cyrus and Darius) empires forcibly spread their borders far beyond the small provinces of Hamadan and Fars, respectively, into Assyria & Babylon (Iraq) and Asia Minor (Turkey), Greece, and beyond. Successive Persian monarchs expanded into Armenia, Azarbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, among others. I can assure you that the natives of these places were not native Farsi speakers and did not welcome their foreign conquerors with open arms, kisses, and flowers.

I wonder if there are present day Uzkebis, Tajikis, and Afghanis who are decrying the "foreign" influence of the Persian language and culture on their societies by reviving what existed before the brutal Persian invasion. Just imagine how traumatized Indian nationalists and chauvinists might be by Farsi's domination of their literary history. While many Iranian's take pride in Nader Shah's defeat of the Mughals and acquisition of the bejeweled Peacock Throne, most scholars would indicate that Nader Shah's brutality resembled Hitler's and that the Persians stole the Peacock Throne from the Mughals by and for whom it was built.

Even within the present day borders of Iran, there is domination and conquest. After all, isn't it true that the first language of most Iranians, prior to the 1960's was not even Farsi? I wonder how Rashtis, Azaris, Baluchis, Kurds, Turkomans, and Khuzestani Arabs feel about the imposition of the Persian language on their children. Just to be fair, we should perhaps consider sending them a U.N. funded battalion of linguistic and cultural experts who could help them expunge the dreaded foreign Persian influences on their pure and noble societies.

Charges that the cruel Arabs engaged in a mass campaign to cut off the tongues of people who wanted to speak Persian is misleading. Even if this was true (which I am sure it was in selected geographies and at certain times), the Farsi speaking natives of Shiraz and their followers have done the same to others. Moreover, the very fact that Farsi survives intact, albeit with the Arabic alphabet, is proof to both the halfhearted nature of the Arab campaign as well as the resilience, strength, and sophisticated nature of the culture of the natives of Fars.

Statements that the Arabs destroyed historical buildings and Persian literary accomplishments are of mythological proportions as well. Persepolis, the splendid palace of the Sassanids, was burned by the Greeks, long before Mohammad was born and his followers emerged from Mecca and Medina in the Hejaz. If there aren't a whole lot of buildings left from the Achamenids or Sassanids, it is due to the inevitable wear and tear of Mother Nature on 1,300 year and older structures and to the underappreciation for the necessity of historical preservation by the Persian monarchs which followed.

How many of the beautiful tile encrusted Qajar gates that encircled old Tehran survived the Pahlavi period? Perhaps more importantly, the crowning achievements of Persian literature, Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, Saadi's Gholestan, and Hafez's work were written after the Arab invasion and conquest of Iran and survive much to the enjoyment of present day readers.

As Dr. Mehdi Aminrazavi, professor of philosophy and theology at Mary Washington College, and an understudy of the luminary Iranian scholar, Dr.Syyed Hossein Nasr, just told me today, the recent preoccupation of some Iranians to de-Arabize Iran is "partially based on nostalgia for nothing."

In my humble opinion, if there are concerns about the stifling of social and intellectual development in Iran and among expatriate Iranians, I would suggest that we begin to look at ourselves more and our self-created pychological and social disorders. The Arab invasion of Iran occured some 1,300 years ago, and it is time that we stop this xenophobic blame-game on the Arabs and begin to accept the personal responsibility we all have for both our personal and social lives.

If post-Arab invasion dynasties such as the Safavids and literary giants such as Ferdowsi, Saadi, and Hafez have had extended periods of great accomplishment, why can't we? If today's tremendous record of achievement by Iranian-American immigrants and their American born children are any indication of the future, I must say that I am very hopeful for the future, at least for Iranians in the U.S.

Regards
Reza Behbehani

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Social and intellectual stifling

From: Jamshid Irani [email protected]

Reza,

Thanks for your email.

My views are based on: living a good part of my life in Iran, what made me give up my country of birth, and what my countrymen are going through at the moment. I do not need a PhD scholar to tell me what to think. I have my own from the University of London, U.K. My views are based on what I see, hear, feel and live as an Iranian.

Okay, lets go back to the begining. It all started when someone suggested using Latin script instead of Persian/Arabic to communicate on the Internet.

If everyone was as learned as you are, we would not have any problem. We could just use it as a tool until something better came along. After all you and I could now be talking in Persian instead of English. I have also come across some Iranians who live in Germany or other parts of the world and feel a bit left out by English communications on the Internet, as their English is limited.

I do agree with a lot of what you say and I am sure that Persians are also guilty of attrocities during their history. However, I would like to share something with you. I left Iran to do my PhD in the U.K. when I was 22. It used to bother me a lot that people were unable to differentiate between an Iranian and an Arab. Most people even those very close could not make the distinction. Even to this day I sometimes get calls from friends saying they are having business dealings with Saudi Arabians and could I act as an interpreter or something.

As you said in your email, I began to look at myself. Thought about my childhood, my parent's influence, the values of the society I was brought up in, my beliefs and disbeliefs, as an individual. In the past 10 years I have also looked at the reasons why I decided to leave Iran and raise a family somewhere else.

I was born a Muslim, both my parents were not very strict Muslims, but they said their prayers and had been to Mecca,. They were also highly educated and well travelled. I remember I was about 12-13 years old. One day I asked my mother if god really existed. I had never seen my mother so agitated, as if a catastrophie had befallen, she immediately started praying for forgiveness. Tears started rolling down her cheeks. I took my question back, never mentioned the subject to her again.

Years later I realised that it is by doubting that one goes through the process of enquiry and learning. To take god's existance as absolute is the same as believing his non existance. A closed chapter in the mind, and the denial of the contemplation of devine thoughts.

It is this sort of social and intellectual stifling that I was referring to of which the above is an example. The harder I look the more difficult it becomes to differentiate between Iran and an Arab state. With Iran having had the disadvantage and lingering effects of imposition. From your name I suspect that your probably biased towards the present regime in Iran which is fine as long as you do not allow it to cloud your judgement.

Please convey my best regards to Dr. Aminrazavi and tell him that the recent preoccupation of some Iranians to de-Arabize Iran is based on nostalgia for FREEDOM. The sort of freedom that he enjoys as a professor in the U.S. while his counterparts are feeling the effects of "Islamization" in Iranian universities.

Regards
J. Irani

P.S. Pesepolis was built by Darius and destroyed by Alexander.
P.S.S. I suggest you read up on Cyrus and see how tolerant he was of other peoples religion and customs. The Old Testament is a good start on this.

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Blaming problems on outsiders

From: Reza Behbehani [email protected]

Jamshid,

You have me totally mispegged. I am very much a secular person who is a strong advocate for free speech, a free press, free and open elections, women's rights, and free trade. Consequently, there is much about the current situation in Iran which saddens me. (By the way, your elliptical reference to Ayatollah Behbehani incorrectly assumes that we are of the same family.)

My main point is that Iranians, as do many other nationalities, have an unfortunate tendency to blame their problems on outside groups, whether it is the British, the Americans, or the newest scapegoat, the Arabs who brought Islam to Iran. But let's not forget that the people of Iran have had over 1,300 years to adapt and adjust Islam and have done so in some important ways -- Shiism, pictorial art that allows for the representation of the human face, a unique style of Persian Islamic architecture, etc. Indeed, Shiite Islam in Iran is just as Persian as the Sunni version of Islam in Anatolia is Turkish. In addition, why are Iranians so quick to view Iraqi Islam as Arab? After all, weren't the true natives of that country Assyrians and Babylonians, many of whom were Christians!?

Iranians need to accept that Islam is not just an Arab religion, even though it originated 1,300 years ago in the Hejaz which is a small portion of present day Saudi Arabia. Islam is a religion of the North and sub-Saharan Africans, the Arabs, the Turks, the Iranians, the Afghanis, the Pakistanis, the Indonesians, etc. Islam is every bit Persian as it is Arab. And while it is true that not every Persian is Muslim, it is also true that not every Arab is Muslim. Witness that fully one-third of all Palestinians are Christian!

The lack of basic freedoms which you cite is something that has plagued Iran since time immemorial. And while it is true that the situation there has deteriorated in recent years, it is also a myth that Iran was ever utopian, regardless of which dynasty was in power. Despotic rule is an inherent and integral part of Persian history and the national character, both before and after the advent of Islam. I must say that I have very serious doubts that the democratic and free traditions which we enjoy in the West would have ever been replicated in Iran had it stayed Zoroastrian.

In my view, Iranian-Iranians like yourself need to accept the fact that Shiite Islam, after a 1,200 year presence in Iran, is for all intents and purposes just as Persian as Cyrus the Great, who has had little if anything to do with the history of Iran for the last 2,000 years. If you have problems with the way Islam is being practiced in Iran, then the challenge is to reform it from within, understanding that its current state is probably more a reflection of the shortcomings of Iranians than those of the Arabs.

Iranians are not the slaves of some master Arab conspiracy; Rather they are masters of their own destiny. In short, Iranian-Iranians are accountable and responsible only to themselves for the present troublesome state of affairs. To blame the Arabs, is every bit as intellectually stifling as the poignant story about your mother that you cited.

Sincerely,
Reza Behbehani

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It's us, not others

From Golnar Mahmoudi [email protected]

Regarding the comments made regarding Iran being under Arab rule, I would like to make the following comments:

I am an Iranian married to a Kuwaiti and residing in Kuwait since 1985. I am extremely proud of my Iranian culture, language, civilisation, heritage, history, art and so forth. I try to pass on my Iranian culture and values to my children. But this does not give me the right to discredit another race or culture.

What makes one culture better than the other? We tend to think that the Western culture and values are better than those of the East. However, if we study the issue a bit closer, the Western world is just as barbarian as the Arabs who invaded Iran! When an individual can walk into McDonalds and shoot people in broad daylight, this is another form of barbarianism. When nerve gas is released in the subway in Tokyo, this is also a barbarian act. However, we tend to overlook these everyday acts of violence and only remember what the Arabs did in the past. We still blame our own mistakes on the Arabs.

The problems currently facing Iran with the regime of the mollas is nothing to do with the Arabs. If we, as a nation were smart, we should have not allowed these barbarians to take rule of Iran. Why did we allow it and agree to live under it for 16 years! We need to re-evaluate and re-assess our own actions rather than blaming others for our own mistakes and ignorance.

Iran is a beautiful country which my family and I are deprived from visiting due to being on a "black list". I despise the regieme in Iran who has forbidden me to visit my own country and see my relatives which I have not seen since 1979. However, I do not blame anyone but ourselves for allowing all this to happen to us.

When the Western-educated middle class of Iran demonstrated in the streets and supported Khomeini I don't think the Arabs had anything to do with it. I am not a defender of Arab culture or civilization, and from living among them I know their problems and who they really are. I just think that we should not always blame others for our own mistakes.

Regards,

Golnar Mahmoudi

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Keeping the splendor of Persian

From: Vahid Rahbari [email protected]

Languages evolve whether we like them or not. In its path of evolution Persian language has benefited tremendously from its intermingling with Arabic. I read some prejudicial comments about Arabic language and how, according to one of THE IRANIAN Bulletin subscriber's history teacher, "Arabs cut the tongues of those who spoke Persian."

Remember, at the time when Arabs were busy cutting Iranian tongues out we were not exactly distributing cake and chocolate throughout the region either. We did cut tongues, pocked eyes, and played polo with the head of our enemies too. It all depends whose history books you are reading.

Our Nader Shah Afshar whom we so proudly name our sons after attacked India 16 times, ransacked their kingdom, and in the end poked his own son's eyes out. Rivalries between ethnic groups is a natural occurrence whether it's between Iranians and Arabs, Japanese and Chinese, or Tootsis and Hutoos.

Arabic was introduced to Iran as part of Arabization of the Islamic empire which included Iran. Arab rulers motif may have included Iran's humiliation, or other hidden agendas Arabs may have had. They also may have desired to facilitate communication throughout their Islamic empire with an unified language.

Whether or not Iran's marriage with Islam and Arabic language was a positive occurrence is debatable. The fact remains that after the introduction of Arabic to the Persian language the art of literature in Iran soared to new heights. There may very well have been other reasons for advancements in arts and science besides the Arabization factor. So the marriage between Persian and Arabic may not have been as bad as some think.

What about the script? Well, that is a different story. The Arabic script is not well suited for the Persian language . For example there are four different kinds of Zs in Arabic language with their own distinct pronunciations. In Persian we pronounce all of them as Z. And we memorize which kind is used in what words. Or, if we knew Arabic, we could first find out if a word was Arabic or Persian, and if Arabic then we could refer to the root of the word and deduce which kind of Z to use.

If one did not know Arabic and its intricacies, then he/she must subscribe to memorization. That is exactly what English speaking people do with English. They memorize most words. And as we all have experienced first hand spelling can be a problem in English because we can not remember all the words all the time. Persian, however, is a little different. There is a "pictographic" quality to Arabic script that makes memorization a little easier. Those of you who have learned Persian in Iran, in elementary schools, know that by the time we got to high school spelling was not an issue anymore.

Is Latin script suitable for Persian? It would be easier to use Latin script to write "pure" Persian. But there is a problem to use Latin script for modern Persian. Persian is mixed with Arabic, and the Latin alphabet may diminish Persian language's splendor by Latin's inability to cater to the Arabic portion of Persian. Persian without Arabic is extremely limited.

It is possible to create a new set of alphabet based on Latin, as done in Turkey. But why? Just because we don't want to learn Persian with Arabic script? Because we don't like Arabs? Or is it because we would like to identify with the West more so than with our own heritage and its placement on earth, the Middle East? We want Latin script for Persian because it is better suited for the language, or is it simply that we are trying to divorce Arabic?

Regards

Vahid Rahbari

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* Pinglish

Before I go into the pros and cons of EuroFarsi, I would like to mention that I had given this topic some thought in the past and also done some research on the matter ["Eenjoori beneveeseem?"]. I would also like to point out that I was born in London, I am fluent in Persian/Farsi but I can read and write to a very basic level and this I learnt mostly at home as a child.

Recently I visited Iran after four years. On my return to the UK, I kept in touch with my cousins through email. My cousins can read/write and speak basic English from what they learn at their private lessons although it would be difficult and time consuming for them to write in English everytime. We adopted our own method of writing to each other which we call 'Pinglish'! (Persian English)...

We cannot change and should not change what has evolved through years and years of history. We cannot adopt IPA for several reasons. The main one is that it would be difficult to begin re-educating the entire population of Iran, then again if Turkey did it, we surely can too, anyway most children now learn English at school..

Those living abroad or born abroad will be able to communicate with other persians there and in Iran. Recently I had difficulty applying for an Iranian passport as the Iranian Embassy in London required me to fill out the application forms in Farsi. If we adopt this phonetic alphabet, then people like me will no longer have these problems >>> FULL TEXT

Sima Elli

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