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August 21, 2004Top

* Yes! We're Central Asian

Dear Bamdad,

How very right you are [I'm... Central Asian]. Some twenty years ago, when I had moved to exile in Europe, I wrote a draft of my memoirs and sent it to an English friend who passed it on to the reader of a publisher. Her comment was that obviously Iran is much more of a Central Asian country than a Middle Eastern one (the memoirs were never published because it was druing the hostage crisis).

I agree with you and have written about it, including on iranian.com (where you can access my first article, Defending our turf, in which I say that Central Asia is no less than our Jerusalem). I also organize lectures and other cultural programmes in which Iran and Central Asia are dealt with together. Like you, I have Georgian ancestry, and my father was born in Ashkabad at at time when the majority there were Persians and Russians (the Turkmen were still nomadic then). 

Unfortuntately it is the policy of the West, especially America and Israel to separate us and to keep Iran within the Arab Middle East. Iranian Studies would have disappeared from the West, if it were not for the donations of dedicated Iranians (many of whom, like you, believe in a Federative Union of Greater Iranian parts). However, the policy of Turkicizing Uzbekistan and if possible, Pashtunizing Afghanistan (even though they too are ethnic Iranians) and now getting the Kurds into a collaborative association with Israel, plays against our cultural and economic interests and ultimately may harm our common culture (it has already done some harm to the Persian language).

The most recent issue of the Central Eurasian Studies Review (published at Harvard, web address: cess. fas.harvard.edu) plainly states in at least two articles that this is policy. One article praises German scholarship, '"unburdened by the gross imbalance regrettably impoesd on Central Aisan or 'Central Eurasian' studies in the United States by the preoponderance of support for (and hence the production of ) scholarly work that is supposedly relevant for policy makers (with deleterious results for both scholarships and policy)." Right from the horse's mouth.

In my sad experience, most Central Asian 'experts' even associate the influence of Persian in Central Asia to the arrival of Islam and Arabic, not as a reaction at the Samanid court in Bukhara to revive Persian in a new idiom for a new world.

But we have been through worse in history and with the likes of people like yourself who refuse to accept propaganda, we can eventually establish our unity and work together not in the name of Islam, but in the name of a culture and history that is far older than any of the three monotheisms, all o fwhich were substantillay influenced by Zoroastrianism.

We must keep in touch to show that the will of the peoples of those countries and their rich culture are stronger than the force of passing politics.

Thank you for your article. This is the sort of thing I have been waiting for.

Best regards,
Fatema Soudavar Farmanfarmaian

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