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West Asian
From "Middle East" to Near West then to Middle West then to "Far East" and now to Far West in search of a centre


Vida Kashizadeh
May 13, 2005

A long overdue challenge to all foreign ministries and major libraries of the world as regards to their geographical classification of the Asian continent. When still a teenager I overheard (yes indeed) the news on Radio Iran referring to Iran as one of the Middle Eastern countries (khaavar-e miaaneh). The first question in my mind was: Middle East of where? Beside the point that like all teenagers I was of course the centre of the world myself, I also made the conclusion that here we had a real problem.

Not long after, it was clear that being located in middle east of a centre, one could only move towards the west. In winter 1987 I had a placement (in connection with my study) at the SOAS -- School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London -- library. My placement involved working at the South East Asian section of the library.

During a tutorial with the head librarian of this section I used the opportunity to express my opinion hoping that she would discuss it with the other librarians and her superiors (This establishment was in old days of immense importance for the British Empire and the language education of their agents travelling to Asia and Africa).

The point I made was more or less as follows:

The concept of the Near / Middle and Far East assumes the West as the centre; otherwise we would be calling Germany Near West, UK Middle West and America Far West (her eyes were getting gradually wider). Then I suggested that the correct and a non Eurocentric classification for the different parts of Asia would be simply East Asia / Central Asia and West Asia. And that I didn't see why the classification of some areas as Asia Minor could not be used again as it was in olden days. (And Egypt being part of North Africa anyway).

She never came back to me on this and I knew the case was lost for that point in time.

Now as a change is long overdue (literally my life time) I am writing to hoping that all readers who agree with this point of view, to approach their MPs (member of Parliament) and ask them to contact the foreign ministry/ secretary of states in order to bring their attention to the fact that there is an urgent need for reclassification of various parts of Asia in its own right and not in relation to anywhere else.

This is not only for the sake of our pride but will also benefit European states, which are increasingly concerned about new immigrants mainly from Asia and Africa entering their continent.

They must understand that having wanted their territory to be the centre of the world was bound to attract young people and this was a price they had to pay (let alone the fact that they attack countries in Asia creating new refugees but don't want those, to seek refugee status in European countries). This is because young people -- in particular the enterprising characters who venture to leave their own countries -- love to be in the centre.

With other words they are partly to blame that we came here and didn't go to Tien Shan instead.

Many of you who are not aware of your citizenship rights may laugh at the idea of going to your Member of Parliament. You'll be surprised how much you can actually achieve by visiting your MP at their surgeries. No MP can afford or is allowed to not pursue the queries of their constituent and once they send a letter to an authority, that authority has to look into the matter and you will get a written answer. And the more of us go to our MPs about this, the better.

Letters to the British Library /the Library of Congress / Staatsbibliotech etc., may also prove to be useful

Meanwhile remember Iran is in West Asia and nowhere else.                

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