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Draw from the well
We can start calling ourselves Africans, or Eskimos, or Vikings. It is not going to change anything

August 24, 2004

I am writing this in response to two recent articles on, 'Basically Central Asian', and 'I'm... Central Asian', both advocating that the Iranian people should identify and group themselves with the Central Asian nations in place of the prevailing Middle Eastern affiliation we currently subscribe to.

The I-Ching Oracle is an ancient Chinese book that is regularly consulted by millions worldwide in the same manner as the Iranians consult the Divan of Hafez. That is, for advice, or to ask questions, etc. The I-Ching is made up of 64 diagrams (hexagrams, to be precise) that relate to all possible life situations.

The seeker concentrates on his or her question or dilemma and tosses a number of sticks or coins. Based on the way the objects land, one or more hexagrams are selected and their captions are read to gain further insight into the situation. The captions are quite intuitive and one needs to be able to read between the lines or else have someone more familiar with the oracle interpret the captions for them.

One particular hexagram comes to my mind seeming apropos as a response to my right honorable friends advocating that we start being Central Asians from now on. The hexagram number 48 is called "The Well". Its caption reads:

The Well. The town may be changed, but the well cannot be changed. It neither decreases nor increases. They come and go and draw from the well **..

We can start calling ourselves Africans, or Eskimos, or Vikings. It is not going to change anything, I assure you. As an AA member told another, "It doesn't matter how much spiritual awareness you have gained, or how you have improved your life, or how many days you've been sober. To me, you are still a fucking drunk!"

Our problems as a people are deep-rooted and numerous. It will require intensive, collective soul searching to uncover our shortcomings and make attempts to overcome them. Assigning ourselves new and superficial identities is clearly not a prudent way to approach this issue.

Behold what Mustafa Kamal Pasha, otherwise known as Atta Turk, did with Turkey, trying to make it a part of Europe. To this day, when you see the 'Guest Workers' in Germany doing all the labor-intensive work, you can clearly discern that, in the eye of the German, the Turk is not a European.

The millennia-old Iranian personality is not something that you can pigeonhole or ascribe a new identity to. We are a unique product of our own turbulent history, and as hard as it may be to accept for some of us, we have taken more from the Mesopotamian cultures than any other culture around us.

Central Asia has been overrun by the Turks since 5th century AD. Before that it was the nomadic Samartians and Scythians who roamed the steppe. The Bukhara and Samakand that Hafez mentions in his poetry are under total Turkish rule in the 13th century. A scattered Iranian population still existed in the present day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan regions, but they were by far a small minority among a growing Turkic population.

Our claims to Transoxiania effectively ended with Alexander's conquest of the area at the end of the Achaemenids period.The Pan-Turkist Movement is dreaming of a Greater Turkistan, extending from present day Turkey across Azerbaijan and the Central Asian Steppe to and including the Xinjiang Region in Western China. Iran and Iranians have no place in this grand scheme and we best stay out.

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By Shahriar Zahedi



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