Understanding Iran and Iranians

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By; Manda Zand-Karimi (Ervin)

Because of the existing Islamist regime and the religious culture of the Middle East, Iran and Iranian culture and civilization have been unfairly judged in the U.S. So I will try today to offer a more precise aspect of “us” and, why we are here today, why we are trying to justify our culture and insist that Iranians do understand civil society, are ready and capable of upholding a democracy, and deserve international support. Iran is the oldest Nationhood in the world, established around 700 BCE. An empire made of many Indo-European tribes; it is built on individual respect, equality, tolerance and separation of religion and government, whose original religion was Zoroastrianism. It was the Iranian emperor Cyrus the Great who wrote the first proclamation of human rights in 639 BCE. The clay cylinder on which it was inscribed is normally kept in the British museum; however it is now on loan and touring the United States. The Bible and many of the Greek philosophers have praised Cyrus the Great; the Greek historian Xenophon penned a book entitled Cyropedia (the life and times of Cyrus) about the Persian emperor’s humanitarian policies and his democratic style leadership. Cyropedia was one of the books studied by Mr.’s Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, while writing the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. constitution and in fact, Jefferson’s copy is kept at the library of Congress. In the 7th century AD the Najd Arabs attacked and occupied Iran; our history records the bloody massacres of our people. What the hordes could not take they tore asunder and burned to the ground. Thus, Iranians were forced to become Moslems.

Fast forward: Between the 7th century Arab occupation and the beginning of the 20th century, Iran was attacked and occupied by: the Mongolian hordes, the Ottomans, the Mongolians again, Anatolian Turks and the Tartars. In the beginning of 19th century European Imperialists, mainly the British and French, as well as our brutal northern neighbor Russia, also discovered a weak Iran, ripe for looting. By the end 19th century Iranians were poor, illiterate and far behind the western world. Iran was ruled, not governed by a weak and corrupt Shah and a powerful Shia cleric establishment which co-owned and co-ruled the country under a feudal system. Eventually the people began to discover and speak out in favor of a European style Constitutional Monarchy and the separation of the government and the clerical establishment. The revolution for the constitutional government of the people had begun, demanding three main issues: 1. Modernity, = democracy 2. Sovereignty 3. Prosperity The constitutional revolution succeeded in 1906 and kicked off the establishment of a parliamentary system. However the clergies would not give up without keeping their influence and control on the family and women’s issues under Sharia laws. For the next 50 years, the women of Iran continued fighting to take their equal rights from the clergy. They had finally succeeded when the Islamist Khomeini took over Iran. Unfortunately certain American elite continue to insist that it was only the Shah who was forcing modernity on religious Iranians who eventually marched for Khomeini. It cannot be left unsaid however, that less than 1 million out of the 35 million population of Iran marched.

Islam has automatically been applied as the culture of the Iranian people regardless of our national, historical background, and an illustrious ancient civilization that we are very proud of. Iran’s history of post WWII and the events of the Cold War era have unfortunately been misrepresented through ideological binoculars of various uninformed members of the media, who have clearly conducted little or no research and genuinely lack an understanding of our history, even as recent as the beginning of the 20th century. After the success of the 1906 constitutional revolution, Iranians asked America (and not Europe) to help them in constructing a Modern system of government. It was President William H. Taft who dispatched eleven Americans to Iran in order to establish that system and taught Iranians how to manage a government of the people. It was then President Truman who saved Iran from Soviet Russian domination after the end of the war. And finally, it was with the support of the United States after WWII, that Iran finally became a free, sovereign and prosperous country. It is as a result of these efforts, that despite the despotic clerical regime, the Iranian people respect and trust the United States. And it is because of this respect that when during the 2009 protests the regime’s rented crowd chanted death to America, Iranians of all ilk, chanted back: death to Russia. Some members of the media have persistently prescribed the Eurocentric approach to Iran and Iranians. This clearly shows their depth of knowledge of our constitutional revolution and the Iranians’ demand for modernity, over the past 120 years. Presuming to know Iranians, some of the Western political elite still consider Iranians as religious fanatics who deserve to have another Islamists-Leninist cult, such as the MEK. Iran’s ancient history and Cyrus the Great have also been questioned by historical revisionists and some Eurocentrics. And Hollywood has made numerous movies about Alexander the “Greek” where the Persian emperor who represented the most humanitarian and progressive empire of the ancient times has been denigrated and entirely misrepresented, not to

mention Hollywood’s inexplicable pass on producing films about a great historical figure such as Cyrus the Great. Also, what is unknown is the Iranian women’s brave and continued struggle against the clergy and their domination of women’s lives before and after the success of the Constitutional revolution. I will finish by reiterating that the Iranian people have been occupied and colonized by foreigners, have suffered the consequences of the cold war, lied to and manipulated by their old enemy, the Islamist Clerics, and have lived under the most abusive regime for the last 34 years. But, There are 50 million young, educated and experienced Iranians who daily stand up to the crimes of Islamism and dictatorship; today’s Iranians are ready, willing and capable for living in a democracy, and becoming a peaceful member of the international community. It is they, who should have the international communities’ support, not the Islamist dictators in Tehran.

And I think you for listening