Now that I put the crown of kingdom of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions on the head with the help of Ahura Mazda [e.g. God], I announce that I will respect the traditions, customs and religions of the nations of my empire and never let any of my governors and subordinates look down on or insult them until I am alive. From now on, till Ahura Mazda grants me the kingdom favor, I will impose my monarchy on no nation. Each is free to accept it , and if any one of them rejects it , I never resolve on war to reign. Until I am the king of Iran, Babylon, and the nations of the four directions, I never let anyone oppress any others, and if it occurs , I will take his or her right back and penalize the oppressor. And until I am the monarch, I will never let anyone take possession of movable and landed properties of the others by force or without compensation. Until I am alive, I prevent unpaid, forced labor. Today, I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate other’s rights. No one could be penalized for his or her relatives’ faults. I prevent slavery and my governors and subordinates are obliged to prohibit exchanging men and women as slaves within their own ruling domains. Such a tradition should be exterminated the world over. I implore to (Ahura) Mazda to make me succeed in fulfilling my obligations to the nations of Iran (Persia), Babylon, and the ones of the four directions.
King Cyrus the Great of Persia, as recorded in the Cyrus Cylinder, 539–530 BC
As in most authoritarian governments, Iran’s state broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), tends to censor many foreign productions based on the stringent and conservative criteria of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Interestingly, this has led many Korean films and shows — especially dramas — to become dominant in the country’s media market, where they face little competition and act as a substitute for mostly-banned Western productions.
One of the reasons that Korean TV series are allowed this rare privilege is that their lead protagonists tend reinforce traditional Confucian values that happen to align closely with those of Islam, such as putting society before oneself and showing respect towards higher authorities. Since Iranian audiences have little else to watch, Korean productions typically attain higher ratings in Iran than in most parts of the world, including South Korea itself.
For example, the series Jumong, a historical drama about the founder of the Goguryeo kingdom, has at times attracted over 90 percent of Iran audiences — compared to 40 percent in South Korea. Indeed, its lead actor, Song Il-gook, has now attained superstar status in the country, and many Iranians have developed genuine affection for such programs.
The two countries now promote many conferences, exhibitions, and cultural exchanges between one another. More recently, Iranian and Korean researches have been studying the cultural exchanges between the Korean kingdom of Silla and the Persian Empire.
Iran’s Surena 2 Robot
The Sorena 2 Robot, which was designed by engineers at University of Tehran and unveiled in 2010. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has ranked it among the five most prominent robots in the world in terms of performance.
Note that this has been widely-known, with these recently declassified files merely confirming it further. In any case, I’m pretty sure this is one reason the Iranians haven’t been very cooperative…in addition to the US-backed coup against their democratically-elected prime minister in 1953, and our overall support of Iraq during its bloody eight-year war against Iran.
Hassan Rouhani is concerned about his country’s growing economic troubles and is determined to change policies that have cut off relations with most of the developed world.
In a striking repudiation of the ultra conservatives who wield power in Iran, voters on Saturday overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric seeking greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.
I think the people of Iran are trying to tell us something. Granted, political power in Iran doesn’t really lie in the President, but rather the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Still, this makes a powerful statement.
Declining birth rates, for example, signal a wider acceptance of contraceptives and other forms of family planning — as well as a deterioration of the traditional role of the family. Over the last two decades, the country has experienced the fastest drop in fertility ever recorded in human history. Iran’s annual population growth rate, meanwhile, has plunged to 1.2 percent in 2012from 3.9 percent in 1986 — this despite the fact that more than half of Iranians are under age 35.
At the same time, the average marriage age for men has gone up from 20 to 28 years old in the last three decades, and Iranian women are now marrying at between 24 and 30 — five years later than a decade ago. Some 40 percent of adults who are of marriageable age are currently single, according to official statistics. The rate of divorce, meanwhile, has also skyrocketed, tripling from 50,000 registered divorces in the year 2000 to 150,000 in 2010. Currently, there is one divorce for every seven marriages nationwide, but in larger cities the rate gets significantly higher. In Tehran, for example, the ratio is one divorce to every 3.76 marriages — almost comparable to Britain, where 42 percent of marriages end in divorce. And there is no indication that the trend is slowing down. Over the last six months the divorce rate has increased, while the marriage rate has significantly dropped.
Changing attitudes toward marriage and divorce have coincided with a dramatic shift in the way Iranians approach relationships and sex. According to one study cited by a high-ranking Ministry of Youth official in December 2008, a majority of male respondents admitted having had at least one relationship with someone of the opposite sex before marriage. About 13 percent of those “illicit” relationships, moreover, resulted in unwanted pregnancy and abortion — numbers that, while modest, would have been unthinkable a generation ago. It is little wonder, then, that the Ministry of Youth’s research center has warned that “unhealthy relationships and moral degeneration are the leading causes of divorces among the young Iranian couples.”
Meanwhile, the underground sex industry has taken off in the last two decades. In the early 1990s, prostitution existed in most cities and towns — particularly in Tehran — but sex workers were virtually invisible, forced to operate deep underground. Now prostitution is only a wink and a nod away in many towns and cities across the country. Often, sex workers loiter on certain streets, waiting for random clients to pick them up. Ten years ago, Entekhab newspaper claimed that there were close to 85,000 sex workers in Tehran alone.
Why a nuclear Iran won’t be the end of the world.
Badab Soort Natural Spring, Iran
This is a side of Iran that isn’t seen enough. Instead of mullahs and nukes, people need to know about its natural and cultural beauty, its historical progressiveness and splendor, and the humanity of its populace — the majority of whom don’t prescribe to the tyranny and fanaticism of their authoritarian leaders (as the Green Revolution years back revealed).
Then again, maybe I’m politicizing this too much. Let’s just enjoy the image :P
(Source: , via courseofempire)
The job of American schools, as enforced by the bureaucracy, is not really education. It’s censorship.
That may sound overly cynical. But I’ve worked as an educational writer and curriculum developer for almost 20 years, and the most important part of the job, it often seems like, is not imparting information, but rather figuring out how to make sure that the students don’t receive any.
On one project, a colleague of mine working on a world history course was told not to include the fact that gay people were targeted during the Holocaust. In another instance, I was told that I could not, for sensitivity reasons, include a test passage about storms at sea. Passages about rats, or alcohol, or love, or death were similarly proscribed. So were passages that depicted, or even mentioned, slavery — and this was for an American history exam. Again, there were sensitivity concerns, though whether we were worried about offending black people or white people, I don’t know. Probably both.
I was not surprised, therefore, to learn that the Chicago Public Schools have recently decided to restrict access to Marjorie Satrapi’s graphic memoir, Persepolis, which deals with her experiences growing up under the fundamentalist regime in Iran. The exact nature of and reason for the ban is still somewhat unclear. There was initial speculation that the book was being banned from all school libraries because its negative portrayal of the thuggish fundamentalist Iranian regime was somehow Islamophobic or insensitive to Mulsim students. This story made CPS look, obviously, very bad.
School officials have hurried to explain that they do not actually object to the political content. Instead, they say, the book is still sanctioned for school libraries, but that lower grades may not use it because of “graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use in the seventh grade curriculum.” High school teachers are still, apparently, allowed to use the book, though only with special training.
Norwuz is Farsi for “The New Day,” and marks the start of the Persian New Year. This major event is celebrated by tens of millions of Iranian peoples all over the world (namely in Central and South Asia, Northwestern China, the Middle-East, and the Balkans). It’s one of the world’s most ancient holidays, and it’s one of the few pre-Islamic traditions still widely practiced in Iran.
Though it has origins in the ancient Zoroastrian religion — with which it is still associated — Norwuz has come to be celebrated by a variety of cultures and faiths that adhere to the Iranian calendar, which recognizes the start of the new year on the day of the vernal equinox, when the Earth’s axis is “straight,” tilting neither away or toward the sun. Given the diversity of the cultures that celebrate it, the festivities can be incredibly variable.
Indeed, Nowruz incorporates just about every element we could imagine from our Western holidays: feasting, fireworks, the exchanging of gifts, thanksgiving, costuming, spring cleaning, spending time with loved ones, and even something akin to trick-or-treating.
Perhaps the most iconic custom associated with Norwuz — and the one maintained by all the different cultures that celebrate it —is the Haft-Seen. Also known as the “Seven S’s, this is a traditional table setting comprising seven symbolic items that are meant to represent the elements of life. In Zoroastrianism, they also corresponded to “immortal divinities,” or angels (it’s believed that the concept of angels first emerged in this faith, and came to influence Christianity and Islam). These items, and their significance, include:
- Sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
- Samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
- Senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
- Sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
- Sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
- Somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
- Serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience
In addition to these core values and concepts are many others that are typically included:
- Sonbol - Hyacinth (plant)
- Sekkeh - Coins - representative of wealth
- Traditional Iranian pastries such as baghlava, toot, naan-nokhodchi
- Aajeel - dried nuts, berries and raisins
- Lit candles (enlightenment and happiness)
- A mirror (symbolizing cleanness and honesty)
- Decorated eggs, sometimes one for each member of the family (fertility)
- A bowl of water with goldfish (life within life, and the sign of Pisces which the sun is leaving). As an essential object of the Nowruz table, the goldfish is also “very ancient and meaningful,” and has deep connection to Zoroastrianism.
- Rosewater, believed to have magical cleansing powers
- The national colors of a given country, for a patriotic touch
- A holy book, such as the Avesta, Qur’an,or Kitáb-i-Aqdas and/or a poetry book (almost always either the Shahnameh or the Divan of Hafiz)
Below are some examples of Norwuz table that incorporates all the main objects — and then some. Given the sheer variety of items, and the ability to personalize the arrangement, no one Norwuz table looks exactly the same way. See if you can identify the major components.
Back when I worked at a pet store, I used to receive a lot Iranian customers in a short span of time who were looking to purchase some goldfish for Nowruz, which is how I first learned about the the holiday. It’s definitely one of the most delightful and colorful holidays I’ve ever read up on, and I highly encourage you all to learn more about it, and there are far more interesting traditions and concepts that I simply don’t have the time to cover. Needless to say, it’s also a nice change of pace to read something pleasant about Iran.
I wish all of my Iranian readers out there a Happy Norwuz! Feel free to weigh in with your own personal accounts or information.
A great talk about the fascinating “Cyrus Cylinder” and what it stands for.
A gift courtesy of the Iranian Pavilion of my local Asian Culture Festival.
A beautiful compilation of classic instrumental music from Iran.