It is a pleasure to open another window, one that greets the Spring. Iranians everywhere in the world are now busy preparing for Nowrouz, the Persian New Year, 1386! For my Nowrouz gift to you, click here: Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration). I hope it gives you a fun visual tool for teaching about Nowrouz. Happy Nowrouz/spring to you All.
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Hollywood’s Nowrouz Gift to Iranians
* If you are an Iranian, you will have a hard time deciding which misrepresentation of yourself to expose! This year it has been made easy for Iranians. They get their New Year’s gift in the form an ominous movie called “300” that portrays Persians / Iranians as “inarticulate monsters, raging towards the West, trying to rob its people of their basic values.” The movie “demeans the population of Iran and anesthetizes the American population to war in the Middle East” in the words of Touraj Daryaee, Professor of Ancient History (Californian State U., Fullerton). In a review essay called: “Go tell Spartans How “300” misrepresents Persians in history,” Prof. Daryaee critiques the movie eloquently. For example, in the movie, the historical quote “We are the mothers of men,” is addressed to a Persian brute (obviously blind to gender issues). According to Daryaee, this sentence had nothing to do with Persians, but rather was part of a completely Greek debate on the position of women, regarding the fact that Athenian women were forced to stay in the andron (inner sanctum of the house) so that their reputations would not be tarnished. Spartan women were different than the Athenian women, but Persian women of this period had more freedoms than either the Spartans or Athenians and not only participated in politics, but also joined the army, owned property, and ran businesses.
As a New Year’s gift to the Iranian Community, please share Prof. Daryaee’s excellent critique of the movie with students, friends, and relatives. It might feel as if we are trying to carve a tunnel in a huge mountain with a plastic spoon. But every single person counts. My thanks to Zari Taheri for sharing this valuable link:
A Threat to All of us!
Perhaps influenced by movies of the above kind, a couple of days ago Senator Obama gave his Nowrouz gift to the Iranians by calling Iran “a threat to all of us.” An astonishingly vague, and dangerous, assertion. Please note that in the past fifty years or so, American politicians have worked to persuade the public that: Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Chile, Panama, Nicaragua, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq were all threats to American and world security. Magically, Saudi Arabia, which produced the majority of the 9/11 hijackers, sponsors Wahhabism, and prevents its own women from driving on the streets, appears not to be a threat.
We need a break. How about watching a ‘dangerous’ Iranian family
celebrating a pre-Nowrouz event in their neighborhood? It is done on
the last Wednesday of the year by jumping over fire while asking for
its symbolic “color and warmth.” Click here: Chaharshanbeh Suri.
* I know this is supposed to be a New Year Window. Still, Iranians are
celebrating it with talk of regime change in the background. The
concept is familiar. The people of Chile experienced it. In fact, they
had their own September 11 tragedy with an almost similar number of
casualties (3,000). On September 11, 1973 a CIA sponsored General
Augusto Pinochet conducted a coup, seized total power, and established
a military dictatorship which lasted until 1990. At the time of his
death in 2006, around 300 criminal charges in Chile were still pending
against Pinochet for human rights abuses and embezzlement during his
* I want to share an Iranian regime change with you that took place in
early 1950s. A democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mohammad
Mosaddeq (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mossadegh) worked to nationalize
the Iranian oil industry that had been under the control of a British
company. The contracts gave Iranians next to nothing while the British
were laughing all the way to the bank. Mosaddeq was overthrown in a
joint British-American coup. Here is what the American people read on
August 6, 1954 in a New York Times’ editorial: “Underdeveloped
countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy
cost that must be paid by one of their number [Iran] which goes
berserk with fanatical nationalism.” There is another lesson in the
overthrow of Mosaddeq, one that the New York times editorial does not
mention. Be skeptical when people are presented to you as “fanatical.”
They may simply be trying to take control of their own resources. Here
is a suggested reading on this regime change if you like to see a
Mark J. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne, Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953
Coup in Iran: A Joint U.S.-British Regime Change Operation in 1953
that Holds Lessons for Today (Syracuse University Press, 2004).
Iranian Americans on Stage
* You have not been really integrated into a culture unless people can
laugh at you! Iranian American standing comedians are working on that.
Here is a clip from Maz Jobrani sent by my friend Hayrettin Yocesoy.
Thanks Hayrettin, this is culturally interesting, and funny too:
* Iranian Americans are getting themselves on another kind of stage too,
that of American politics. Beverly Hills eyes Jimmy Delshad, an
Iranian American, for mayor. Here is the report, if you like to read
Headlines in Iran
Iran has been ready to suspend uranium enrichment, although, not as a
pre-condition to negotiations. The former Iranian president Mohammad
Khatami urged Iran to compromise on the nuclear issue to avoid further
Let’s see if we can revive the spirit of Nowrouz through meeting another delightful visual artist. This is a young Iranian painter and graphic artist, Nilufar Baghaei (b. 1969). Nilufar’s work is heavily inspired by children’s drawings the themes of which she explores creatively and colorfully. There you are, three themes most relevant to Nowrouz: children, creativity, and color. To Watch Nilufar Baghaei’s art show, click here Nilufar Baghaei Art, enjoy!
Have a great spring, and see you next week.
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair
Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures
Washington University in St. Louis
Tel: (314) 935-5156
Fax: (314) 935-4399