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Posts Tagged ‘Chaharshanbe Suri’

Greetings every one! I am back in time to celebrate the Persian sizdahbedar سیزده بدر with you. For those of you who are new to Persian cultural practices, sizdahbedar which literally means “the thirteen out,” refers to the the 13th day of farvardin  فرودین , the first month on the Iranian calendar. The expression could be interpreted as ” let us throw away any bad omen associated with the 13th day of the month” or simply “let us get out and celebrate on the 13th day!” Or, perhaps a bit of both.  On this day, finally, the new year celebrations end with a huge picnic. Family and friends get together and picnic in gardens, parks, and any green and open space they find. One of the goals is returning the wheat sabzeh grown on a plate for the haft-seen back to nature:

The Wheat grown before Nowruz and placed on the Haft-seen will be taken out of the house during the sizdahbedar

But of course, the main part of the day is the celebration and festivity with family and friends:

sizdahbedar is the day to get out of town and enjoy the nature

One popular practice during the sizdahbehar picnic is tying two blades of grass into a knot and making a wish! It isn’t that people think that knot changes their lives; rather it is a fun and symbolic way to tie their wishes and aspirations with that of the freshly growing grass, the messenger of the spring. Like the ritual of jumping over fire on the last Wednesday of the year, chaharshanbe suri چهارشنبه سوری , which is part of the Nowruz and therefore disliked by the current Iranian government as a pre-Islamic practice, sizdahbehar is frowned upon too. Here is how one cartoonist used the symbol to express  his / her opposition to the policing of the regime on this matter:

This is how a cartoonist, opposing the policing of the regime regarding Nowruz celebration in Iran, tied the knots on his / her sabzeh!

Iran in Bloom!

Countries that earn the title of “bad guys” are usually presented in the popular media as barren, poor, not-well-cared-for, fighting a harsh environment, and constantly dealing with tragedy. Beautiful panoramas or images of happy smiling people from such countries are hardly available to the American general public. As a result, it is easier to imagine the residents of such countries as unreliable, irrational, and ready to spring into violence. So here, together with the awesome picture (below) from the arrival of spring in the city of Larijan in the province of Gilan in Northern Iran, I gift you a photo-essay that relates the story of Iran in bloom . For the rest of the pictures, you can visit here.

Visit the link I have provided to Iranian.com above to see images such as this showing Iran in bloom this spring!

Spread Ronnie’s  Message of Peace

In my last post, I told you about about Ronnie Edri and his wife Michal Tamir, the Israeli designer couple who designed a logo with a message of peace and love to Iranians. Hundreds of thousands of people have already watched Ronnie’s message on the internet and many Iranians have responded to it already. Here is Ronnie himself on the subject. Do please help get his courageous message of peace and sanity out to more viewers:

And here is one out of numerous responses from Iranians (many of whom as you will see have covered a part of their face to remain anonymous to the Iranian authorities).

The Politicians Don’t Stop!

And yet the politicians on all sides continue with their inflammatory messages and the media keeps the war-talk going.  A piece in The New York Times focuses on the concern of the American intelligence community that hasty military action could take place based on unreliable information. Well, in my opinion, they should be concerned! It is hard to believe that some opinion pieces make it sound as if this caution is misplaced, that it is due to timidity, or a sense of guilt about Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives would have been saved if we  had not mistaken bread factories for nuclear sites. See the article here:

One of the buildings the American forces were told was a nuclear site in Iraq turned out to be a bread factory. See the article I site above from N.Y. Times.

If we are to avoid another war and hitting bread factories instead of nuclear sites, or if we are to prevent Iranian children from following the fate of Iraqi children, half a million of whom died as a result of food and medication shortages caused by sanctions during the nineties, diplomacy should be given a serious chance. Please don’t forget that massive sanctions are weapons of mass destruction. I already know of one such case: a first cousin of mine who is desperately searching for a medical supply for a surgery she has to have done every few years. I don’t know how life threatening the situation is at this point, but I know she is in great discomfort. For further thoughts and discussion on this and related topics, I have an excellent essay for you by Trita Parsi, author of A Single Role of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran. The essay is called “Five tips for President Obama on nuclear negotiations with Iran.” Trita’s suggestions include broadening the discussion beyond the nuclear issues, and not allowing American domestic politics to direct the exchanges.  You can read the full piece here.

Time for Music…

Time to turn from politics, war, and sanctions, to a happier topic. I usually close these windows with visual delights such as painting or calligraphy from Iran. Let us turn to music this time. Just before Nowruz, an Iranian master setar player and composer Jalal Zolfonun died at the age seventy-five. I had heard him in concert about ten years ago. He was quite amazing. Here is a short clip of master Zolfonun playing

Setar is one of the oldest string instruments used in Persian classical music. Fortunately, young Iranians take a lot of interest in learning how to play it. Bear in mind that while Persian traditional music follows some tight rules, the player has plenty of room to display his or her originality by bending those rules in improvisation. Below, I have taken a delightful moment from a concert in Iran where a young Iranian woman musician named Sepideh Meshki shares the stage with her master Mohammad Reza Lotfi and many other Iranian women musicians. I have enjoyed this piece tremendously. I hope you do too:

Have a great week,

Fatemeh

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Windows on Iran 23

The historical Persian King Xerxes(above), who bares no resemblence to the offensive depiction of him in the Hollywood movie 300. See below for more on this movie and its historically inaccurate portrayal of King Xerxes and the Persian Empire.

The real historical Persian King Xerxes (above), who, notice, bares absolutely no resemblance to the bizarre and, ultimately, offensive depiction of him in the Hollywood movie '300.' See below for more on this movie and its grossly historically inaccurate portrayal of Xerxes and the Persian Empire in general.

Dear Friends,

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

A scene from the movie 300. Far from being a harmless Hollywood thriller, this movie is a blatant piece of propaganda that contains numerous historic inaccuracies that all conveniently serve to demonize the Persians and glorify Sparta (the symbol of the Western, free world). Please click on the link to Dr. Touraj Daryaees critique for comprehensive analysis.

A scene from the movie "300," with a utterly bizarre and distinctly 'othering' depiction of the Persian King Xerxes (right) and King Leonidas (left). Far from being a harmless Hollywood thriller, this movie is a blatant propaganda piece that contains numerous historical inaccuracies which all conveniently serve to simultaneously demonize the Persians and glorify the Spartans (the symbol of the Western, free world). Please click on the link below to read Dr. Touraj Daryaee's superb critique of '300.'

* 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.

1-21).

A more historically faithful depiction of the Persian King Xerxes (or, also a times referred to as 'Ahasuerus' ) with his Jewish wife Esther (of the 'Book of Esther' in the Hebrew Scriptures fame, see Esther I: 1-21).

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:
http://www.iranian.com/Daryaee/2007/March/300/index.html

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.

Chaharshanbe Suri

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.

Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration) Haftsin (click on the Nowrouz link above for more details).

A Nowrouz (the Iranian New Year celebration) Haftsin (click on the Nowrouz link above for more details).

Regime Change

* 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
rule.

* 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
detailed analysis:

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).
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/index.htm

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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADU1lhEb1X0&mode=related&search

* 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
more: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7770255&ft=1&f=1003

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
crisis: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070312/wl_afp/irannuclearpolitics_070312113740

Visual Delight

A painting by Nilufar Baghaei (click on the link to the left for more!).

A painting by Nilufar Baghaei (click on the link to the left for more!).

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
===================================
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
==================================

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