A New Year And A look To The Past
December 19, 2011 by contributor
From Editor’s Desk – Shahrokh Ahkami – Issue 64, Winter 2011
Yet another year has passed and I am given another opportunity to wish all of you, along with my staff, the happiest of holidays. My wish, for you and the world is, for a new year filled with joy, happiness, peace, freedom and void of terrorism in any form. When I begin the final editorial of 2012, I hope these wishes have been granted.
I will continue to hope and pray that the end of 2012 finds Iran rising to its former level of glory. I will continue to hope and pray that the oppression, now in place, is replaced with freedom and equality. I will continue to pray that bloodshed and tears end. I will continue to hope and pray that 2012 is the year when Iran’s present regime ends. I wish this with caution and hope that when this happens, Iran will have a true government that understands and respects its citizens and knows their past, present and future greatness. Until this becomes a reality, I will continue to wonder how long our children and grandchildren will endure the repercussions resulting from the mistakes of their grandparents.
Yesterday, I received an email. I cannot vouch for its veracity, but can tell you that it was written with great thought and logic. It goes like this: Khalkhali, the hanging judge, went to visit Hoveyda (former Prime Minister), in his prison cell a few days after Hoveyda was incarcerated. While there, he asked Hoveyda, how he was doing. Hoveyda responded “all is fine except that the cell is a bit too small.” Khalkhali answered, “But these cells were built to your speculations and were built to hold the revolutionaries. Now they are your home.” Hoveyda answered, “I know that and that is why I am telling you this. If you build new cells you should build them bigger for your future.”
Again, whether this is true or false is not as important as the impact of its meaning. It raises serious questions on the fate of the dictators. Will the end of the leadership in Iran be the same as the dictators in Iraq? Do we wish the same events for Iran? Do we want a coup d’etat after coup d’etat for Iran and its citizens? Do we wish to see Iranian citizens fight citizens? Do we wish to see bullets and bombs flying across Iran killing, Iranians and destroying its history? Do we want to see Iran’s present leaders hanging at the end of a rope, or like Gadhafi, be slaughtered by their enemies and then buried in an unmarked grave?
Is this the right thing to do? Is it fair for a dictator to chain in his people and make them so dependant on himself that when the time for separation and change comes they are without any direction? This allows not for a real government to take over, but for a new one with its own agenda.
It is with great pride that we place the picture of the tomb and cylinder of Cyrus the Great on the cover of this issue. Cyrus the Great is considered to be the founder of the first governmental system which he used as his model to govern. In reading the words on the cylinder it is obvious that he promoted respect, equality, justice and fraternity. He also sheltered the homeless, refugees and prisoners of war. We picked this subject for the cover because of the present movement to destroy his works and Iran’s history. The present regime, through statements, orders and writings is attempting to deny, ignore and change the facts of recorded historical events. They are insisting to record and rewrite the history of Iran from the beginning of Islam. This movement and the forces behind it are creating real fear and anxiety in cultural and historical circles in Iran and around the world. The fear is that with the pouring in of billions of petro- dollars this movement will take root and destroy the ancient culture and history of Iran.
I recently returned from a trip to Greece and Turkey. The Greeks’ attachment to Christianity and religion was obvious. On every corner there is a place of worship. While they are proud of their religion, they are prouder of their history and culture, the legacy of Zeus, their philosophers and their contributions to humanity, math and science. Because of their unquestionable pride in their heritage, culture and history, Greece’s greatness is known worldwide.
The visits to their historical sites came with history lectures. Throughout the tour they spoke with great pride about their churches and the miracles of Jesus, Mother Mary and Christianity. With the same pride they spoke of their history. Despite multiple invasions by the Romans, Persians, Arabs, Turks, Nazis and Italians, the Greeks rarely hold a grudge except when it comes to the Turks. Their animosity for the Turks, however, remains because of their deliberate destruction of their monuments and attempts to change Greek culture. The Greeks are most proud of the fact that despite the invasions and occupations, they have saved and remained true to their language, culture and the Christian Greek Orthodox religion.
After Greece, we visited Turkey. I was surprised to see ruins in Turkey. I was equally amazed to hear them talk about their invaders. To the Turks it was part of their history. They are now spending millions of dollars to restore these historical sites and their country. Though churches were turned into mosques, the Turks kept the holy and religious center of the Greek Orthodox religion in Istanbul. Despite the Muslim Turks, who throughout history slaughtered over a million Armenians, the Turks believe today that they must keep an open mind and be tolerant of other religions. In spite of their attachment to Islam, the Turks do not make attempts to ignore Asia Minor and the Eastern Roman Empires. They acknowledge the Christian belief that Mother Mary lived the last years of her life in Turkey and have turned that area into an historical site.
While we were passing through Bosphores, a woman from New Zealand, explained how Herodotus, (the Greek historian who hated Persians, even though he spent most of his life in Persia), spoke about the military importance and stature of Dardanelles. “Persian King Darius I the Great, in an attempt to subdue the Scythian horseman north of Black sea, crossed over at the Bosphorus, and then marched up to the Danube. His army crossed the Bosphorus over an enormous bridge made by connecting Achaemenid boats. This bridge essentially, connected the farthest most geographic tip of Asia, to Europe, encompassing at least some 1000 meters of open water if not more. Years later, a similar boat bridge would be constructed by Xerxes I, in his invasion of Greece.” (wikepedia)
Xerxes I, ordered the building of two bridges that passed over Bosphores. Using these bridges he was able to bring four hundred thousand soldiers onto Greek soil. For some reason the bridges were destroyed. Angered by this, Xerxes I ordered the execution of the engineers, who had designed and built the bridge and punished the water by having his soldiers hit it with their whips.
From these narrations it was clear to me the pride people from all over the world have for their country’s history and culture. Regardless of its goodness, badness and ugliness, they struggle to keep it alive for the next generation. They know they cannot live in the past, but use its lessons to build their future.
My thoughts now turn to Iran. Unlike Turkey and Greece, whose course is to protect their history and culture, Iran’s present government is trying to destroy and rewrite its history and culture. I am ashamed and saddened by these actions. Every Iranian, in Iran or aboard, should be. Is this movement necessary? Why would they want to erase from view everything that resembles historical Iran and Persia and replace it with erroneous labels and facts?
Iran, as a nation, must change its direction. It must find solutions to live and work with their neighbors, rather than place themselves and their people under sanctions and be hated by the world. If a solution is not found, I fear the media frenzy will lead to their destruction. Like Pasargard, the Tomb of Cyrus, which will soon be under water because of the rise in the water level, I fear this fate for Iran; not by water but by the inner destruction of Iran’s rich culture and history. The treasures of Iran should not be auctioned off to another nation to be part of their museums. Under the display of these artifacts we should be able to read: on loan by the nation of Iran.
A totally Islamic Iran, characterized by anger, death, oppression, theft and corruption, has no future, or its future will follow the path of surrounding countries. Is an Iran that fails to recognize the greatness of its past that includes: Cyrus the Great, the Zoraste, Persepolis and on and on, worth saving? A country with those characteristics would be a country of falsehood and the exact opposite of its citizens’ wishes.
We, the people of Iranian/Persian ethnicity should go forward and stop this movement with the same fortitude as the words on the inscription of the New York Post Office, supplied by William Mitchell Kendall from the architectural firm McKim, Mead &White, who designed the building:
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
According to Kendall the sentence appears in the works of Herodotus and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done.