Feature

Iran: We’re all Persians now

Iran has begun emphasizing its pre-Islamic past as a way to deepen ties with countries that were once part of the Persian empire, said Kaveh Afrasiabi in the Asia Times.

Kaveh Afrasiabi
Asia Times (China)

Iran is rediscovering its ancient Persian roots—for the most cynical of reasons, said Kaveh Afrasiabi. Since the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government has focused almost entirely on the country’s Islamic heritage. But in recent years, it has begun emphasizing its pre-Islamic past as well, “promoting tourism of numerous ancient sites, holding international conferences and seminars” on Persian poets, and promoting the Farsi language.

The new push is aimed at deepening ties with countries that were once part of the Persian empire. Former Soviet republics Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan have languages closely related to Farsi, and they celebrate Nowruz, the traditional Persian New Year. Many Afghans and Iraqis, too, claim Persian ties. Together, those countries would be a formidable bloc.

So the sudden respect for Iran’s heritage is a calculated attempt to promote “pro-Iran solidarity” at a time when “Western pressure on Iran over the nuclear crisis is intensifying.” But within Iran itself, there is potential peril in all this Persian nostalgia. The last thing the regime needs is for young Iranians to start longing for a “restoration” of the pre-revolutionary past.

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