Iran's cartoon crisis

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Jun 1 12:40:11 UTC 2006

 05.31.2006 Wednesday - ISTANBUL 15:37

Iran's Cartoon Crisis

The latest cartoon crisis exploded in Iran. Several demonstrations are
being held in Iran, the representative of a racist culture against the
Azeris and other ethnic groups. Turkish jokes are degraded and called her
by that Persian culture that has been striving to erase the Turkish image
in the social subconscious for hundreds of years. Her means donkey. As
someone who first turned the thesis, Turkey cannot become Iran into a
book, I also talked about the Turkish image in daily life in my book, Two
countries Two Revolutions Turkey-Iran, that was published in 1990. While
talking about jokes belittling and degrading to Turks, they would turn to
me and make a correction Not for the Istanbul Turks but for those living
here! I saw families banned from speaking Turkish at home in order to
prevent their children from speaking Persian with an accent. A butcher
expressed his hatred for Turks with a dirty pun: I do not look in the
mirror for fear of seeing a tuh on my face. The word tuh means both hair
as well as Turk.

The Persians would tell me that the Azeris decrease their quality. Iran
underestimating all its neighbors loves neither Arabs nor Turks. Not only
the Azeris live in Iran, an ethnic bundle, there are also the Kurds,
Baluchs, Turkmen, Lor Turks, Gilaks, Mazandarans, Arabs and Armenians.
Several languages, cultures and sects live together. The Azeris constitute
the largest ethnic group with a population of more than 30 million. Until
1925, there was a structure that can be called a traditional confederation
system, independent of Irans internal affairs. It was the Pahlavi regime
that discouraged ethnic groups from enjoying their language, tradition,
culture and identity. The Pahlavi regime established its sovereignty on a
single culture and a single language. Everybody has to study with the
Persian identity, he said.

The assimilation policy implemented by the Shah regime and continued by
the revolutionary governments has reached this day. The sad manifestation
of the racist viewpoint exploded with the cartoon crisis. The
understanding of a Persian minority, that perceives the Turks as
cockroaches, gives lessons to other people but does not practice what it
preaches. The fact that Pahlavi believed he descended from the same race
as the Germans, and took sides with the Germans in the war, as Arya-i Mahr
(sun of the Aryan race), proved costly. However, even today, Germany has
huge investments in Iran. They have developed trade ties considerably.
This Persian mythological belief, of staying close to the German
Constitution and describing themselves according to race, is widespread in
Iran. The belief that the Persian culture is the oldest civilization and
has the most perfect language also contributes to racism. Unfortunately,
Iran has exported this belief to Turkey as well and I have heard many
intellectuals say they cannot find the Persian richness in Turkish. Of
course, this is an attitude not different from those speaking English
among themselves.  Their view is that Turkish is not a language as rich
and sophisticated as English. They ignore the fact that English, which is
an imperial language, enriched itself without removing the foreign words
it derived from other cultures. Prejudice and racism always go hand in

Language education and its spread occupy very important places in Irans
state policy. They have continuous political interests towards
Persian-speaking countries such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They can
easily move from interests to pressures as well. They support philology
departments at universities, give them economic aid, award the good
students scholarships and educate them in Iran. A language-based identity
program is always operating. Writing history and describing historical
events with anachronistic readings and analyses are valid even for the
most classical texts. Avesta or Ferdowsis Shahname can be given as

Populism cannot be separated from a legend. Populism is folk-like and it
is not patriotism. A person can be both a patriot and cosmopolite at the
same time. However, a populist is inevitably a kind of nationalist. A
patriot does not exclude a person from another nation he knows and has
lived with side by side in a community for years. As for a populist, he
feels suspicious towards everyone outside his tribe. The nationalist does
not only feel suspicious towards foreigners but also towards people within
his nation he feels do not agree with him, J. Lucaks says. We can see this
in Zionists and in those who perpetuate Tashnak nationalism and also in
German nationalism. Racist attacks can easily take place even before the
upcoming soccer fiesta kicks off.

May 30, 2006

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