April 4, 2017
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When we Americans think of Iran, we immediately think of the Nuclear Deals and the Iran Hostage Crisis. However, Iran is much more than that. With a history based on the Persian culture, Iran was one of the first great civilizations of the Fertile Crescent. As opposed to what many think, Iran is not a war zone and it is actually quite a peaceful country with limited numbers of home-born and foreign terrorism in comparison with other neighboring Middle Eastern countries. In addition, people are rarely aware of Iran positive relations with the Western World, particularly the United States of America. Today, I intend to change your perspective n this rather unique Middle Eastern country.
Iran’s modern history starts with many wars and revolutions that led to the creation of Iran’s first constitution in 1906. This constitution added a parliament, made Shia Islam the official religion of Iran, and put limits on Iranian monarchs. In addition to making Shia Islam the official state religion, the constitution also, for the first time, protected the many religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, most notably the Christian, Zoroastrian, and Jewish communities. Although this addition looked good on paper, the Iranian clergy opposed the deal in an attempt to maintain Shia power in Iran. Iran was always relatively irrelevant to the Western powers of the world, that was until the discovery of Iranian oil. Upon this discovery, Britain established the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The British then became close allies with the Iranian people, aiding them in a dynastic coup leading to the overtake of the government by the Khan Dynasty led by Reza Shah. With Western help, Reza Shah revolutionized Iran by modeling it after major European countries, which angered the clergy leading them to turn against the Iranian government. During World War II, Reza Shah abdicated and his son Mohammad Reza Shah. In the 50s, the rise of Communism through the Tudeh party caused difficulties not only for the Western powers but also for the Shia Islamic clergy. These complications led to an attempted American and British coup to overthrow the leader of the Tudeh party, who fled the country. In support, the clergy called for the people to start demonstrations against him. In 1963, Mohammad Reza Shah began the White Revolution which brought economic growth, improved education, population growth, and industrial growth. However, this growth was halted when in 1975 Mohammad Reza Shah began to establish a more autocratic government, bringing oppression upon the Iranian people through censorship, political imprisonment, and torture. The White Revolution along with the newly formed autocratic government did not appease all, and in fact, one Shia Islamic cleric, Ruhollah Khomeini, who said that the Iranian government was awarding women to many rights, rigging elections, abusing the constitution, and selling too much oil to Israel. In spite of the dissatisfaction with the Iranian monarch, the people began an uprising today commonly known as the 1979 Iranian Revolution. This revolution established the government in power today with an Iranian Supreme Leader. This government implemented a more Islamic republic with its Supreme Leader acting as an Ayatollah or a Shia Muslim religious leader. The first Supreme Leader was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who led the country until his death in 1989. Although there are Supreme Leaders, Iran is also ruled by a president and a parliament and, as opposed to what many believe, Iranians do have the right to vote. Today, the Iranian president is Hassan Rouhani and he was elected democratically. He drastically improved relations with the United States of America during the Obama administration.
Iran is a beautiful country composed of various architectural wonders. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for American citizens to travel to Iran because they run the risk of arrest. Iran is one of the most developed countries in the Middle East with its two major metropolises being Tehran and Isfahan being as modern as cities such as New York City and Berlin. Tehran is the central headquarters for the Iranian government. It is known for its impressive population and its monumental Freedom or Azadi Tower. This tower built by Mohammad Reza Shah was constructed to commemorate the 2500 year anniversary of the creation of the Persian Empire. The tower stands in the center of the metropolis in the shape of a Zoroastrian fire temple, symbolizing the oldest monotheistic religion’s Iranian origins. In addition to Tehran, Esfahan is also popular among tourists. Isfahan is one of Iran’s most diverse cities. With over 3,000,000 people, Isfahan is home to the largest Jewish communities in Iran with several synagogues dispersed throughout the city. This city is also home to what many consider the most beautiful mosque in the world, the Jameh Mosque of Isfahan. Unlike other Byzantine or Arabic style Islamic mosques, the Jameh Mosque is a unique Persian mosque featuring various hallmarks of the Persian culture such as iwans, Farsi/Persian calligraphy, and the iconic blue and gold mosaics. These architectural features have been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For centuries, tourists have flocked to the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in the nearby city of Shiraz. This mosque’s main attraction is the stained glass windows that create a myriad of different colors that reflect onto the floor. Despite the controversies revolving around this country, this nation remains a culturally intriguing destination that is unfortunately ignored by many tourists.
In conclusion, the unfortunate events that have plagued the Iranian homeland have brought a negative connotation upon the word “Iran”. Despite the dictatorial leadership of Khomeini and the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the United States of America must look not at the nation’s government, but at its people. As opposed to what many may think, the Iranian people are fond of Americans and many Iranian women admire the wave of feminism that has erupted in the last decades. Iran has, in some ways, turned from their hatred towards America’s modernization and embraced this revolutionary movement, learning English and creating metropolises like ours. Americans must remember that Iran is like any other country, its government’s opinion towards the United States does in no way represent their people’s opinions. So let’s put our prejudice aside and admire the controversial Iranian history and culture.
Picture courtesy of CNN