The Return of Zarathustra, Part V
The Aryan identity of Iran, which binds her destiny together with that of Europa, is not a historical curiosity. It is the basis of a cultural revolution triggered by the failed uprising against the Islamic Republic in 2009. The fifth and final part of this series examines the roots and implications of this Iranian Renaissance.
For a public mind enslaved to mass media, the horrific nightmare of this 37 year long Islamic regime in Tehran has all but obliterated the great regard that Western intellectuals and artists had for Iran during most of the modern period. Goethe believed that Hafez was the greatest poet of all time, and he conceived of his East-West Divan on the model of the Divan of Hafez and as something of a reply to it. G.W.F. Hegel’s extensive writings on Iran in his Aesthetics, his Philosophy of History, and Phenomenology of Spirit have established his reputation among Iranologists as one of the founders of Iranian Studies. It appears that Hegel’s conception of the dialectical progression of History towards the society of Spirit is influenced by centuries old Iranian conceptions of cosmic evolution. Fakhruddin Gorgani’s mystical romantic epic Vis and Ramin became the basis for Tristan and Isolde, the most sophisticated elaboration of which is the opera by Richard Wagner. Friedrich Nietzsche read the first translation of the hymns of Zarathustra and adopted the Iranian prophet as his own literary persona in his masterwork, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which was adapted into an orchestral piece by Richard Strauss. This was not, however, the first instance of Zoroaster in Western music. Mozart’s Magic Flute preceded it, with a dramatized version of Sarastro at its core. Edward Fitzgerald’s much embroidered ‘translation’ of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam became a major influence on Victorian English poetry. Emerson wrote a reverent essay on “The Persian Poets” which ought to make us wonder how deeply his transcendentalism was influenced by that of the Iranian texts that he devoured.
No account of Iran’s impact on the modern West would be complete without a special emphasis on the French. Voltaire and Montesquieu were both quite interested in Iranian culture and their writings reflect it. Montesquieu satirized the European culture of the Enlightenment from an Iranian perspective in his Persian Letters, reaching back to the classical Greek literary practice of internal cultural critique by means of using the Persians as a foil – they reassume the position of that civilized “other” cultured enough to give Europeans some perspective on themselves. Voltaire saw in Zarathustra a proto-Deist and thus a holy father more adequate to the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment than Jesus Christ. Henry Corbin, the first translator of Martin Heidegger’s writings into French – who, consequently, helped conceive of Continental Philosophy, which is largely a French reception of Heidegger – was the most prominent Iranologist of the 20th century. He saw in Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi and other thinkers in the still living School of Illumination (Eshraqiyoun) visionary predecessors of Heideggerian hermeneutics. Corbin came to believe that Iran would be “where the final liturgy setting the world on fire will take place.” It is beginning to look like he was right.
Westerners, especially Americans, still remember the hostage crisis, but what they do not understand is that it is the Iranian people who were really taken hostage in 1979. Facing the prospect of an imminent Soviet invasion of Iran to gain access to the oil resources and warm water ports of the Persian Gulf, the Western policy making elite decided that Islamic fundamentalism would be a better barrier to the Russians than what was by 1975 the fifth most powerful military force on Earth. The Persian Emperor would fight the Soviet Union, possibly even with nuclear weapons (which the Shah was building at the time), and given the close alliance between the United States and Iran this would undoubtedly be the start of World War III. Instead of this head-on confrontation, cynical Machiavellian policymakers in the Carter Administration, who ultimately answered to David Rockefeller of the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission, decided that it would be preferable to confront the Russians with an Islamist quagmire. British and French political elites ‘agreed’ with this assessment.
Few geopolitical analysts have set the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan in 1978, and the American creation of Al-Qaeda and mobilization of the Taliban in response, in the context of a much larger strategy that was really about stopping Iran from falling to the Reds. Iran actually had a militant, fairly organized, and well armed communist movement for most of the 20th century. It is these far-Leftist guerrilla fighters who actually flexed the muscle on the streets that put the Mullahs to power in 1979. What the Western policy elite did was to build up the Islamists to the point where Iranian Marxists thought that the only way to overthrow the Shah of Iran was to enter into an alliance with them. On the authorization of the Carter Administration, hundreds of millions of dollars were transferred into the bank account of Ayatollah Khomeini and his associates during their exile in Paris.
Anticipating a masterful KGB destabilization of the Shah’s regime, for which late 1970s Afghanistan was toilet training, the CIA beat the Russians to it by orchestrating a massive propaganda campaign against the Shah for alleged repression and human rights violations by SAVAK. Caving to this pressure, because he wanted to be seen as the progressive leader of a country developing so fast economically that it was about to enter the first world, by 1977 the Shah released many political prisoners and lifted some restrictions on press censorship. This proved to be a catastrophe. In 1978 naïve university students were riled up en masse by these demagogues with their stories of prison torture, who promised them a freer and more enlightened society, only to deliver a draconian fundamentalist Islamic state in 1979. SAVAK was right about them.
What happened in the months after the founding of the Islamic Republic is even more disturbing. The hostage crisis was engineered, chiefly by then CIA director George Herbert Walker Bush – an oil man and family friend of the House of Saud who wanted barbaric Saudi Arabia to replace Iran as America’s strategic partner in the Persian Gulf. Those American diplomats could have been released within a few days of having been haphazardly seized by zealous students. Bush orchestrated an October Surprise wherein the Iranian government would hold on to the hostages until he and Ronald Reagan were elected to office. (I do not mean to implicate Reagan in this plot; he was a strong supporter of the Shah and had Bush forced on him as his VP.)
This plot had a far more sinister aim than ruining Carter. It was intended to destroy the glorious image of Iran that the “King of Kings and Light of the Aryans” (Shahanshah Aryamehr) had built up in the Western mind during the 1960s and 1970s – to replace those otherwise unforgettable prime time broadcasts of the precessions of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire at Persepolis and the tomb of Cyrus the Great with scenes of blindfolded American hostages being bullied by machine gun toting women in the black head to toe chador. Speaking of the women, it only took them a few months to realize that they had been badly lied to. Within the first year of the Islamic Republic there were massive demonstrations against the forcible imposition of the veil and far more significant assaults on the relatively equal legal rights that women had enjoyed during the Shah’s regime.
In fact, nearly the entire Iranian population quickly realized that they had been manipulated by Khomeini and company, especially the Marxists and radical Leftists who were executed en masse by the triumphant Islamists for their troubles as the guerrilla firepower of the revolution. By 1980 there was a plan for a military coup against the Islamic Republic. It would have enjoyed a broad base of popular support. Well aware of this eventuality, and of how loyal the Shah’s officers had been, the Mullahs decapitated one of the world’s leading military powers by executing nearly the entire high-ranking officer corps of each service. No sooner had they done so than, with the covert tactical backing of the United States and Western European powers, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in September of 1980. This allowed the Islamic Republic to declare a state of emergency and to build up the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC or Sepah Pasdaran) as a tremendous paramilitary combined service. Ostensibly created to wage war against Iraq without risking an Iranian Army, Navy, or Air Force coup, the rabidly Islamist IRGC became and remains the regime’s primary organ of state repression.
This war imposed by Western elites, against an Iraqi enemy that the Shah could have taken apart in a few days, lasted 8 long years and cost the lives of a million people. I am convinced that its sole genuine purpose was to shore up the Islamic Republic as Iran’s form of government. Every time that even the decapitated Iranian military came close to crushing Saddam, the US would intervene to restore a stalemate. This engineered war of attrition put a massive battlefield and a ferocious Islamist enemy between the Russians and the resources of the Persian Gulf, while the US worked through Al-Qaeda to slow them down in Afghanistan. The Iran-Iraq war was only allowed to end in 1988, when the imminent fall of the Soviet Union could be counted as a mission accomplished. Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, the same year that the Berlin Wall came down.
Once the nation was able to rebuild itself after 8 years of war, and to take a moment to reflect without facing a clear and present danger from across its border, Iranians organized an attempt to at least reform this theocratic government that they were manipulated into accepting. Beginning with Hashemi Rafsanjani and picking up steam during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, some degree of moderation led Westerners to harbor false hopes that they were seeing the Reformation of Islam as such. The reformist intellectual Abdolkarim Soroush was even referred to widely in the Western media as “the Martin Luther of Islam.” Despite his genial attitude, and his humanitarian rhetoric, President Khatami failed to carry out his program of reform. He stood by helplessly during a serial murder of intellectuals by intelligence agents and militias. He proved powerless in the face of theocratic checks on Parliament, and could not stop the closures of reformist newspapers and civil society organizations by unelected theocratic authorities. Khatami betrayed young pro-reform Iranians who rose up against the crackdown of 1999 only to be beaten, arrested, and tortured. It was in view of this experience that many Iranians decided to boycott the 9th Presidential Elections of the Islamic Republic in 2005, leading to the so-called ‘election’ of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In his words and deeds, Ahmadinejad went on to utterly disgrace Iranians in the eyes of the world and they learned a bitter lesson from their boycott. The people, now 70% under the age of 30, decided to give change from within the system one last chance. Adopting the symbolism of the color Green (Life, Spring, a new beginning, and also – to be safe – the sacred color of Islam), in May and early June the masses launched an enthusiastic presidential campaign for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The hope was that he would be an Iranian Gorbachev and bring down the system from within. The regime caught on to this. On June 12, 2009 a fraud involving millions of votes (perhaps as many as 11 million) was perpetrated to reelect Ahmadinejad. Paramilitary forces attacked President-Elect Mousavi’s campaign headquarters and the Interior Ministry and other government organs violated their own constitution by immediately ratifying the frauded election figures. Despite massive demonstrations against the fraud by millions of Iranians united under the slogan “Where is my vote?” on the streets of Tehran and other major cities, the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and his Guardian Council put their stamp of approval on the fraud. In his first Friday sermon during the crisis, Supreme Leader Khamenei demanded an end to these protests and warned the opposition that it would be responsible for any ensuing violence.
When brave Iranians defied the chief clergymen’s illegal demand, paramilitary and militia forces loyal to him followed through on their threat of a blood bath. Khamenei went so far as to import Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas so as to outsource the repression of his own people to these Arab fighters more loyal to his fundamentalist ideology. Since the latter do not understand Persian, they could be relied upon not to cave into pleas like “brother, why are you beating me – aren’t you Iranian?” Thousands of people were arrested or simply disappeared without any due process. Predictably, the best human rights lawyers themselves featured prominently among those arrested. Unidentified men without uniforms abducted people from their homes. The homes of others were violently raided under the cover of darkness filling the night with haunting screams and the sound of breaking glass. Many of those arrested were tortured to extract false confessions. Others, especially young female protestors, were raped to death. Paramilitary security forces opened fire on unarmed demonstrators from rooftops.
The collective face of the martyrs for Iran’s freedom became Neda Agha Sultan, a 26-year old girl who was a graduate student of Philosophy, and who died fearlessly, with open eyes, after being shot through the heart. Some youngsters were attacked by machete-wielding Hezbollahis who poured out of mosques. Their savagely mutilated corpses were thrown off of bridges onto trucks and then dumped in mass graves in the middle of nowhere. Families who attempted to retrieve the corpses of their loved ones were even forced to pay the government exorbitant sums per bullet ‘wasted’ by being fired into their bodies. Some were denied public funerals and proper burials, since each of these memorials tended to turn into another demonstration against the Islamic Republic. Past a certain point the slogans were no longer about reform or electoral fraud. They were about regime change, and if the Iranian people had been given the clear moral support that they asked the American government for in slogans from the streets, Iran would have probably transitioned into an only nominally Islamic society with some kind of liberal democracy as its secular form of government.
Instead, something else happened. The Western policy making elite, and especially the Obama Administration, made it clear that it considered the Islamic Republic Iran’s legitimate form of government. The news leaked that as people were shot and butchered on the streets, Obama was penning secret diplomatic letters to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was responsible for the brutal crackdown. Evidently this was his answer to the slogan chanted by demonstrators on the streets of Iran’s cities, “Obama, Obama, either you’re with us or you’re with them!” The Obama Administration went on to pursue a foreign policy that led directly to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which went on a rampage genociding the Kurds and destroying the Iranian cultural heritage in lands that were once part of the Persian Empire.
Meanwhile, it became clear to increasing numbers of young Iranians that the reform movement had not failed for incidental reasons. For the first time in centuries, Iranians took care to read scriptures such as the Quran, the Hadith, and Nahjul Balagha for themselves (in clear and comprehensible Persian translations). They began to tease apart Islam itself from what Iranians had made out of Islam in order to survive the Islamic conquest of Iran. For example, how the Zurkhaneh or “House of Strength” that is in nearly every Iranian town and hamlet preserved Mithraic chivalry in the form of a very superficially Islamized, mystical martial arts tradition. It became clear to young Iranians that Islam itself is at fault, and that this religion is not amenable to reform.
Symbols of Iran’s Zoroastrian heritage began to appear everywhere, most of all in pendants around people’s necks. Ancient Persian holidays such as Tirgan (the Tyr festival), Mehrgan (the Mithras festival), or Yalda (in its original Yule Day form) that had faded into obscurity began to be boisterously celebrated again, and every Nowruz became an occasion for reaffirming the nation’s Aryan identity. Most people began naming their children after pre-Islamic Persian heroes and heroines, and some have even endeavored to minimize their use of Arabic loan words in written and spoken Persian. There are even projects being organized to reconstruct a purely Indo-European Persian language. Thousands began to gather spontaneously around the tomb of Cyrus the Great, growing by the numbers every year, on the day that commemorates his founding the Persian Empire when he marched into conquered Babylon. What they chant around the titanic tomb is even more significant: “We are Aryans, we do not worship Arabs!”
Now it should be understood that at this point, centuries after the genocidal Arab, Turkic, and Mongol, conquests of Iran Shahr (the “Aryan Imperium”) no more than 10% of the country’s population consists of genetically pure Iranians, i.e. ethnic Aryans, who are phenotypically identical to native Europeans. Another 50% are somewhat mixed and look like swarthy southern Italians and/or European Russians with traces of Mongol genes. The majority of white Iranians are dispersed in the countryside or in smaller towns that were not penetrated by the Semitic and Asiatic conquerors. There may even be more ethnically pure Iranians per population in the western parts of Kurdistan, or in other parts of Greater Iran such as northern Afghanistan and Tajikistan. What is more important is that if you point this out to young urbanite Iranians they are liable to get quite angry because on a psychological and social level they identify as Aryans in a way that has become nearly inconceivable in Europe, North America, or Australia after 1945.
Moreover, there is little to no correlation between the whiteness of Iranians and how representative they are of the Aryan spirit. A Turkmen intellectual educated in Tehran who speaks fluent Persian might do scientific, literary, or artistic work that is far more Aryan in character than a pure ethnic Persian who is a high-ranking Ayatollah. In fact, an Iranian intellectual of the present generation who is essentially an Uzbek Turk (ethnically speaking) could so deeply identify with the Indo-European ethos of his national heritage that he not only becomes an exemplar of the Pre-Islamic Persian worldview but he also learns three living European languages and two dead ones so as to understand pagan Rome better than most Italians do (as part of understanding just what kind of rapport the Romans had with the Parthian or Sassanian Persians). I am not talking about a professional historian or linguist. If Carl Jung was right that the collective unconscious is racially differentiated, somehow Iranians have remained tapped into their Aryan archetypes despite miscegenation. In fact, what is happening now is akin to what Jung wrote about in that 1936 essay where he identified the reemergence and incarnation of the Wotan (Odin) archetype from out of the psychical shadow of the Germanic people.
Since at least 2012 a grassroots movement has given birth to what the Pahlavi regime tried but failed to accomplish from the top down: a cultural revolution that restores and revitalizes the Pre-Islamic identity of Iran – an Iranian Renaissance. Dr. Shahin Nejad has defined the movement’s core principles as “the worship of wisdom” (Setayeshe Kherad), “justice” (the Zoroastrian concept of Daad), “charitableness” (Daheshmandi), “chivalric free-spiritedness” (Azadegi), and the “beautification, cultivation, and development of the living world” (Abadsazie Giti or Giti Arayi). All of these have their roots in the Gathas of Zarathustra and were preserved in the beloved national epic, the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. The closest Western points of comparison to this epic are the works of Homer or the Norse sagas, with the very great difference that the Shahnameh was written a couple of centuries after the Arab conquest of Iran and with the explicit aim of preserving both the Persian language and the Aryan heritage of Iran. It was composed based on fragments of surviving pre-Islamic sagas and chronicles. The epic ends with the Islamic conquest, which is portrayed as such a cosmic tragedy that it breeds Luciferian contempt for the wheelwork of the heavens. Partisans of the Iranian Renaissance refer to themselves as the “children of Ferdowsi” (farzandane Ferdowsi).
The term “Renaissance” calls to mind Medici Italy. It is more than an analogy. One thing that is clear to partisans of the Iranian Renaissance, and that Westerners are going to have to understand soon, is that the idea of “Arabic Science” or an “Islamic Golden Age” being a bridge between classical antiquity and the European Renaissance is grotesque nonsense. Repeating such absurdities adds insult to Islam’s injury of Iran. When the Caesar Justinian of the Christianized Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium closed the last of the great classical academies, the one at Athens, in 529 AD on the grounds of sacrilege, no less than seven of its Neo-Platonist masters resumed their careers at the Academy of Gondeshapur. One of three major universities in Sassanian Iran, like the Library of Alexandria, the Academy of Gondeshapur featured laboratories for practical research as well as a hospital that was the most renowned medical facility in the world. Its name means “Great Shapur” since it was founded by Shapur I, the Persian Emperor whose vision of Zoroastrianism was so broadmindedly true to the “progressive mentality” of the Gathas that he invited Mani to his coronation ceremony to sermonize about how Zarathustra’s esoteric teaching is one with that of Buddha and the Gnostic Christ. This is one of a number of examples of Persian Emperors aspiring to form an alliance with the leading visionary thinkers of their epoch, so that the two together could govern in the sagacious manner that Zarathustra and Goshtasp once did. As I suggested earlier in this article series, this was the model for Plato’s philosophical Guardians of the state. Indeed, when the last of Europe’s classical academicians took refuge in Iran they dubbed Khosrow I (Anushiruwan) the ideal Platonic philosopher king.
The Sassanian interest in Neo-Platonism was such that extensive translations of Greek texts into Syriac, an administrative language of the Western parts of the Persian Empire, were already under way at the Persian ruled city of Nisibis (in present-day Syria). Once the academicians arrived in the Sassanian capital of Ctesiphon and were set up at Gondeshapur, these translation efforts were stepped up and these inspired original scientific treatises in Pahlavi (middle Persian) written by Bozorgmehr (Borzuya) and others. Such scientific efforts were not only taking place under Greek inspiration, but were also catalyzed by extensive translations of Sanskrit Indian texts into Pahlavi. In other words, about a century before the Arab Muslim conquest of Iran began, there was an enlightenment underway that promised what (somewhat anachronistically) we might see as a Zoroastrian fusion of Western science with Eastern spirituality.
When the Arabs invaded in 651 AD they spent the first hundred years of their conquest setting fire to libraries and ransacking universities, including the Academy of Gondeshapur. What the Islamic State recently did in Mosul, where it burned every book in every library that was other than a canonical Islamic text, was just taking a page out of the playbook of the original Mohammedan armies that conquered Zoroastrian Iran. Only by 765 did the Caliphate begin to recognize that one cannot govern an empire this way. They pieced together what fragments survived their wonton destruction, aggregating the remaining texts at the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmat) in Baghdad. The library of the new school was placed in the charge of a Persian, Abu Sahl al-Nawbakhti, who oversaw the project of further translating the Syriac and Pahlavi translations of Greek originals into Arabic, and in rarer cases translating Greek directly into Arabic. By this means the whole Aristotelian corpus and most of Plato were preserved in Arabic translations as they met their demise at the hands of zealous Christians in Europe.
The vast majority of the scholars of the so-called “Islamic Golden Age” were Persians, especially when mere translation gave way to commentaries and original texts inspired by Greek rationalism and science – which I have argued (in Part II) were probably catalyzed by the Zoroastrian colonization of Greece in the first place. These Persian geniuses of the medieval period were nearly all from that part of eastern Iran known as Khorasan (extending into present-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), which remained demographically white or ethnically Aryan for centuries after the Arab conquest (and before the Mongol invasion). In other words, these people were like ethnic Germans (as in German Science) whose own fathers and grandfathers were still practicing Zoroastrianism and resisting the country’s forcible conversion. Some of them were even referred to as “majusi” by Arab rulers of the time, an epithet for ‘pagans’ that derives from magus (a Zoroastrian priest). Together with the rebel stronghold of Azerbaijan and the Caspian coast (discussed in Part III), Khorasan was the site of the largest number of revolts against the Caliphate on the part of Persian fiefdoms trying to carve out some degree of autonomy.
These Persians are the ones who crafted a philosophical and scientifically adequate Arabic vocabulary, radically transforming the language of the desert tribesmen in order to translate complex Greek and Persian terminology. It is a historical travesty of the first order to credit Islam with the brilliance of Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Khwarazmi (Algorithmi), Farabi (Alfarabius), Al Biruni, and Omar Khayyam. Every single one of these physicists, physicians, chemists, mathematicians, and astronomers was a Persian forced to write in a language other than his own because Iran was under Arab occupation. Fortunately, Khayyam managed to rattle off some poems in his native Persian towards the very end of his life, verses that are brimming over with the contempt for Islam that many of his scientific colleagues probably shared but had to muzzle before the Caliph. It is ironic that a man who was likely the greatest scientific mind on Earth during his own lifetime remains most well known, both in Iran and the West, for such drunken verses:
If I am drunk on the wine of the Magi, so be it!
If I am a fire worshipper – a pagan and idolater – so be it!
Every sect has its own suspicions of me,
The truth is that I am my own man, I’m just what I AM!
The ball of earth is an image of our compacted bones,
Its rivers, trickles of our distilled tears.
Hell is but a spark from our consuming torments,
And Paradise but a moment’s breath from our space of reprieve.
They call the Quran the Ultimate Word,
They read it occasionally but not all the time.
A text stands inscribed round the inside of the wine cup.
This they con at all times and in all places.
Oh Canon Jurist, we work better than you,
With all this drunkenness, we’re more sober!
You drink men’s blood, we, the vine’s,
Be honest now – which of us is the more bloodthirsty?
The glory of Mughul India (including present-day Pakistan) must also be attributed to Iranian civilization and not to Islam. Akbar the Great and his successor, Dara Shokouh, were Persianate rulers who tried to move beyond the conflict between Islam and Hinduism on the basis of ideas from the school of Persian mysticism with the most direct connection to the Zoroastrian tradition, the Ishraqi or “Orientalist” school of Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi – a martyred medieval Iranian apostate. The Mughul culture of Northern India was in, nearly every significant respect, an Iranian culture. Its administrative and literary language was Persian, and its art and architecture were also predominately influenced by Iranian models. For example, a Persian, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, was the architect responsible for the Taj Mahal (a name meaning “Crown District” in Persian). Akbar and his short-lived successor instituted a project of translating all of the major works of Indian literature into Persian. These fifty or so books included the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Vishnu Purana, and the Bhagavata Purana. Until well into the period of British colonial rule, centuries after Akbar’s time, the Bhagavad Gita was more widely read in Persian in Northern India than in Sanskrit. It was said that this most revered of all Indian spiritual texts resounded better in Dara Shokouh’s Persian translation, under the title Abe Zendegi or “The Water of Life.” The truth is that the “Indo” of the Indo-European world has always referred, not to Dravidian India at large, but to the southeastern border of at least six Iranian or Persianate kingdoms that extended to the Indus river for most of history. With its northwestern border in the Scythian realm from the Black Sea to the Caucasus, and its southwestern border at the Indus, Greater Iran was the Indo-European civilization.
Greater Iran is clearly a core concept of the Iranian Renaissance, as reflected by a popular motto that is oft-repeated by media personality Omid Dana, Iran-e-Bozorg arman-e-bozorg mikhahad or “Greater Iran needs greater ideals!” Iran has at least 3,000 years of continuous history that is an expression of an unbroken sense of national identity reaching back to Zarathustra, and even earlier heroic figures memorialized by the Shahnameh. By comparison the 10 or 12 nations that surround Iran by land and sea in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East are artificial constructions of modern European colonialists. The oldest of them does not predate the early 19th century. For example, from 1850 to 1900, Iran lost no less than half of its territory to the Russian Czars who carved it up into the “stans” (estan means “province” in Persian) that have, since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, become nominally independent states.
The only exception to this rule is the Turkish border with Iran, which was a long disputed territorial boundary between the Ottoman Caliphate and the Persian Empires of the Safavid, Afshar, Zand, and Qajar dynasties. Two things are important to remember in this regard. Firstly, the Asiatic Turks did not arrive in ‘Turkey’ until the 14th century. Initially blood-lusting savages who genocided and forcibly miscegenated the Iranian population of the Caucasus region on their way to Anatolia, they adopted Persian as their administrative and literary language as soon as they settled down to the business of running an Empire. Both the Seljuk and Ottoman Empires were Persianate cultures, even if the latter was officially at war with Iran. Secondly, the population of eastern ‘Turkey’ remains mostly Kurdish. Referred to by the Greeks as the Medes, the Kurds are ethnically and linguistically an Iranian tribe who, together with the Persians, have always formed the backbone of Iranian civilization. The mother of Cyrus the Great was a queen of the Median Kingdom that was Iran’s first world-class state, preceding the Persian Empire.
As the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda (clandestinely backed by Turkey and the Arab Emirates) surround Iran in territories that have been part of one or another Persian Empire for most of their history, the ultimate consequence is clear. Once the Iranian Renaissance triumphs domestically, the Persians and Kurds in the vanguard of the battle against the nascent global Caliphate – with its fifth-column in the ghettos of major European cities – will reconstitute Greater Iran as a citadel of Indo-European ideals at the heart of what is now the so-called ‘Islamic world.’ Whether contingent circumstances mean that it will be ten, fifteen, or even twenty years from now – this is going to happen. When historians of the future look back on the second quarter of the 21st century (2025–2050), they will identify the Iranian Renaissance as the single most consequential sociopolitical event to take place on the planet in that era. Even alien contact would not be more significant, because if the “aliens” turn out to be the Daevas and Ashuras, how the human community of Earth openly confronts them will have everything to do with defeating the Abrahamic deception of Ahriman and rediscovering Zarathustra.
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