Ethnical varieties; threat or opportunity

By: Yusof Azizi Banitorof
Translated By: Naser Noori

General view
Unfortunately still some of the political groups regard ethnical variety and plurality as a menace for our country, even little number of them denies such a variety. They try with a kind of prejudice and partiality to implant their mentality as objectivity, but recent years events in different parts of the country revealed that historical veracity of the ethnic variety in Iran, is a persistent geographical reality which callous mentalities can not ignore it eternally and of course if they do so, they will jeopardize both themselves and the country.

What does history say?
Some historians believe that prior to the assault of the Aryans, the ethnicities living in this country had peaceful and united coexistence and were managing their territory with a kind of federative system.

Ehsan-e-Yarshater says about this: " Aryans that from the second millennium BC headed for Iran gradually, and faced the natives such as Elamites, that were more civilized than them and some of the natives had (hand) writing system and their delicate drawings on the potteries, statues and objects, which were buried with dead, (in Silak, Susa, Tappe Hesar, Marlik and the like) were indicators of the centuries- long evolution in the civilization road. But when Aryans attacked Iran, by passing of time Iran natives had been decrepit and their internal strength had been declined. (“Letter of Iran” quarterly, 12-th year, third number.)

Such days last year in solitary confinement in Ahvaz I found an opportunity to study the book "Beihaghi History" for not the first time (I had studied the book several times before), of this time the book had been proofreaded by Nafisi. The proofreader in the margin of the text has written an interesting point about the ethnical variety and plurality of the Achaemenid and Sassanid empires and also he has figured the administrative system of that era as a kind of federalism. After Islam this variety continued and even during the Feudal System era we observe the emergence of autonomous countries. Seyyed Ahmad-e-Kasravi speaks about the 80 years of the autonomous sovereignty of the Moshashaiyan in Arabia (present Khuzestan) during 9th century. Also during this era there are Azerbaijan lords (atabaks) and Fars lords (atabaks) independent sovereignties.

During Qajar era, the system of Iran was been called the "protected countries system" and indeed Qajar empire was formed from several large states or countries like Arabia state, Kordestan state, Azerbaijan state, Gilan state , Khorasan state. These states all show ethnic variety of Iran during that era.

In constitutional revolution, in addition to the Persians, Azeri turks, Bakhtiaries and Armenians directly and Arabs and Kurds indirectly were involved. It should not be forgotten that Sheikh Khazal, the governor of Khuzestan during that era, did not spare sending any kind of aid to constitutionalists. During this era the "Iran a multinational country" expression entered to the political literature of Iran and Iran nations and ethnic groups could seal the constitutional law.

After victory of the Islamic revolution at Bahman 1357, also the constitutional law of the Islamic Republic of Iran in several principles recognized ethnic variety and plurality and the minimum ethnic rights for the Iranian ethnic groups were considered. This action was done with the presence of cultural and political representatives of ethnic groups in the process of compiling the constitutional law and with the support of progressive parties. At the summer of 1358 in a seminar which was taken place with the initiative of Mr Hasan Habibi, designer of the constitutional law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Tehran University, in addition to the writer, Dr Heiat, Mr Saleh Nikbakht, Dr Saram-Addin Sadegh-e- Vaziri, Dr Lahiji, the late Professor Notghi, the deceased Tovagh Vahedi and other representatives of ethnic groups had participated; but unfortunately that minimum earning, i.e, the principles related to the rights of the Iranian nations and ethnic groups have not been put in practice after 27 years.

It is necessary to point to a bitter and catastrophic event in Iran's history which gave rise to many racial fanatic prejudices and ethnical injustice in this territory and that is succeeding to the throne of the Phlavi dynasty. The process of "Nation-State" which should be formed on the basis of citizen's rights and ethnic rights, as a result of suppression of both individual and group rights was changed to a defective and curtailed one. In deed in the Phalavy era Iran apparently a national state and inwardly was continuation of the previous empires.

Dariush Ashuri, Iranian contemporary sociologist, writes about this matter that: "Empire means a large rule unit in a wide geographical area in which a ethnic group with a predominant language and culture reigns over other several ethnic groups and emperor and ruling system is the symbol of this sovereignty" ( Madraseh(School) Quarterly, Fall 1384) also he says in continuation that: " Reality is that these expressions, i.e., foreign language, foreign culture, foreign history, foreign race especially in countries which have had a background of empire structure, has little conformity with historical reality" (the same reference). Dariush Ashuri adds: "Modern nations came into appearance from the heart of the nationalizing process in the modern era, not from the eternal historical phenomena. United and collective identity should be sought among ethnic groups. Ethnic groups often have single collective memory, language and religion and probably single race. But nations in a modern terms, are combinations of ethnic groups" (the same reference.)

National solidarity and threatening policy
Superiority-seeking policy of Reza-shah, which completely took a fascistic form and the slogan "one nation, one race and one language", was its ambitious goal and in this way he utilized aid of chauvinist theoreticians like Mohammad Ali Furughi, Ahmad Kasravi, Mahmud Afshar, Saiid Nafisi, Malek-e- olshoaraie Bahar, Zabih Behrouz, Sadeghkiya, Farehvashi and such other people and also he took advantage of the anti-Arab and anti-Turk reflections of the opponents like Hedayat, Alavi and Zarrinkub. This policy inflicted the greatest damages on the historical unity, brotherhood, solidarity and coexistence of Iranian nations and ethnic groups. Indeed this policy justified and theorized injustice and unfairness toward non-Persian ethnic groups.

The effects of that oppressive scourge still are evident on the framework of Arab, Kurd, Turk, Baluch and Turkmen compatriots. Many of the current elite, writers and thinkers have been trained in such a superiority-seeking culture. This anti-dissident …….culture, in the beginning was common among elite but it didn't take much time to transform into a massive culture and appeared in the form of insult, humiliation and derision of the non-Persian ethnic groups.

National oppression is the central part of the national problem and a contiguous entirety which is composed of different cultural, linguistic, religious and racial components. National (ethnical) oppression paves the way for economical and social inequities.

With the change of "protected countries" to "the Imperial Government of Iran" we entered a perilous and horrendous cycle that even the national revolution of Bahman 1357 couldn't ameliorate this cycle. They imposed the centralized and mono-national system on the multinational and semi-federal Iran and this lack of accommodation between content and container, in the past eighty years, has sometimes shown itself in the form of riot, unrest and ethnical insurrections. According to the public confession, among them present authorities, our country in the past twenty five years not only has not been set free from that defective cycle but also, on field of centralism, the state has been exacerbated. This means that administrative, political, cultural and economical affairs have been centralized in the capital and central areas of Iran. Now country faces with a dangerous situation, namely "center and perimeter". Turk, Arab, Turkmen and Baluch-dwelling areas form the perimeter which have had little share of the past year's development plans.

This menacing political and economical approach of national solidarity enjoys a century ideological support which is the superiority-seeking and splendor-wanting ideology of one of the ethnic groups. In fact, the main idea of this ideology is just the ethnocentric ideology which previously was pointed to.

Among other policies which menace national solidarity, are assimilation and population changes. For this purpose, Mahmud Afshar was the first who proposed Reza-shah to cause Arab and Turk teachers and employees to migrate to other Persian-dwelling areas. Even he exceeded this bound and proposed to remove infants of ethnic groups from their family and transfer to Persian families.

Non-execution of the principles related to ethnic groups, especially the principles 15, 19 and 49 of the constitutional law of the Islamic Republic of Iran is also one of the other threatening factors which authorities have an obligation that with the complete implementation of these principles and equally for all ethnic groups, attenuate the severity of the ethnical tensions and pave the way for solving the basic problem.

But seemingly some ethnical prejudices and fanaticism have suspended these principles. In writer's opinion, the most urgent work which the government should do in cultural domain is the execution of the 15-th principle of the constitutional law from the beginning of the educational year 1385-86.

The government and Ministry of Education should endeavor that from the beginning of the educational year, Azeri Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic, Baluchi and Turcoman literature and languages, be taught. This issue can help decrease ethnical gaps and enhance national reconciliation; also government should allow all the ethnical publications which have been banned in one or two years ago, to be published again and should give positive response to tens of applications of applicants for publishing magazine and paper in ethnical and local languages- among them Arabic in Khuzestan-; and instead of punishing the civil and cultural organization give them opportunity to pursue their activities. Of course beside this problem government should take action to modify economical inequities and to lessen different pressures. In order to achieve this purpose short-term and long-term methods can be utilized.

Opportunities of ethnical multiplicity
Here some of the opportunities resulting from the solving of the national problem in Iran will be pointed to. By the teaching of the ethnic languages in a systematic and scientific way in schools, after several years there will be staffs that are proficient in live and important languages like Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Turkmen and Baluchi. These staffs can work in all of the political, diplomatic, cultural and literal fields and compensate some of the deficiencies of the society.

In the meantime, by the acknowledgement of the legal ethnic rights, the membership right or at least inspection right in accredited regional organization can be granted to the country, in this condition nobody can avoid attending of Iran in the Persian Gulf cooperation council, Arab League Organization or Turkish-speaking countries organization or other similar organizations. Also in cultural domain, cultural staffs and forces of these ethnical groups can be good and meritorious translators in order to translate cultural, artistic and literal literature of Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish, Turkmen and Baluchi into Persian or to translate Persian books into these languages.

In short time to solve the ethnic groups’ problem it is necessary to proceed toward a kind of native federalism which basically was present in a traditional and historical form in this country about 80 years ago.

To administer justice to the ethnic groups in long term will be a good criterion to the plans which can provide national interest of Iranians. Of course here national interest is not from a narrow view of a particular ethnic group or a social class or a dominant political party, but national interests means providing of all the ethnic groups’ interests and gradual reducing of historical animosities and tensions among subsequent governments of Iran and neighboring countries; of course this matter is congruent with global developments.

If Iran can establish a federal state internally, it can be the pioneer of a kind of confederation with the neighboring countries.

Iran has common frontiers with countries which those who speak the same language, have the same race and have the same religion, of the six main Iran’s ethnic groups (Persians, Turks, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and Baluchs) live in those countries; thus Iran can be center of the confederation circle which Iraq, Syria, Republic of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan (and perhaps in farther future, Afghanistan, Turkey and countries around Persian Gulf) can be included. Of course this is an ambitious but a practical plan. It should not be forgotten that Islamic Empire during the dehiscence of its civilization was a proof of this condition. That time ”Yaghut-e- Hamavi”, “Ebn-e-Batuteh”, “Sadi-e-Shirazi” or “Nasser Khosro” when wanted to travel from one side of the Islamic World to other side didn’t need passport and basically borders among these countries had not political and cultural meaning but merely were geographical.

Now European Union has the same state that we had in the golden era of Islamic Empire. Is it impossible for us to achieve that state? Undoubtedly this is possible but it is dependent upon several factors. The most important factors are recognition of democracy and human rights and ethnic groups’ and minorities’ rights and implementation of these rights.

Of course Europe in order to become united began from economy and then reached politics. In Europe, unity achieved not at the expense of ethnic groups’ and minorities’ rights but by providing them within the framework of the law of each one the United Europe countries.

Internal Variety and Global Developments

Our time is the era of the gradual demolition of different foundationalisms. At the end of the last eighth decade world witnessed annihilation of the communist foundationalism and at the beginning of the 21-the century observed the fall of religious foundationalism of Taliban in Afghanistan and decline of Bathite nationalism in Iraq. In other words, globalization era is the era of passing from national state to democratic state.

In author’s opinion, the ideology of the extremist Fars nationalism which sometimes appears in the form of Pan-aryaism and Pan-farsism will not a better destiny than bathit’s ideology; even in its moderate form, i.e., Mosaddegh nationalism, if it wants to persist upon its sixty years ago policy about the definition of “Iranian identity” and neglecting existence and rights of Iran’s ethnic groups, will not have a better fate than them.

Of course it doesn't mean that we will witness the ultimate demise of the nationalistic and sociologistic policies; but these policies in order to continue their life has no other choice except consistency with the modern global discipline and should keep distance from foundationalism, monopoly, anti-opposition and dictatorship and should acknowledge the persistent reality of ethnical variety and multiplicity and observing democracy and human rights for all of the ethnical factors and religious and political minorities of the Iranian society.

So it is based on the right reason to be harmonious with the global developments and not to resist against them.
Our time in one of its aspects is in the meaning of the attenuation of the organization of the national governments. From other particularities of this era is the appearance of the foreign countries meddling in other countries’ affairs which this interference shows off itself in different forms. Undoubtedly this factor isn’t unprecedented in Iranians’ contemporary history. The annihilating effects of this case exactly were witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course in Iran with co-understanding and dialogue between all political and ethnical factors of the society and respect to their different viewpoints and refraining from any kind of violence and by utilizing peaceful and civilian instruments it can be prevented from foreigners’ interference in internal affairs and ethnical variety can be converted into an opportunity for progress and development.

Emphasis upon ethnical identities and ethnical and religious right in the world and defense of the international laws and organization from these rights and identities is another aspect of this era.

If we pass from the relative solution of the national problem (ethnic groups) in Western Europe which has been started from 21-th century and now has continuation, we will get to Eastern Europe which at the last of the previous century witnessed intensification of the national problem in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and former Yugoslavia. The ultimate ring of this chain was independence of Montenegro from former Yugoslavia.

Islamic world also has not been distant from these significant developments. Recognition of the Amazighi language (barbarians’ tongue) in Morocco and Algeria and solving of the twenty years long problem of the upheaval of Zangis in Jordan and also settlement of the Kurds problem in Iraq and establishment of democracy in these two countries and becoming official languages of the Tajick, Uzbak, Baluchi, Nurestani and also Shiite and Esmailiie (beside Pashto language and Sunnite religion) in Afghanistan all are indicating the development that Islamic world witnessed in globalization era.

It is necessary to remind that in the historical turning points, some of the material instruments have performed an important role. In constitution movement, the material tool “Telegraph” laid the ground for the Iranians’ revolution and in the revolution of the Bahman 57 “Cassette” undertook this role. But now material instruments in the developments related to democracy, human rights, ethnic groups’ and minorities’ movements don’t play any role. Among the most important instruments in the globalization era are satellite, internet and mobile (in particular s.m.s).

In the writer’s opinion modern global conditions have decreased the impact of the traditional nationalism (Bathitte, Rezakhani, Naseri, Mosaddeghi, ….) much more than before and increased impact of the ethnical and religious nationalism.

What has been said about globalization is not in the meaning of yielding to all aspects of this process. Interaction with globalization can be a dialectic one; i.e. positive aspects that appear in democracy and human rights and ethnic groups’ rights can be accepted but negative aspects should be criticized.

Basically attempt to put an end to national (ethnical) oppression and establish ethnical equality in all cultural, linguistic, religious, political and economic fields is an antidote to all of threats, and an opportunity for the all-out progress and development of the country.

Switzerland is a good example for the voluntary union of different ethnic groups. In fact, not Germans, not French and not Italians despite having developed and powerful countries in their neighborhood and speaking same language want to separate from Switzerland. The mystery of this strong unity should be explored in granting of all the civilian and ethnical rights in this country and not in other thing.

At the end, it should be reminded that Iran is a wide flower garden of miscellaneous flowers and its beauty is hidden in this variety. Thus no gardener has this right to care just on kind of flowers and deprive other flowers from water and life. Result of the extreme care of a flower and neglecting others will lead to a monotonous and wearisome garden. It is up to us to prevent from the spoiling of these flowers and keeping historical variety and mulitcoloredness of this flower garden; this is useful for all of us. (end)