Kaveh Farrokh on Voice of America December 20, 2008

Kaveh Farrokh was interviewed live regarding his recent book “Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War” by Voice of America on Saturday December 20 (10:30 AM Pacific, 1:30 PM EST, 10:00 PM Iran). Please see: 

  1. Part I (www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQbpS0deksM&feature=channel)
  2. Part II (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejRcpZ0ogvg&feature=channel_page)

 The book won the WAALM Society’s “Best History Book of 2008 Award” on October 31st 2008:

 

The WAALM award event was cited by the BBC, the Kayhan Newspaper of London, and Iranian.com. See Kaveh Farrokh’s speech at the London WAALM event below:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=TsC_exqlJ44

The book was also selected among the top three history books of 2008 by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association of the US.

Iranians Ridiculed Again by Hollywood

Hollywood has once again launched a movie that carries overt anti-Iranian messages:

Hollywood film The Wrestler ‘insults Iran’
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3740936/Hollywood-film-The-Wrestler-insults-Iran.html

The “Wrestler” stars Mickey Rourke  (left) standing next to Darren Aronofsky (right) who directed the picture.

The Daily Telegraph article cited above states:

Iran has again accused Hollywood of “anti-Iranian” sentiment, this time due to scenes in The Wrestler, a Golden Globe-nominated drama … The country’s media has reportedly condemned the film in part because of a fight sequence in which Rourke’s character, Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson, battles an opponent dubbed the Ayatollah…During the fight, the Ayatollah, played by actor and former professional wrestler Ernest “the Cat” Miller, waves an Iranian flag before ramming the pole under his opponent’s neck. Rourke’s character then grabs the flag and snaps the pole over his knee before tossing it into the crowd.

There has been a string of movies with somewhat overt anti-Iranian messages. The Alexander movie (starring Colin Farrell) provided an essentially Orientalist image of Iranians, with a selective and distorted view of history and the Iranian people of antiquity. Farrokh provided an analysis of the Alexander movie.

 

The Alexander movie gave a number of false portrayals such as Alexander having been a fair-skinned blonde haired warrior. The Pompei mosaic which is probably the closest portrayal of what Alexander the Great would have appeared like in his lifetime contradicts the “Nordic” image that Hollywood often projects of the conqueror.

The 300 movie went further by portraying “The Persians” as subhuman fanged ogre-like creatures of “evil” with king Xerxes as a scantily-dressed gigantic “evil” despot. Farrokh wrote an article on the historical accuracy of the 300 movie.

  

A Hollywood image of ancient Iranians. Interestingly the 300 movie singularly portrayed the diverse Iranians as Black Africans and equated that image with “evil”. This portrayal could be interpreted as racist.  

More examples may be cited however it is clear that “Iran-bashing” is very much in vogue at this time. It was only recently in July and August 2008 when the Spiegel Magazine and the Daily Telegraph launched their attacks on ancient Iranian history and the Iranian people:

FALLING FOR ANCIENT PROPAGANDA: UN Treasure Honors Persian Despot
By: Matthias Schulz  (Date: July15, 2008)
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,566027,00.html (English)

Ancient Human Bill of Rights “Just Propaganda”
By: Harry de Quetteville (Date: July 21, 2008)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/2304424/Cyrus-cylinder’s-ancient-bill-of-rights-‘is-just-propaganda’.html

The Daily Telegraph and Der Spiegel articles attempted to rewrite history by stating that all benevolent classical references to Cyrus the Great are false and that all positive references to the ancient king are simply a product of the “imperial propaganda of the Shah” in the 1970s.  Farrokh responded to Der Spiegel and provided a retort against the Daily Telegraph article.

Other examples of anti-Iranian messages may be found in “Not Without my Daughter” starring Sally Field:

   

The “Not Without my Daughter” movie, based on a “True Story” provides a series of inaccurate (if not racist) portrayals of Iranians. What is less known is that the main character of the movie, Ms. Betty Mahmoudy, was larger in stature than her husband. In addition, Ms. Mahmoudy had had serious problems in her first marriage prior to marrying Dr. Mahmoudy. These details were conveniently omitted from the picture.  

Hollywood action star Check Norris has also made racist comments in his 1980s movie, the “Hitman“:

 

In one of the scenes of the movie “The Hitman”, Chuck Norris openly disparages Iranians and their cuisine.  Norris also rejected many Iranian extras to star in his movie because they “looked too Caucasian”.

Popular entertainment personalities such as radio host Howard Stern are on record as having stated “Kill all Iranians, Kill them“.

 

Howard Stern has made racist statements against Iranians in public

It may be no exaggeration to state that Iranians are the most vilified and negatively portrayed people in the western media today. The majority of North Americans and an increasing number of Europeans hold very irrational and inaccurate views of Iranians. The very word “Iran” evokes a knee-jerk reaction among most North Americans. “Iran” is now associated with abstractions such as “evil“, “terrorist“, or “fundamentalist“.

It is not clear why the Iranian people, their identity, culture, history are being negatively targeted by major media outlets and Hollywood. Perhaps the reasons are politically motivated as Iranians are clearly becoming propaganda targets in the name of wholesome entertainment. In a sense this is a clear violation of the human right of Iranians to have their dignity respected, a right bestowed to all nations, peoples, creeds and religions.

My best Regards

Kaveh Farrokh

 ==========================

The Dailamites of Northern Persia

The term Dailamites may derive from the “Dimilii” who were a tribe of Medes who migrated into Northern Persia (roughly modern Gilan and Mazandaran today). Their descendants survive to this day in northern Iran.

These Medes would have come from what is roughly the northwest of Iran – they still exist as the “Dimili” among the ZaZa-Kurds of today who are believed by linguists to speak a variant of the Parthian Pahlavi language distinct from modern Kurmanji (Bahdenani and Sorani) spoken by the majority of modern-day Kurds.

 

Girl from the ZaZa clan in Turkey derived from the ancient Mede tribe of the Dimili.

The pace and timing of the Dimilii migrations are not exactly clear when this took place, as migrations were gradual, however we are certain that by the time of Sassanian king Khosrow I (6th century), the Dailamites were fully established in Northern Persia.

What is certain is that the Romano-Byzantines had a high respect for Dailamite skills in face to face combat (see writings of Agathias for example). They are reported as having fought with weapons such as daggers, swords, and javelins. They fought usually in the Caucasus against Turkic incursions into ancient Albania (modern Republic of Azerbaijan – different from Albania in Europe).

When the Sassanian Empire (224-651 AD) collapsed in the wake of the Arabian invasions it was in the north where Iranian resistance finally solidified. The one singular Arab failure in all of their otherwise spectacular successes in Iran, Byzantium, Central Asia, Syria, North Africa and Spain, was in northern Persia. The Dailamites solidly blocked Arab troops from entering northern Persia. As noted by Overlaet

Daylaman remained unconquered…until at least the 8th century AD…early Daylamite rulers even exhibited extreme anti-Arab attitudes and sought the restoration of the Persian Empire and the of the ancient religions” (1998, p.268).

 

The main difficulty the Arabs faced was that they were facing very “European” terrain of mountains and dense forests in Mazandaran, Gilan and Rasht and were unable to stand up to the tough Dailamite infantry. The Arabs thought very highly of these warriors whom they called “Al-Hamra” (Red-faced ones) and recruited some of these for their own armies to fight in places as far away as Spain. The vast majority of the Dailamites however refused to bow to the authority of the Caliphs, even after the complete collapse of the Sassanians.

Local legends of Mazandaran report of female resistance leaders, one such figure being a certain Azadeh.

 

Girl from Chelsio region in Manzadaran. Many of the resistance fighters in the 600s and 700s AD from Northern Persia were women.

The Abbasids did manage to enter the region in 771 BC and stayed for nearly a century, but even then their authority proved sparse at best. During the reign of Harun al-Rashid (763-809 AD), many Muslin Shiites fled to the Dailamites to seek refuge from the persecutions of the Sunni authorities. The most notable of these were the Alids, who were either the descendants or followers of the Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad.  Prominent among these was a certain Sheikh Zayd, who began to win converts to Shiite Islam among the Dailamites. By the time the Buyid dynasty of the Dailamites seized power and took over much of Iran and Mesopotamia (including Baghdad), northern Persia was still non-Muslim, however Shiism was gaining ground.

What is very interesting about Dailamite arms is that (despite being infantry), they were armed with the same weapons as the Sassanian Elite Cavalry (the Savaran). Note the late-Sassanian Dailamite sword handle and top of sheath below:

 

Dailamite sword found in northern Iran. This is of the late Sassanian type. The fact that the Dailamites were allowed to carry swords of the elite Sassanian cavalry is an indication that the Dailamites were among the most respected warriors of the Sassanian Dynasty.

Photograph of the locket-suspension section of a late-Sassanian sword of the late Sassanian Savaran cavalry by Dr. Manouchehr Khorasani, a leading authority of Iranian military hustory.

Further readings:

Khorasani, M.M. (2006). Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the end of the Qajar Period. Legat Verlag Publishers.

Overlaet, Bruno (1998). Regalia of the Ruling Classes in Late Sassanian Times: The Riggisberg Strap Mountings, Swords and Archer’s Fingercaps. In Riggisberger Berichte – Entlang der Seidenstrasse – Abegg-Stiftung, Riggisberg, pp.267-297.

Price, M. (2008). Iran‘s Diverse Peoples: A Reference Sourcebook. ABC-CLIO.

Kanduan in Azarbaijan and the Legacy of Marc Antony

The beautiful village of Kanduan near Tabriz in Azerbaijan of Iran is of interest. This is the site of world’s sole modern hotel that has been literally carved inside a mountain. Note the 3 photographs below of the Kanduan Hotel near Tabriz:

 

  Hotel Entrance


Guest Suite


Dining Room

This hotel is again a testament to Iranian engineering skills, one that harks back to the days of the Medes, Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes…

Azarbaijan is indeed one of Iran’s oldest provinces, known to Greco-Roman historiography as Media Atropatene. Few Iranians or westerners are aware that this area (near Tabriz) is not far from ancient Praaspa, the site where the legendary Roman leader Marc Antony failed to capture in 36 BC. Antony’s expedition in fact ended in disaster with heavy losses to the Romans in men and materiel.

 

Marc Antony (83-30 BC) Roman statesman and military leader. His expedition into ancient Praaspa (near modern Tabriz)ended in disaster in 36 BC mainly at the hands of Iranian Parthian armored knights and horse-archers. In one of the engagements, the Mede infantry destroyed 10,000 Roman legionnaires. Marc Antony and his surviving troops fled into Syria and from there to Egypt where Ptolemid Queen Cleopatra provided them sanctuary and shelter  (For more details consult Farrokh, 2007, p.144-146).

    

Painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema showing Queen Cleopatra of Egypt receiving Marc Antony. Hollywood and western entertainment outlets often produce movies and narratives of Antony’s love affair with Cleopatra. Interestingly these depictions avoid any mention of Antony’s disaster in Parthian Persia.

Azarbaijan has indeed contributed much to Iran’s rich and ancient legacy and has often been at the forefront of  defending the borders of ancient and modern Iran again invasions.

Restoration of Cyrus the Great Tomb Completed

The restoration of the Cyrus the Great tomb has been cited as completed by Iranian news agencies on November 28, 2008.

Iranian news agencies have raised concerns  regarding the methods used in the restoration. According to the reports the historical authenticity of the tomb may have been compromised by the restoration methods. Final definitive conclusions however await the full and detailed report to be issued in due course by UNESCO which has declared the tomb as a heritage site.