Ehsan Yarshater Petition: Objection to Princeton’s selection of “Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia”

Professor Ehsan Yarshater has initiated a petition in objection to Princeton University’s selection of “Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia”. The news items below was posted by Payvand News.  Kindly note that excepting the first photo, the other three pictures and captions did not appear in the original Payvand News report.

Dr. Mohamad Ala (Recipient of Grand Prix Film Italia Award) has made the following revelation on December 14, 2013:

Friends:

A little research shows that the person behind this agenda is Professor Dimitri Gutas of Yale, who invented the term Greco-Arabian for scholars such as Farabi, Khwarazmi, Ebne Sina etc. to deny their Persianness. Van Bladel happens to have studied with him.

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To be delivered to Christopher L. Eisgruber, President, Princeton University, David P. Dobkin, Dean of the Faculty, Princeton University, Mrs. Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, and Marc Beissinger, Professor of Politics; Chair of the Search Committee for the Pourdavoud Chair in Pre-Modern Persia, Princeton University

Bijan-and-Sharmin-Mossavar-RahmaniPrinceton alumni Bijan and Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani created a center for Iran and Persian Gulf studies with a $10 million gift to the University (Photo by Steve Freeman – posted in Payvand News).

Objection by the International community of Iranian Studies to the selection of a scholar of Greco-Arabic, to the Pourdavoud Chair in pre-modern Persia at Princeton University.

PETITION BACKGROUND

President Christopher L. Eisgruber

Office of the President

1 Nassau Hall Princeton University

Princeton, NJ 08544

December 3, 2013

Dear President Eisgruber,

The community of scholars in Iranian Studies was delighted when Mr. and Mrs. Mossavar-Rahmani endowed a chair for Iranian Studies at Princeton University. Their delight was increased by the chair being named after Ebrahim Pourdavoud, a great Iranian scholar who pioneered Zoroastrian Studies in that country and translated the entire Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, into Persian, while providing ample commentaries for it. He was an outstanding patriot dedicated to reviving the ancient heritage of Iran.

The hope of scholars of Iranian Studies had been that the chair’s naming would be indicative of its focusing on the pre-Islamic culture and history of Iran, when Iranians gave rise to the Zoroastrian religion, and three major dynasties, namely, the Achaemenian, the Parthian, and the Sasanian, emerged. The study of this period has been recently weakened by the demise of several scholars who were regretfully not replaced in the same field. It was thus greatly hoped that the chair named after Pourdavoud, who personified the Iranian pre-Islamic history and culture more than anyone else, would help restore the balance, and the Pourdavoud Chair would be held by a scholar specializing in ancient Iran.

The scholar who has been suggested by the Selection Committee, good scholar as he may be, has been trained in Greco-Arabic and the great majority of his publications concern these two fields rather than Iranian languages and culture. To allow a chair named after Pourdavoud, who spent all his life teaching and writing about Zoroastrianism and the pre-Islamic culture of Iran, to be held by someone whose formal academic training has been in Arabic, Syriac, and Greek, and who by and large is unknown in the field, is considered a slap in the face of Iranian Studies, the community at large, and the memory of Pourdavoud.

We hope that a careful consideration of the purpose of the Chair and its name would persuade the Selection Committee to make a choice that would not contradict the aims of the endowed position, weaken the field of Iranian Studies, and discredit the legacy of Ebrahim Pourdavoud.

I have spoken to several colleagues in the field of Iranian Studies and I may report that they all agree with me. Some of them will be writing to you, others will be endorsing this letter.

With kind regards,

Ehsan Yarshater

Director, Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia University;

Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies;

Editor, Encyclopaedia Iranica;

Editor, A History of Persian Literature

Center for Iranian Studies

Columbia University in the City of New York

450 Riverside Drive, No. 4

New York, N.Y. 10027-6821

Tel: (212) 851-9161

Fax: (212) 749-9524

E-mail: ey4@columbia.edu

Cc: Mr. and Mrs. Mossavar-Rahmani;

Professor David P. Dobkin, Dean of the Faculty.

SIGN PETITION HERE (over 1500 have signed the petition and the list is growing)

Zoroastrian and Mithraic Sites of the Caucasus

The Caucasus has acted a vital conduit between the Iranian plateau-Eastern Anatolia axis and Eastern Europe. The photo survey below illustrates the legacy of Iran’s ancient Zoroastrian religion and the Cult of Mithras in the Caucasus.

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO[Click to Enlarge] The main fire altar at the Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) (Picture Source: Panoramio). This site is now registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site. 

 

Garni Temple-Armenia[Click to Enlarge] The Temple of Garni in Armenia. An example of Classical Armenian architecture bearing a Hellenic inspiration, this Temple was first ordered to be built in dedication to Mithras by Tiridates I in approximately 66 CE. The god Mithras in time became merged with the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) of the Roman Empire (Picture Source: Skyscraper City).

 

Tbilisi Ategsha (Fire Temple)[Click to Enlarge] Remains of an “Atash-kade” (Zoroastrian fire-temple) undergoing repairs in Georgia. The cultural ties between Iran and the Caucasus  stretch back for thousands of years (Picture courtesy of Dr. David Khoupenia with caption from Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division – also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006). For more on the topic of Zoroastrian fire temples in Georgia see Payvand News of Iran: The Northernmost Zoroastrian Fire Temple in the World (in the Republic of Georgia).

 

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO-2[Click to Enlarge] Another view of the UNESCO registered Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku (Picture Source: TravelPro).

 

Citadel of ArmaziA close-up view of the ruins of the citadel of Armazi in Georgia. It is possible that the term “Armazi” is derived from Iranic “Mazda” or “Ahura-Mazda”, the primary spiritual deity of the Zoroastrian faith (Picture Source: Iranboom).

 

Armenian Church built on Fire Temple[Click to Enlarge] Pictures of a Medieval Armenian Church at Goshavank sent to Kavehfarrokh.com by Professor George Nercessian (see article: “Professors Curatolia and Scaria: Dome Architecture and Europe“). This was built on the remains of cyclopean walls, where a Zoroastrian fire temple (Armenian Atrushan =Iranian Atar-Roshan) originally stood. There are many similar sites in Armenia where Churches were built on top of Zoroastrian fire temples (Pictures courtesy of Professor George Narcessian). For more on the topic of Armenian-Zoroastrian fire temples consult CAIS: The Armenian Fire Temple of Ani.

Kaveh Farrokh Presentation at University of Yerevan November 2013

Kaveh Farrokh provided a presentation at (بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان) the University of Yerevan Iranian Studies Department at the “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference (kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics).

YSUFrontal view of the State University of Yerevan, host to theShirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference  on Nov. 1-2, 2013. The university is host to an excellent Iranian Studies program, staffed by exemplary researchers such as Professor Garnik S. Asatrian (Chair, Iranian Studies Dept., Yerevan State University; Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden-Boston) and Professor Victoria Arakelova (Associate Professor, Department of Iranian Studies, Yerevan State University; Associate Editor, “Iran and the Caucasus”, BRILL, Leiden). The conference has been made possible through the works of Professors Asatrian and Arakelova.

YSU-Committee-2013-1Cover page, dedication and list of organizers of the conference. Kindly note that Kaveh Farrokh was one of the members of the organizing committee for the conference at Yerevan State University (Click to enlarge to see list of organizers). For more information on the conference kindly click here for more information on all conference participants and their topics.

Kaveh Farrokh’s presentation and abstract for the conference was as follows:

Cultural Links between Iran and Arran (Modern Republic of Azerbaijan) from Antiquity to the 1900s” (November 2, 2013)

This paper will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Albania/Arran and Iran from antiquity to the early twentieth century. A comprehensive series of Classical and pre- Islamic Iranian sources as well as archaeological studies are referenced for the pre-Islamic (Medo-Achaemenid and Partho-Sassanian) era. Examples cited include discoveries of Achaemenid palaces in the region as well as the role of the Albanian knights in the Sassanian army (Spah). The post-Islamic era is discussed with respect to Islamic and European primary sources and cartography with references to languages, the Safavid and post-Safavid eras to the early 1900s.

Zoroastrians-BakuModern-day Zoroastrians from Iran at the Baku Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) being led in religious ceremonies by Mobed Kourosh Niknam (Source: Image by Farroukh Aliev with this first appearing in Fravahr.org).

تالار فردوسی - ایران شناسی- دانشگاه دولتی ایروانThe Hall of Firdowsi at (تالار فردوسی در بخش ایران شناسی دانشگاه دولتی ایروان)  the Iranian Studies department of Yerevan State University.

After the conference, Farrokh delivered an additional lecture on November 4, 2013 at the University of Yerevan entitled:

Cultural Links between Iran, Armenia and Georgia from Antiquity to the early 1800s 

This lecture will provide an overview of the cultural and historical links between ancient Iran, Armenia and Georgia,notably with respect to the Achaemenid, Parthian and Sassanian eras. The role of Northern Iranian peoples in the Caucasus and their impact upon the Caucasus is also examined. Topics addressed the role of the Naxarar Armenian knights in the Sassanian Spah (Army) and the role of Armenia and Georgia in cultural contacts between the Iranian Plateau and Eastern Europe. The discussion will conclude with the promotion of Persian language and literature in the Caucasus during the post-Islamic era up to the early 1800s.

Surva-Zorvan-BulgariaThe Surva festival in Bulgaria. Local traditions ascribe this festival to the ancient Iranian cult of Zurvan (Master of Time); the Caucasus has long acted as a conduit between Eastern Europe and the Iranian plateau.

The “Shirvan, Arran, and Azerbaijan: A Historical-Cultural Retrospective” conference has been dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Enayatollah Reza.

Prof Enayatollah RezaThe late Professor Enayatollah Reza (1920-2010).

A Tribute to WAALM’s Jewish Winners of the Persian Lioness Award

When the Daily Telegraph and Spiegel Magazine printed articles attacking the legacy of Cyrus the Great-کوروش بزرگ– in 2008, supporters of these articles proceeded to vandalize articles pertaining to Cyrus in Wikipedia. The main impetus for these attacks have been a select group of Eurocentric professors – for more on this topic, see article by Tara Farhid-Gallo in Iranian.com entitled: “Anti-Iranian Campaign during American Tour and Exhibition of Cyrus the Great Cylinder”.

Less known is the fact that numbers of Jewish persons joined Iranians in defending the legacy of Cyrus the Great in Wikipedia. Two of these persons are known by the Wikipedia user names of Khoi-Khoi and Tundrabuggy. Despite the heavy Eurocentric (or anti-Cyrus) bias presently prevalent in Wikipedia, Khoi-Khoi has posted this short article in Wikipedia: User Khoik Khoi: Cyrus Cylinder

Ren Hakim and Farrokh signing

best-history-book-of-2008-persian-golden-lionness-award2

Kaveh Farrokh during the book signing ceremonies at the WAALM-2008 events (reported in the BBC). The gentleman about to receive a copy of Farrokh’s text “Shadows in the Desert Ancient Persia at War” (awarded with WAALM’s Best History Book Award of 2008) is a member of London’s Jewish community. In the background is another WAALM winner, Iraqi-American Ms. Ren A. Hakim, for her historical novel “Xerxes”. Jewish users have supported Iranians in defending against the politically motivated edits of Eurocentrists against Cyrus the Great in Wikipedia (see article (pdf) by Koorosh Ahmadi: Vandalization of the Cyrus Cylinder article in Wikipedia by Eurocentirsts).

 

ACUNS-WAALM-NobelThe Nobel Peace Prize nominated World Academy of Arts, Literature and Media (WAALM) has acknowledged the works of Jewish artists and academics, with photographs below providing a snapshot of numbers of these who have been bestowed with the Persian Lioness Award. The photographs were forwarded to Kavehfarrokh.com by WAALM.

 

Cyrus Street-Hafez-IsraelWhen history negates petty politics: At left is “Koresh (Cyrus) Street” in Israel and at right is a Hebrew translation of  Persian poet Hafez’s (1325/1326–1389/1390) Book of Poems.

 Idan Reachal-Rita jahanforouz-WAALMIsraeli pop stars who have received the Persian Lioness Award: (left) Israeli songwriter and singer, Idan Raichal (2006 Awardee for Fusion Music) (right) Iranian-born Israeli pop singer and actress, Rita Jahanforouz (2012 Awardee for Pop Music). Rita sings in Hebrew, English and Persian (for more see the Wall Street Journal).

Professor Erdei-WAALMRecipient of Persian Lioness Award (2012), Hungarian-Jewish Professor Peter Erdei of the Zoltan Kodaly Pedagogical Institute of Music in Hungary.

Shahram FasazadehRecipient of Persian Lioness Award (2006), Iranian-Jewish Grand Violinist: Shahram Fasazadeh.

The Cyrus Cylinder, Eleanor Roosevelt & The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The article below by Angelina Perri Birney and Lawrence Birney had been originally posted Kavehfarrokh.com on April 28, 2013, and is being re-posted on January 31, 2017 in lieu of the contemporary state of tumultuous politics at the international level. This posting is a reminder of the 2500 year-old legacy of Cyrus the Great and his policies of benevolent governance. Cyrus founded the Achaemenid Empire which was essentially a multi-lingual and multi-cultural empire. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum:

Cyrus set up a model of how you run a great multinational, multifaith, multicultural society . . . It left a dream of the Middle East as a unit, and a unit where people of different faiths could live together.

Cyrus the Great built bridges between peoples and languages and welcomed the diversity of cultures and religions. The lessons of his governance ring as true today as they did 2500 years ago.

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IN THE SIXTH CENTURY BC, CYRUS THE GREAT OF PERSIA conquered the Middle East and a large part of Asia. Upon his entry into Babylon, he freed the many captive peoples found there. His magnanimous gesture liberated the Jewish nation and entitled her people to return to Jerusalem with their Temple treasures and begin rebuilding Solomon’s Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. The Prophet Isaiah referred to Cyrus as “anointed by the Lord.”

cyrus-cylinder-New

[Click to Enlarge] The Cyrus Cylinder housed at the British Museum (Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney).

Cyrus’ legacy as a humanitarian monarch continues to this day. Xenophon, a student of Socrates, wrote The Cyropaedia, a biography of Cyrus which extolled his virtues. Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar carried copies with them. America was directly founded under the benevolent monarch model offered by Cyrus’ example. Thomas Jefferson read the Cyropaedia frequently.

 cyropaedia-thomas-jefferson-copy

Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Cyropaedia (Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney). Like many of the founding fathers and those who wrote the US Constitution, President Jefferson regularly consulted the Cyropedia – an encyclopedia written by the ancient Greeks about Cyrus the Great. The two personal copies of Thomas Jefferson’s Cyropaedia are in the US Library of Congress in Washington DC. Thomas Jefferson’s initials “TJ” are seen clearly engraved at the bottom of each page.

In 1879 a clay record of Cyrus’ decree was unearthed in the ruins of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq. Known today as the Cyrus Cylinder this priceless account has been referred to as “the first Bill of Rights.” Our very concept of religious tolerance and personal freedom dates to the mind of the Great Persian King. To liberate slaves of a conquered nation and restore their birthright was an extraordinary concept.

Cyrus’ empire, which we now call the Middle East, was a far-reaching ménage of different cultures and faiths. The Cyrus Cylinder decreed a paradigm for coexistence — a blueprint which established an enlightened order.

eleanor-roosevelt-udhr-2

Disregard and contempt for Human Rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people… All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. (UDHR-Picture Source:  Angelina Perri Birney).

Now, in a historic tour sponsored by IHF America, the original Cyrus Cylinder is on loan to the United States from the British Museum. Beginning at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Cylinder will be on display in Houston, New York, and San Francisco, concluding its visit in Los Angeles in early December 2013. This historic effort is the culmination of almost twenty years of work by the Iran Heritage Foundation.

In addition to the influence of the Cyropaedia on the US founding fathers, its core principles resonate with those of the United Nations. The high-minded concepts fathered by Cyrus in Persia thousands of years ago have found expression in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Brought to life by John Peters Humphrey and the UN Commission on Human Rights chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the Declaration was adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

 

Harry S TrumanHarry S. Truman (1884-1972) who was President of the United States in 1945-1953. Not only did he acknowledge the legacy of Cyrus the Great in liberating the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, he also stood up against Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who tried to absorb Iran’s Azarbaijan province into the Soviet Union. For more Click here…

In the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations created a Partition Plan for Palestine which called for an International Trusteeship for the city of Jerusalem. This plan was never given the chance to be implemented. In essence, the blueprint to create two states, with Jerusalem under UN auspices as a religious center for all faiths, was thwarted before it could be realized. Unfortunately for both Arabs and Jews, as well as the world at large, we have all lived with the tragic result.

Originally opposed to the creation of Israel, Eleanor Roosevelt reversed her position when faced with the sad realization that the world community was refusing to allow immigration for the victims of Hitler’s nightmare. The United States itself refused sanctuary after the war just as it had before the conflict. Eleanor supported the Partition Plan and was appalled when the Arab states refused to accept the two state solution.

3-Wall of JerusalemThe West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel. President Truman in his support for the Jews in the twentieth century, evoked the name of Cyrus.

As the clock ticked down toward the expiration of the British Mandate in Palestine in May of 1948, and under pressure to finalize the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Eleanor reached a tipping point when George C. Marshall’s State Department reversed its policy at the final moment and chose to appease the oil-producing states and oppose partition of Palestine. Eleanor then decided to resign from the US delegation to the UN. She famously stated in her letter to President Truman, “I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.” Truman did not accept her resignation. But Eleanor realized, ahead of her time, that the United States’ refusal to back the Partition, which included international status for Jerusalem, would critically weaken the credibility of the UN and place the region itself in an untenable situation with regard to long-term stability.

The current Middle East fiasco should defer us once once again to Cyrus the Great for a history lesson. Cyrus’ vision of leadership was a forerunner to the UN 1947 resolution for the future of Palestine. Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum stated, “Cyrus set up a model of how you run a great multinational, multifaith, multicultural society . . . It left a dream of the Middle East as a unit, and a unit where people of different faiths could live together.”

tomb-of-cyrus-the-great-at-pasargardae

The Tomb of Cyrus the Great at Pasargadae  where Alexander paid his respects. The tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Today we must revive that dream or, as history has already chronicled, face disastrous results. Just as a strain of music creates a distinct melody through repetition, we now hear clearly — yet again — the strains of war in the Middle East. It is time for a new refrain, in vision and deed.

Building upon Cyrus’ model, creating a social order which allows the expression of individual cultures and faiths is the avenue to peaceful co-existence and governance. Our present-day Middle East drama calls for us to recognize that we already have the seed for fostering that co-existence. Creating an international peace zone within the Old City of Jerusalem is the key. Those in the United Nations who originally conceived this idea were expressing the wisdom of governance by recognizing that a leap was necessary to actualize peace in the region. They were well aware that the area was of monumental importance to three world religions and that stabilizing Jerusalem was essential to maintaining peace.

Jerusalem, sacred to the three great monotheistic religions, stands for something higher and more sublime than nationalism. It stands for the ideal which lies behind the very creation of the United Nations itself. Any attempt to oppose by force the internationalization of Jerusalem would be an affront to civilized men everywhere.” — From a letter sent by Reverend Charles T. Bridgeman, former Canon of St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, to the President of the UN Trusteeship Council in January 1950

Cyrus Koresh Kourosh street in Jerusalem

When History goes beyond Politics: Koresh or Cyrus street in Jerusalem. There is currently no street named Cyrus or Koroush in Tehran, the capital of Iran today. There is also an “Iran” street in Israel.

In his book, The Temple at Jerusalem: a Revelation, John Michell recognized the Old City of Jerusalem itself as the Temple. He saw it as the convergence point for all peoples of all cultures and faiths — Jewish, Muslim, Christian, as well as other spiritual traditions — to unite in peace, a United Nations for all religions.

That very concept, expounded by political and religious leaders throughout the world as well as by writers such as John Michell, has found expression through the arts. PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation is a novel based on a return to this noble ideal. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the creation of an international peace zone within Jerusalem as foundational elements, Pure Vision sparks a transformative dialogue. The aim is simple. Once openly discussed, powerful ideas reshape reality.

As Neil MacGregor, Director of the British museum asks:

What story of the Middle East, what story of the world, do you want to see reflecting what is said, what is expressed in this cylinder?

That question resounds with a fundamental answer — human rights for all. The dramatic tale of the Middle East can change radically, as it has in the past. A region of trauma can once again be transformed into a land where religious freedom and individual dignity is honored. Then Jerusalem can finally become what it is meant to be: The City of Peace.