Persian Voices: Our Younger Intellectuals

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Persian Voices: Our Younger Intellectuals

Our younger intellectuals cannot possibly understand, and thus cannot possibly judge Reza Shah. They cannot, because they were too young to remember the chaotic and desperate conditions out of which he arose.

—Ahmad Kasravi

 

Ervand, Abrahamian. “Chapter 3. “Ahmad Kasravi”. A History Of Modern Iran. New York, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Page 96. Print.

Shireen, T. Hunter. “Assessing Reza Shah.” Iran Divided: The Historical Roots of Iranian Debates on identity, Culture, and Governance the Twenty-First Century. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield , 2014. Page 49. Print.

Persian Voices: Cursed Path Damns

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Persian Voices: End of The Game

The soldiers

Passed by, shattered,

Weary

On scrawny horses,

Faded rags of ousted pride

Upon their spears.

 

What do you gain

Boasting

To the world

When

Every particle of dust on your cursed path damns you?

—Shamloo, End of The Game

 

Shāmlū, Ahmad., Papan-Matin, Firoozeh. translated by, Land, Arthur. (2005). The love poems of Ahmad Shamlu. Bethesda, Mar.: IBEX Publishers, p.183.

Persian Voices: Fires of Norwuz

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Persian Voices: Badr ol-Moluk Bamdad

Two or three years after the admission of girls to the university, some boy and girl students clubbed together in the days before Nowruz (the Iranian New Year on 21 March) and worked long and hard to organize a convivial celebration with the traditional bonfire on Chaharshanbe-ye Suri (the Wednesday before Norwuz). The bonfire symbolizes the end of dark days and the burning away of past evils. It was arranged that the bonfire should be lit in a certain large courtyard, and that the girl students, whose number had now risen, should form a ring round the fire and the boys should stand behind them and all should sing a Nowruz song. Probably at the suggestion of an agitator outside the university some boy students acting in concert stationed themselves just behind the girls and joined hands and all at once, pushed, with the intention of driving the girls so close to the fire that they would get scorched or burned.

—Badr ol-Moluk Bamdad

 

Farzaneh Milani, (1992). Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers, Contemporary Issues in the Middle East (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1992). Page 26

Persian Voices: City of Men

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Persian Voices: City of Men

But one strange thing about this country is that, apparently, there are absolutely no women in it. You see little girls, four or five years old, in the alleyways but never any women. No matter how much I thought about this I could never figure it out. I had heard that a “city of women” existed somewhere in the world where there were no men, but I’ve never heard of a “city of men”…

Another thing that is very strange about Iran is that a substantial part of the people, about half the population of the country, wrap themselves from head to foot in black sacks, not even leaving space to breathe. And that’s how they go about the alleyways, in that black sack. These people are never allowed to speak and have no right to enter a teahouse or any other place. Their baths are also separate and, at public gatherings like passion plays and mourning-feasts, they have their own viewing sections.

Jamalzadeh

 

Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh, “What’s Sauce for the Goose,” in Once Upon A Time, trans. Heshmat Moayyad and Paul Sprachman, New York: Bibliotheca Persica, 1985, 96-7.

Editor’s Note: Reza Shah outlawed women’s veiling as part of his modern state-building reforms designed to end gender segregation. This law lasted until the 1941 Allied Invasion of WWII in Iran at which point veiling would become a personal choice. Compulsory veiling was instituted after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Persian Voices: Shackles of Life

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Persian Voices: Shackles of Life

We are still in the shackles of life.

Sadeq Hedayat

 

Editor’s Note: Sadegh Hedayat studied in France and returned to Iran without finishing school, but became one of the most important writers of the 20th century. His generation of literary elites embraced modern industrial development and social change yet criticized Pahlavi autocratic rule which in their view, limited democratic development in Iran. His published fiction works from the Pahlavi time include:  Buried Alive (Zende be gūr), Mongol Shadow (Sāye-ye Moqol), Three Drops of Blood (Se qatre khūn), Chiaroscuro (Sāye-ye roushan), Mister Bow Wow (Vagh Vagh Sahāb), Sampingé (in French), Lunatique (in French), The Blind Owl (Boof-e koor), The Stray Dog (Sag-e velgard), Lady Alaviyeh (Alaviye Khānum),  Velengārī (Tittle-tattle), The Elixir of Life (Āb-e Zendegi), The Pilgrim (Hājī āqā), Tomorrow (Fardā), The Morvari Cannon (Tūp-e Morvari). His style is closely related to Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Anton Chekhov.

Persian Voices: 53 Marxists

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Persian Voices: Bozorg Alavi

Old trees were fighting with one another. From woods the cry of a tortured woman could be heard. The blowing gale had unbounded the silent songs. Chains of rain had fastened the murky sky to the muddy ground. Rivers were revolting and the flowing of water was pouring everywhere.

—Bozorg Alavi, Gilemard

 

Edited by Scott Slovic, Swarnalatha Rangarajan and Vidya Sarveswaran. “Zahra Pasrpour (Bozorg Alavi Gilmard).” Ecocritism of the Global South. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015. Page 242. Print.

 

Editor’s Note: Bozorg Alavi was one of the 53 marxists convicted and sent to prison in the show trial of 1938. He originated the new literary genre called, Prison Literature in Iran. Prior to that he published a journal called, Peykar and co-published another journal called, Donya. The surviving prisoners were freed after the Allied Invasion in 1941, and eventually Alavi wrote propaganda for the Tudeh Party. Later, he exiled to Germany.

Persian Voices: Hassan Modarres

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Persian Voices: Hassan Modarres

The weight of a dead body pressed against my chest. Modarres refused to kill and so was killed, poison in tea, choked with his own turban by Reza Shah’s men, buried at night, when shah left Iran, followers found his grave and made a tomb there.

Sadeq Hedayat

Persian Voices: A Tiny World

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Persian Voices: A Tiny World

The one thing you must keep in mind is that the occupants of these villages inhabit a tiny world. They tend to squabble over small things and obsess over their neighbors’ sex lives. They gossip when an older inmate goes around with a younger one. What is more, the overcrowding leads to petty squabbling over such issues as whose bedding should make room for walking space, who should go to the courtyard when, and how much should the window be left open. What a relief it is to get away from one’s own cell even if for a short spell.

—Ovanessian

 

Ervand, Abrahamian. Tortured Confession prison and Public Recantation in Modern Iran. Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press , 1999. Page 42. Print.

 

Editor’s Note: This depiction of prison life and prison culture comes from one of The 53, 53 Marxists, who were exposed in a show trial in the time of Reza Shah who wanted to send a message of intolerance to Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union as show trials of “enemies of the state” were sending people to gulag. This practice of public confession and the holding of political prisoners as spies is still used presently by the Islamic Republic to intimidate its enemies particularly during international negotiations.  The 53 Marxists found themselves to be heroes in the eyes of fellow inmates- veteran Jangal fighters of notorious Mirza Kouchak Khan, sympathizers of the Soviet Red Army suppressed by Reza Khan.

Persian Voices: Afraid are the Cabinet, the Maglis, and the Army

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Persian Voices: Afraid of The Shah

He has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear. The Cabinet is afraid of the Majles (parliament); the Majles is afraid of the army; and all are afraid of the [Reza] Shah.

 

The Iron Fist of Reza Shah

 

Editor’s Note: A British diplomat in Iran reported in 1926 that Reza Shah appeared to be working towards a military autocracy. By the end of the shah’s reign, he had purged Iran of many of the constitutionalists he had started out with until his authoritarianism began to drive his paranoia of an internal coup. He abdicated the throne during WWII under western pressure and a second constitutional period was ushered in between 1941 and 1953 which brought about renewed vigor towards communism and militant Islam.

Persian Voices: Insatiable Land Hunger

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Persian Voices: Insatiable Land Hunger

[Reza Shah’s] insatiable land hunger is reaching such a point that it will soon be permissible to wonder why His Imperial Majesty does not, without more ado, register the whole of Persia in his own name.

 

The Iron Fist of Reza Shah

 

Editor’s Note: Iran’s landed elite represent one of the pillars of power through much of Iran’s history. After the 1908-1909 Civil War in Iran, land registration and the creation of title deeds brought about a new landed aristocracy which held the political power of the parliament. For the Pahlavi Dynasty of Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, land reform became a brutal business to contain the power of the landed elite. One of the first examples of this was the erasure of the family name, Sepahsālār-e Azam-e Tonekāboni, who once served as Prime Minister.