A trip to Iran

Many of my well-wishers including my family members advised me to cancel the visit
A trip to Iran
Representational Pic

In the middle of last year, I planned a vacation to Iran, which has one of the oldest, richest and the most influential art heritages in the world that includes many disciplines like literature, the music, dance, architecture, planting, weaving, pottery, calligraphy, metal working and stone masonry.

Unfortunately, due to international political concerns and highly defamatory and disinformation campaign from western media, there are many unfavorable perceptions of this great nation. As a result of this many tourists like me drop the idea of visiting this beautiful country. The Iranian govt. has been adamant about the importance of tourism to Iran’s economic growth, that stands true, but due to sanction visitors to the country are relatively low.

My travel dates coincided with the protests over Mahsa Amini’s death. Amini, 22, who died on September 16, 3 days after falling into a coma following her arrest by the morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic’s strict dress code for women. Many of my well-wishers including my family members advised me to cancel the visit, but I remained adamant to visit the country on schedule and it happened surprisingly.

Every country has its own beauty, some countries have more things to visit and some have less, in case of Iran, she has the most interesting destinations then many countries. Iran covers an area of 1,648,195 km making it the 4th largest country in south western Asia, with coastline 2,815 km. There are no major river systems in the country, and historically transportation was by means of caravans that followed routes traversing gaps and passes in the mountains. Much of Iran consists of central desert.

The long and the complete history of Iran is just brilliant. The Persians were the most civilized, advanced people of their era who had the greatest empires of the time. Zorastriansm was the state religion until the Muslim conquest of Persia, when in 632 A.D., Umar Ibn Al-Khattab completely took over the Sassanian empire by 651 A.D. By 674 Muslims had conquered greater Khorasan. Interestingly European powers never colonised Iran, but this did not protect it from colonial reach of the United Kingdom and in the late 19th century, the British–Indian company had established a monopoly over tobacco trade in the country at the expense of the local merchants. Britain controlled Iran’s oil for some time, but Iran remained as Empire with over 3000 years of history.

In a utshell Iran has endured invasions off and on, by the Macedonians, Arabs, Turks and Mongols. Iran has undoubtedly reasserted her national identity throughout centuries and has developed as a distinct political and cultural entity.

In 1921, Reza Shah Pahavi, serving as an officer in Iran’s only military forces, master minded a successful coup, against the Government of Qatar Dynasty, and established himself as the most powerful person in the country, and became as the new Shah of Iran.

Mohammad Reza Shah, who was educated in Europe replaced his father in September 1941, and he vehemently carried the reform policies of his, which he successfully implemented. In the context of regional turmoil and the cold war, the Shah established himself as an indispensable – ally of the West. Domestically, he advocated reform polices, culminating in the 1963 program known as the ‘white revolution” which included land reform, voting rights to women, and the elimination of the illiteracy. In his reforms, the king Mohammad Raza Shah greatly succeeded, but despite all these measures, religious leader, who feared losing their authority started opposing him, which consequently led to some civil unrest.

Against all odds Mohammad Reza Shah saw himself as heir to the king of ancient Iran, and in the the year 1971, held extravagant celebration of 2500 years of Persian monarchy. It was attended by many foreign dignitaries and I remember Indian dailies like Indian Express, Times of India, ‘Biltiz’ carried special editions on the Iranian 2500 years of Persian monarchy.

During processing years the Shah’s regime suppressed its opponents with the help of Iran’s security and intelligence agencies. The country during the middle of the seventies relied on oil revenue which sharply increased. The Shah continued to pursue his goal of developing Iran as a mighty regional power dedicated to social reform and economic development yet he continually side-stepped democratic arrangements, remaining unresponsive to public opinion and refused to audit meaningful political liberties. These measures led to wide spread discontent among populace, more so islamic leaders, particularly – the exiled religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini was able to focus this discontent with a populist ideology tied to Islamic principles and calls for overthrow of the Shah and his regime. Finally, Shah’s government collapsed following widespread uprising in 1978/79.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahalvi fled the country and was granted asylum in Egypt and died of cancer in July 1980. Soon after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power in Iran. A new Iranian constitution was drafted and approved. Following this the various Iranian embassies across the globe shaped their strategies according to new Islamic revolution. Cultural centres of many Iranian embassies around the world started organising various events to highlight the Iranian revolution and to promote goals of social justice, freedom and democracy, besides the benefits of Islamic unity at global level.

The culture house of Iran embassy New Delhi organised an all India level essay competition on ‘Muslim unity and its significance’ in February 1983. I also participated in the competition and won the 3rd prize in the English segment. 1st and 2nd prizes were in Urdu segment won by late Jha Ara Sarwat, a renowned Urdu poet and Urdu writer from Lucknow, and by another writer and poet Absar Ahmed Siduqi of Muzaffarour UP.

I and my family attended the brief but impressive function at Iranian Culture house New Delhi, where the winners were honoured by the first secretary Mr. Mosood. From that time Iran was in my itinerary and 40 years later, it matured. Alhumdu Lillah.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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