Multi-Cultural Project for Iran

Asad Khawaja

Dear Reader,

By now, many of you may have heard about Iran, the country whose leaders scream, “Death to America!” This country is the same country we are trying to do a nuclear deal with. This is the same country which I did a multi-cultural project on.

I have several connections to the culture of Iran. First off, Pakistan’s - the country where I come from - culture is heavily influenced by Persian (Iranian) culture. Many of our culture’s elements such as food, religion, and language are very similar to that of Iran’s, thanks to years of Iranian influence in Pakistan. Also, having been born in Iran and living there for almost a year, I can call myself an Iranian, and this has also given me another connection to Iran. A minor connection to Iran are the numerous Pakistani dishes I have eaten which are based off of Iranian dishes.

To get a better understanding of Persian culture, I read the book called Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It is based off of her perspective of events surrounding the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war that occurred right after, and how she grew up as the new Islamic regime created by the Revolution changed all Iranian lives. This book was a very good book. You could easily see how her attitude over things changed as she grew from an innocent girl to a rebellious teenager to an independent lady trying to live in a country where women’s rights were limited. The graphic images just helped further show the emotions that Mrs. Satrapi was feeling as a kid. You can also see the different cultural aspects of Persian culture affecting Mrs. Satrapi’s life as a child. To me, Persepolis is a very good novel showing how the author lived in Iran during a very tumultuous time period for the country.

There has been little change to my perspective on Persian culture. This is all thanks to me already having a positive perspective on Persian culture due to its similarities with Pakistani culture. However, there were still additional things that I learned about Persian culture including the Iranian love for poetry and how close-knit families were in Iran. Although doing this project didn’t change my perspective that much, I hope it changes your perspective about one of the oldest and most vibrant cultures there is on this Earth.

Cultural Analysis

Iranian culture, also known as Persian culture is an often very misunderstood culture. This culture has helped give a national identity for over 70 million Iranians. Persian culture is very diverse thanks to major aspects of culture on poetry, paintings, weaving (carpet-making), and more. This culture is also very vibrant and alive, and is one of the most oldest cultures to exist in the world.

There are many parts to Persian culture. The most famous parts of Persian culture is Persian carpet-making and it's food. Also, a less famous part is the magnificent poetry that has been created by Iranian poets. Another important part of Persian culture is the religion. While most people are Shia Muslim, there is a community of Jews that have lived in Iran for the past 2000 years. Also, the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism started in Iran.

Iranian food has been influenced by both Greek and Indian cultures. This is easily seen in Persian food where rice is a staple crop, while Mediterranean food such as kebabs and gyros which are Greek also make up major parts of food. Vegetables, pomegranates, and pistachios are used a lot in Persian cuisine. Iranians usually have a small breakfast, a large lunch, and a dinner which includes the leftovers of lunch. There are several rules that one must follow when eating such as eating with your right hand or accepting more food at a party when the host asks if you want some more food.

Persian poetry is world-renowned as one of the best poetry created. There are several famous poets such as Ferdowsi who created lots of poems which helped give ordinary Iranians a sense of national identity. Besides poetry, Iranians are also famous for making different stories. While stories that are hundreds of years old are usually fables and fantasy stories, modern stories mix fantasy and the current social injustices as well.

Finally, religion is another major part of Persian culture. It has affected every Iranian's lives in so many ways. First off, most Iranians are a part of the Shia Muslim sect, while a small minority (9%), are a part of the Sunni Muslim sect. The remainder are a part of the ancient Zoroastrian faith, Christian, or Jewish. Thanks to the religious government of Iran, Islam plays a role in the lives of every Iranian, despite the fact that many people do not want this to happen.

Marjane Satrapi, the author of Persepolis, included several parts of Iranian culture in her book. One major one is religion. Since she is describing her life during the Revolution, she sees how religion is starting to take over her life, including the law that forced women to wear the veil as she said here, “they decreed that wearing the veil was obligatory.” (Satrapi, 74). Also, you can see how religious some Iranians are compared to others like her. Finally, food is mentioned once and awhile. The part which is most relevant to the culture is when Mrs. Satrapi and her mom search the stores for rice, an integral part in Iranian food.

Iran has a rich culture that spans for over 2,000 years. Its people have a strong sense of national identity thanks to its poets. Despite the common perception that all Iranians are evil and extremely religious, there are lots of Iranians who are not like that, and wish for more freedom.

Analysis - Universal Value

When reading the book Persepolis, I could see how the different parts of the story seemed to connect with other parts of the story. Much of the story involved protests or trying to be rebellious against the government or some large body which had lots of power in Iran. Through writing this story, the author has shown a universal value which is: If people are facing injustice, then they will rebel to try to relieve themselves from that injustice.

This universal value is seen throughout the entire book. In the beginning, Marjane’s parents are rebelling against the king during the revolution. She shows this by saying her parents and other people would say in their protests, “Down with the king.” This shows how the people of Iran were rebelling against a king who had caused several injustices and had tortured people with his secret police called the SAVAK. Another example of Iranians fighting injustice is when Iranian women went to go protest against the veil. Marjane's mother said, "She should start learning to defend her rights as a woman right now." (Satrapi, 75). In this, Marjane's mom is saying that Marjane should also protest against the limitation of women's rights and the injustices that are occurring to women in the wake of the revolution.

There are many other examples of when Marjane and her family would rebel against the new Islamic government and the old monarchy. Marjane would try to wear "punk" clothes and would attend parties in the night despite the ban on parties by the Islamic government. This all shows that Iranians tend to rebel whenever they face injustice. They tried to rebel against the enforcing of the veil,on women. They rebelled against the monarchy since there were many injustices that were occurring.

Persepolis is similar to many other short stories that have been created by Iranian writers. The main characters are fighting against a form of injustice that has hit them, just like how many Iranians today are fighting against injustice. Even today, Iranians have fought injustice through the Green Movement of 2009 and smaller forms by singing American songs and having secret parties during the night. Thanks to modern Persian literature talking about social and other injustices, the Iranian people will defy their autocratic government whenever they can to protest against the stoical injustices occurring to them.

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This is the famous Iranian poet: Ferdowsi
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