Iranian cultures and arts are rich and diverse, and have their roots in the ancient civilizations that developed as early as the forth millennium BCE — about 4,000 years before any theistic religion came to existence — across the Iranian plateau.
Despite the difficult political and economic conditions in Iran for the past 30+ years, we have rich history and culture that we should know about, celebrate and be proud of:
- Zoroastrainism (6th century BC), the ancient Iranian religion which advocates good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.
- Cyrus the Great (~600 BC – 530 BC), the king of Persia during Achaemenid Empire, who conquered much of the known civilizations and expanded the Persian Empire which spread from parts of Europe and North Africa to much of the Middle East to Central Asia. Cyrus was a great military strategist and government administrator, but at the same time he was an advocate of human rights and promoted racial and religious tolerance in all his conquests. See Cyrus Cylinder, a model of which resides in United Nations building, as a charter of human rights.
- Poets and scholars such as Rudaki (858 – 941), a literary genius of modern Persian and the founder of Tajik/Persian classical literature, and Ferdowsi (940 – 1020) who spent 30 years writing Shahnameh, the national epic book of poetry, to preserve the Parsi or Persian language.
- Poets such as Hafez (1310 – 1390) whose musical and beautiful poetry has been recited and put to music for centuries by Iranians; Mowlana a.k.a Rumi (1207 – 1273), whose poetry and spiritualism is studied, revered and celebrated all around the world 800 years later today; and Saadi(1184 – 1283), the great socially conscious poet and author of Bustan and Golestan, who was quoted by President Obama in his Nowruz address, that all humans are part of the same body.
- Polymath Omar Khayyam (1048 – 1131), one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period, and the author of the most important work on algebra before modern times, also a great philosopher and poet, whose poetry is read and song world-wide.
- Polymath Ebn Sina a.k.a Avecina (980 – 1037), the greatest physician and philosopher of his time, also an astronomer, chemist, geologist, physicist, and logician, among other things, who wrote over 450 treatise in various disciplines, and is considered the father of modern medicine.
- Iranian architecture, music, and other art forms such as miniaturehas thousands of years of history. The architecture in particular dates back to 5,000 BCE with its influence in much of
Asia. Iranian music has its roots in early Iranian civilizations in Achaemenid empire (550 – 331 BC) and especially Sassanid dynasty (224 – 651), the golden age of Persian music, with Barbod, the celebrated musician of his time. The Persian miniature painting goes back to 13th century.
Ethnic & Religious Diversity
Iranians are ethnically very diverse. In the West, the names Iranian and Persian are often used interchangeably. Many Iranians abroad in fact prefer “Persian” to “Iranian” as they feel the former has less negative connotation. Also “Persian” for some may speak to the pre-Islamic roots of Iranians. However, the proper term is Iranian as not all Iranians are Persians. According to the CIA World Factbook on Iran, Persians only make up about half of Iranians (51%). The other ethnic groups are Azaris (24%) concentrated in the Northwest, Gilakis and Mazandaranis (8%) in the North along the Caspian Sea coastline, and Kurds (7%) in the Northwest and West. There are also Arabs, Baloch, Lurs, and Turkmen (2-3% each). These ethnic groups also speak their own languages, Persian and its dialects, Turkic (or Azari), Kurdish, Luri, Balochi, and Arabic among others such as Assyrians and Georgians.
Though Iran has been ruled by a Islamic fundamentalist regime since the 1979 revolution, there is also religious diversity among Iranians. While a large majority are born into Islamic faith (89% Shiite/Shia, 9% Sunni), many are fairly secular. The remaining are Jewish, Assyrians and Armenians who are Christians, Zoroastrians and Baha’is.
For more detail on the demographics of Iran, please refer to the Wikipedia page here.
Despite the much troubled times throughout the centuries — invasions, wars, revolutions, dictatorships, incompetent leaders, and more — we have continued to thrive as a people — in Iran and particularly abroad. Today we have Iranian scientists, doctors, engineers, scholars, business leaders, and world-renown and musicians, working away in their respective fields in leading companies, research labs, and universities around the globe, and contributing to the various disciplines, and the collective knowledge and welfare of humanity in general.
With estimates of well over one million Iranians in North America, mostly concentrated in major metropolitan areas, we are one of the most educated and affluent minorities in USA and Canada. See this for demographic data on Iranian-Americans. There are also hundreds of thousands of Iranians who live in Europe (especially Western Europe and Scandinavian countries), Australia, and other Asian countries.
As of the writing of this page, things are not so great back home in our beloved motherland. Ever since the presidential election in June 2009 things have gotten far worse. Since then there have been violent attacks by the supposed security forces and government hired thugs against innocent protesters who simply were demanding a fair election and for their votes to be counted. There have been tens of murders and executions. Thousand are imprisoned for no good reason. And there are numerous reports of torture and rape of our talented youth in prisons. They could instead be contributing members of the society. There is no reason for this injustice and brutality and it must come to an end. May these trying times pass quickly and our homeland and our people see better and brighter days ahead.