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From Iraq to Iran's past and future

By Hooman Moradmand

Before we know, Iran will find a new neighbour to its west. Democratic? We will see about it, but most likely federal in structure, if not in name. This would bring about many gradual changes in the centralized, or perhaps super centralized, country of Iran where control over provinces is historically deemed to be important. The control mentality runs deep into the social, even family, fabric. We are led to believe if the 24/7 domination on issues is scaled down to 23/7, they will be somehow lost for good. Well, it is no surprise if that happens after handling matters as such for a long time.

It is ironic when you think that Iran started off its empire as a federal entity. Before the first Iranian empire, civilizations and empires would stretch along a river or restricted geographical area. Administrational organizations had not been developed to support a vast territory. But somehow in some Iranians' head a light lit up, or it had already lit up, and they decided no matter how far they drive, they would break the kingdom into smaller units, called provinces (Saatraap in ancient Persian). Each province got its own king (Shah) and the ruler of the whole kingdom became king of the kings (Shah-an-Shah).

There are historians who maintain the tradition of naming a geographical subdivisions by suffixing the name with '-istan' comes from those days. This suffix is a complete word of its own in today's Persian, meaning province. And if you think Iranian Empire was not of a federal structure, think again. Even if they weren't, technology and administrational structure at the time could not have delivered nor enforced king of the kings' rules to his subjects' bedroom. Local rulers' maybe, but not king of the kings'. The fastest communication service at the time, another Iranian innovation, was pony courier (Chaapaar in Persian). Consequently provinces effectively achieved a certain level of autonomy.

Those days are long gone and except for a few marginalized people, nobody knew about this past until a century ago when Europeans dug up that part of the history and all of the sudden a new identity of ours was born. Many caravans and desert wanderers passed by the ruins of the king of the kings' palace for centuries without a second glance at it or thinking what these ruins could mean. That is a different subject though.

Apart from those days, different regions of the country kept their relative sense of identity or even autonomy simply because of the reasons mentioned above. That could be true for most of the country's history except perhaps fairly recently when governments' agenda managed to penetrate into citizens' houses through mass communications tools and fast deployment of troop.

Now with an Iraq on the way for some real changes with their obvious ramifications on the neighbouring countries, the questions of minority rights and control mentality are coming head-on in Iran.

About the author:
Hooman lives in Ottawa, Canada. He writes easy going column-like essays based on his observations whereby conclusion is left to the reader to draw. You could access his web log at the URL above.

... Payvand News - 2/14/03 ... --

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