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Persian-Iranian Parade 2005 (1384) In New York City Set A New Milestone

By Professor David N. Rahni
Photos by A. Habibian



The Second annual Persian-Iranian Parade, sponsored by the non-profit public Persian-Iranian Parade Foundation (PIPF), held along fifteen blocks of Madison Avenue in New York City on March 20, drew huge cheering crowd of Iranian Americans, curious tourists and mainstream Americans, despite the inclement weather. "Rain or Shine, We Will Shine." Nina Ghavami, one of the Parade Funding Members & co-organizer eloquently put it.


An educational pamphlet, distributed in the crowd that described the historical aspects of celebrating Nowruz the Persian New Year, a brief history of Iran, and information on the status and stature of Iranian American Community of one million strong, received much attention by the thousands along the parade route.


"We trust the parade will facilitate the process by which our second and third generation children remain proud of their cultural heritage and thus committed to carry the [torch] in the US," Nahid Ahkami another founding member and parade co-organizer commented.


" In lieu of a few obstacles imposed on the planning of this parade by isolated cynic individuals in the community, what impressed me the most was the cordial and cooperative sense of broad team-spirit that moved everyone-from the seniors to the juniors in our community--forward," Said Dr. Sam Davoodi who coordinated the parade. 

Another parade coordinator, Afshin Tajian, a vibrant young man, was most thrilled to note that this was the first time at least in the past several decades, where Iranians of all walks of life, regardless of their religious or ethnic orientations, had gathered to celebrate one common theme, Nowruz!" He further elaborated by saying that Iran is where Iranians gather in the world to commemorate their common cultural heritage, and as typified by Madison Avenue's parade.  

The parade had two themes:
It displayed the historical role the Iranians (Persians) have played in the advancement of human civilization from as far back as 5,000+ years ago. The parade also showcased the more contemporary face of Iran and the multifaceted contributions of Iranian Americans in particular, toward the betterment of life in the US and the world.

"I truly enjoyed the parade as it taught me to have a more positive perception of the [Middle East] and Americans whose origin is from this region.  This is in contrast to the heavily distorted picture at times of what I have been [fed] on media in recent time, "an American in the crowd whispered.  

"Notwithstanding the political impediments in our native land, it's about time that we were able to celebrate our rich and diverse cultural heritage, while aspiring to see a homegrown sustainable reform that our compatriots back home can truly enjoy," opined Dr. Mahshid Arfania Assadi, a long time Cardiologist in New York City who has also served along with her husband, a renowned surgeon, among the founding members.  

It is envisaged that the NY Persian-Iranian parade will be emulated by many other Iranian Communities worldwide. 

The parade organizers are already into the planning mode for next year's event. As such they envisage a larger and more colorful parade that requires ever increasing participation of ALL community members throughout the year. "The parade belongs to ALL Iranians worldwide, and as such is not an exclusive club belonging to one individual," Jamshid Irani, a NYC based attorney observed.



Accordingly, the broadly based transparent Parade Planning Committee of the PIPF is cordially asking those civic leaders interested to periodically visit the Website and call 1-888-PARADE-9 at once for the upcoming planning events.


Background on Nowruz and Iran (the former Persia):


The Nowruz Festival is immortalized in the Decree of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, granting national and religious freedoms to the peoples of Babylon in 542 B.C.:


"When I entered Babylon...I did not allow anyone to terrorize the land or its people... I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being.  The citizens of Babylon... I lifted their unbecoming yoke (slavery).  Their dilapidated dwellings I restored.  I put an end to their misfortunes."


....Thus said the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden (Isaiah, XLV-1-3)

The Iranian Nowruz, meaning the new day or the New Year, is the cyclical celebration of the Spring/Vernal Equinox, as the most cherished and celebrated of all Iranian festivals. The Nowruz has been observed by all peoples of the Iranian plateau and the territories surrounding classical PERSIA for thousands of years. The Nowruz commemorating the cyclical rebirth and rejuvenation of nature, has indeed been observed in one form or another since 3000 BC by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, southwest and south central Asia including the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites, Akaddians, Chaldeans and the Persians. Today, the Nowruz is celebrated annually in a huge arc of territory extending from the Aral Lake and Sind River on the east, Caspian Sea to the north, the Black and Mediterranean Seas to the west, and the Persian Gulf to the south. Iranian peoples (Persians, Kurds, Lurs, Tajiks, Baluchis, Afghans, Tats, Gilanis, Azeris) as well non-Iranian peoples in proximity (e.g., Armenians, Assyrians, Kazakhs, Kashmiris, Turkmens, etc.) all participate in the Nowruz celebration. It is also worth noting that the first day of the spring season was also observed by the Europeans through the Middle Ages and by the American pilgrims through the early 18th century as the "common" new-year as well as the Aztecs in Mexico. The roots of Nowruz can be traced to Zoroastrianism and Mithraism, which was the world's first monotheistic religion; Zoroastrianism considers Nowruz as the last day of the seven-day creation epoch, thus the ritual of the Haft Sin, or the seven life-related, mostly plant based symbolic heralds beginning with the letter "S" in Persian language. During the Nowruz holiday, families and friends visit each other, pay their respects to the elderly, reconcile with adversaries and reach common grounds, make donations to the impoverished and the sick, and give and receive presents in the thirteen day period that ends with April first (April fool's) during which everyone spends the whole day in orchards or on the prairies dancing, singing and playing. Hence, the commemoration of Nowruz connotes the seventh day of creation, when people pay homage to the creator, or Mother Nature. NOWRUZ celebrates the Lord of Wisdom and the holy "halo" fire as a prelude to Spring Equinox. The oldest archaeological record for the Nowruz celebration comes from the Achaemenid dynasty over 2500 years ago. The inscriptions of Persepolis depicts the Persian Monarch, Darius the Great, accepting gifts from a wide and diverse array of peoples who lived in a federation of territories stretching from Asia to Europe and North Africa. Cyrus is cited as the world's first true supreme emperor who ruled his vast realm with compassion and justice, a legacy acknowledged by the Greeks (Herodotus) of that era.

Historically speaking, back in 1821 a young Englishman, following his passion for unearthing the lost world of the ancient east, came upon a peculiar monument in the heart of the Iranian plateau. He wrote in his diary:

The very venerable appearance of this historical ruin instantly awed me. I found I had no right conception of it. I sat for near an hour on the steps contemplating it until the moon rose on it, and I began to think that this, in reality, must be the tomb of the best, the most illustrious, and the most interesting of Oriental sovereigns.


The resting place of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire in 550 BC had been identified. This was followed by the identification of ancient Passargädae, the capital of the Empire, in the nearby plain. The few sources on Cyrus portrayed him not just as an empire builder, but a man possessing rare qualities, deeply rooted in his ancestral sportsmanship of horseback riding, mobility, an appreciation of the earth bounties, cultural diversity of humanity and celestial objects in the sky. In the Bible (Old Testament) for instance, the Book of Ezra tells of Cyrus's liberating the scattered Jews of Babylon, restoring their temple which had been destroyed by Assyrian king Nabopolassar. Cyrus invited the scattered Jews back to Jerusalem to freely practice their cultural and religious rituals without fear of persecution.


Iranian (from the Satem branch of the Indo-European) Medean and Persian tribes had settled in the Iranian plateau from about the eleventh century B.C.  This plateau has always been regarded as a crossroad between East and West for cultural, scientific, and technological discourse. The name Iran is derived from the ancient Iranian genitive plural aryanam, meaning [land] of the Aryans.  It is interesting to note the appearance of the same terminology in Europe as Ireland, again meaning the [land] of the Aryans.


Cyrus's ultimate dream of unifying nations from south Asia to Asia Minor and North Africa was finally realized during the reign of his successor, Darius. In Choga Zanbil, a "ziggurat" or sacred city multi-level high rise urban structure, built by  the Elamite king Untash-Gal around 1250 BC, substantiates the vast contributions of these  inhabitants. Going further back, one can discern the existence of organized tribes of hunters/gatherers in northwestern Iran dating as back as 12,000 years ago. There have been a plethora of discoveries of early successive settlements built atop one another. These have been excavated in northwestern Iran's Godin Tepe, a region dating back to at least 8,000 years ago. Iran has been a unified cultural and historical entity for at least 2500 years.


In recent times, although there have been sporadic numbers of Iranians who have immigrated to Europe and North America starting in the 19th century, a mass exodus has occurred since the 70's due to political changes in Iran. There are an estimated three million Iranians living abroad today.  According to the US census and other independent think tanks, the Americans of Iranian ancestry are among the most educated and the most affluent communities in the US, and have substantially contributed to the US economy in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and thus immeasurably to the US quality of life. For instance, one can hardly find an American university or college, medical, business or civil sector, or artistic area where Iranian- Americans are not well represented. The Iranian-American Community of one million strong is found in every corner of the US and Canada. There are large communities in the New York metro area, Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, as well as in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. The total number of peoples of Iranian ancestry worldwide, including 70 millions in today's Iran, is estimated at 150 millions.

... Payvand News - 3/23/05 ... --

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