Anthropology of Iran

Explorations in Iranian society and culture.

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Discussion Forum

The Experience of Shiism in Iran 1 Reply

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Katharina Müller May 3, 2015.

Causes of problems in Iran 9 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 7, 2009.

Popular resistence in Iran 16 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 6, 2009.

Islamic Republic State Terrorism 39 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 4, 2009.

Political stand-off in Iran? 3 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 3, 2009.

Foreign policies of, and directed toward the Islamic Republic of Iran 71 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 2, 2009.

Information, social media, and mass media in Iran 1 Reply

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Dec 2, 2009.

Is Iran Still a Theocracy? 11 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Nov 28, 2009.

Youth and Young Adults in Iran 4 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Nov 22, 2009.

Women in Iran 11 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Nov 20, 2009.

Who owns what in Iran? Who controls the wealth? How does the economy work? 3 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Oct 27, 2009.

Semantics, Pragmatics, and Truth in Persian Culture 3 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Oct 10, 2009.

Religious Symbolism and Politics in Iran 2 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Sep 7, 2009.

The cultural conflict between the Islamic Republic and the West

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN Sep 7, 2009.

Iranians at home and in the diaspora

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN Sep 7, 2009.

Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia: Shiites and Sunnis 1 Reply

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Aug 16, 2009.

Ethnic Minorities in Iran

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN Jul 20, 2009.

Does Iran have a radical government and a moderate population? 17 Replies

Started by Philip Carl SALZMAN. Last reply by Philip Carl SALZMAN Jul 19, 2009.

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Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on July 23, 2009 at 2:45pm
Another insightful analysis from Abbas Miliani:

23 Jul 2009 National Post (Canada) A11

In a dying woman’s name, a road map of rage


Next week marks the 40day anniversary of Neda Agha-Sultan’s murder during an anti-regime protest in Iran on June 20. A video of her bleeding to death quickly circulated via the Internet, turning Neda into one of the most well-known images of the regime’s brutal repression. The Shiite tradition of commemorating the 40th day after a person’s death has historically influenced the momentum of Iran’s protest movements, playing a particularly visible role in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. If the commemoration of Neda’s death reinvigorates the waning opposition, she will be a fitting symbol for its cause.

For more than 1,000 years, the Persian language has been both a vessel of Persian nationalism and a tool for fighting Islamo-Arab influences. Islamists have long believed Arabic to be the “perfect” language, the one Allah used when he spoke with Adam and Eve in heaven and when he revealed divine truths to Muhammad on Earth. In recognition of this sanctity, Iranian Islamists have tried to infuse the Persian language with Arabic words and grammar. Before the revolution, Islamo-Arabic names — Muhammad, Hassan, Hussein, Ali, Reza ‚ were prevalent among every strata of Iranian society. But in the last two decades, a new generation of Iranian parents have showed their disdain for the status quo and its ideology and rejected Islamic names in favour of others that are purely Persian and secular in their connotations. And so it is with Neda — a Persian name, meaning “the clarion call” or “the voice.”

When, in the early-1920s, her grandparents, like all Iranians, were presumably ordered by the government to pick a family name, they could not have imagined that the surname they picked, 75 years later, would become a potent metaphor of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s autocratic rule. Agha, a Mongolian term picked up by the Arabs, means “sir” or “master”; it is also used by Khamenei’s inner circle to refer to him. The clerical cognoscenti referred to his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomeini, as “Agha” as well.

The term “Agha-Zadeh,” meaning “son of an Agha,” has in recent years come to refer to the thousands of children of the clergy, now millionaires and billionaires, who use their fathers’ connections to rapidly and illicitly enrich themselves. Today, Mojtaba, Khamenei’s son, is the most infamous Agha-Zadeh. According to The Guardian newspaper, he has more than £1.7-billion in his personal account, which the British government has now frozen. Mojtaba is one of the masterminds of the electoral coup of June 12, as well as one of the main culprits in rigging Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first presidential victory four years ago. Many Iranian democrats worry that the Khameneis, father and son, are emulating North Korea, not just in their nuclear program but also in their succession scheme.

The third part of Neda’s name, “Sultan,” is Arabic for “absolutist ruler,” as in the Ottoman Empire. It also conjures up Max Weber’s theory of Sultanist regimes, in which one man has absolute domination over society’s every political domain.

The blood streaming down Neda’s face, the young life emptying out of her dying eyes, dramatically evoke the price extracted to ensure the regime’s brutal grip over the country. The modernity evident in her dress, her defiant presence on the streets to demand her rights, are powerfully emblematic of Iran’s predominantly young and cosmopolitan population, increasingly driven by women, resolute in their struggle against tyranny.

Abbas Milani is the Hamid and Christina Moghadam Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford where he is the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project. His latest book is Eminent Persian: The Men and Women who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979 (Syracuse University Press).
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on July 16, 2009 at 6:53pm
As a follow-up to the previous comment, I offer from Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) the following:

Isolate Iran’s regime
Jul 15th, 2009 by MESH

From Raymond Tanter

President Obama continues to seek direct talks with Tehran in face of its suppression of Iranian oppositionists. But now is not the time to engage Tehran, given its violent suppression of the Iranian people and the American troop pullback from Iraqi cities.

If President Obama extends a warm hand toward the clerical-military rulers of Tehran after they assassinated protesting Iranians like Neda, he is likely to wind up with warm blood on his hands. Business as usual is unseemly in the face of cold-blooded murder. And if the President reaches out to Iran while he draws down from Iraq, he is apt to encourage Iranian proxies to step up their attacks against withdrawing American forces and an Iraq weakened by the U.S. drawdown.

Here are the foundations of an alternative approach:

Lead Europe. On July 1, the EU floated the idea of recalling its ambassadors from Tehran, which elicited a strong response from Iran. Tehran’s chief of staff of the armed forces said that the EU had “totally lost the competence and qualifications needed for holding any kind of talks with Iran.” Having just returned to Washington from trips to Paris, Brussels, and Madrid, I heard scores of European parliamentarians, national legislators, and Iranian dissidents clamor for strong American leadership to isolate the Iranian regime and pressure Europe to use its economic clout as leverage against Tehran.

Iran’s rulers seriously fear isolation, particularly from Europe, on whose trade the Iranian economy depends. The EU as a group represent Iran’s largest trade partner, receiving one-third of Iran’s exports, mostly in the form of energy products, to the tune of €11.3 billion in 2008. The value of EU exports to Iran was even larger: €14.1 billion.

Just as the EU suspended negotiation of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement with Iran in August 2005, when Iran resumed enriching uranium, Europe is now primed to curtail its trade with Iran. Now is the time to lead Europe in isolating the Iranian regime, instead of standing on the sidelines while the European Union ponders.

Engage the opposition. With the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps now pulling the strings for Supreme Leader Khamenei, any negotiation with the West only buys time to expand Iran’s stock of low-enriched uranium and expands the number of centrifuges at the Natanz enrichment facility. If the United States has any hope of actually halting that enrichment, Washington must take the lead in isolating Iran and engaging the regime’s opposition.

Leadership means speaking out on behalf of those Iranians protesting in the streets of Iran’s major cities, as well as reaching out a hand to Iran’s main opposition groups, including the “disloyal” Iranian opposition. Though much is made of “moderates” like Khatami and Mousavi, they are a “loyal” opposition, which accepts the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic’s system of governance in which clerics rule by divine right: Velayat-e Faqih.

Iran’s “disloyal” opposition proposes a democratic and secular state, in which responsibility for governing is taken out of the hands of unelected Ayatollahs in favor of democratically elected leaders. Such oppositionists include the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) and the parliament in exile of which the MEK is a part, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). Based in Iraq and in Paris with extensive support networks in Iran, Tehran considers them serious threats to its survival.

Protect Iraq. As suppression of street politics in Iran dominated the news cycle, Iraq dropped below the radar screen of news. However, Iraqi developments have an impact on U.S. diplomatic leverage over Tehran. It was appropriate to withdraw from Iraq cities on June 30, because of the commitment the United States made in its Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, but such troop drawdown is being portrayed as a retreat by Iran’s proxies in Iraq.

Muqtada al Sadr, the fiery Shiite militia leader, compares the American withdrawal to the revolt against British occupation forces in 1920. Iran is also likely to view the diminished U.S. role in Iraq as an opportunity to fill the vacuum with Iranian proxies armed with improvised explosive devices manufactured in Tehran. Iranian President Ahmadinejad stated as early as 2007, “Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap.”

Having interviewed tens of Iraqi Sunni and Shiite politicians during a research trip to the area, I determined that a precipitous American withdrawal would provide the Iranian regime an incentive to pour additional arms to its proxies like the Muqtada al Sadr. Because of the possibility of Iran misperceiving the United States as weak in Iraq, it is even more important for the Obama administration to replace its “wait and see” Iran policy with concrete actions to isolate Tehran and engage its opposition.

A policy package. Engaging the Iranian regime was never likely to be successful, and was as much about appearing to have made a good faith effort at diplomacy to keep the anti-Iran coalition together rather than a genuine plan for halting uranium enrichment. In the past, Tehran has used negotiations as a ploy to buy time and as a mechanism for inducing concessions from the West without reciprocating. But since the events following the June 12 election, the regime is even less likely to be responsive to engagement because it needs to take a hard line against the West for domestic political purposes.

Building on the foundations described above, the Obama administration should undertake these specific measures:

Induce the EU to impose crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, such as restrictions on export of gasoline products to Iran because of its strong dependence on foreign sources; intensify sanctions on banks in Dubai and elsewhere in the Gulf that cooperate with Tehran to circumvent UN and Treasury restrictions on Iranian banks.

Urge European allies to withdraw their envoys from Tehran; during the mid-1990s, a temporary withdrawal of some 12 European Union ambassadors succeeded in dissuading Tehran from continuing its assassination of Iranian dissidents in Europe.

Engage Iranian dissidents by removal of their main groups from the U.S Foreign Terrorist Organizations list—the Mujahedeen-e Khalq and the National Council of Resistance of Iran—following the lead of the European Union, which delisted the MEK and never designated the NCRI.
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on July 16, 2009 at 5:25pm
In a major foreign policy address on 15 July, U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that now is the time for Iran to discuss the nuclear weapon question, and that “the opportunity will not remain open indefinitely.” Will the Islamic Republic regime respond favourably?

Amir Taheri, in The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution (2009) reminds us that every American administration–Carter, Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton–made overtures and offers to the Islamic Republic, and none ever received any positive response. So too with the German, British, Russian, Azerbaijanian, Kazakhstanian, and Turkish diplomats who have tried to enter into negotiations on matters of interest. Nor have the Arab states had any better luck. (211)

Taheri explains these events as follows: “In every case, the Islamic Republic has interpreted the readiness of an adversary to talk as a sign of weakness and, as a result, has hardened its position. ... Negotiation is possible and could prove productive only if those engaged in it recognize each other’s equal worth, at least implicitly. The Islamic Republic cannot do that for any possible negotiating partner. The reason is that it regards itself as not only the world’s number-one power but absolutely the only legitimate power on earth, because it represents the only ‘true version of pure Muhammadan Islam’.” (211-12)

Taheri quotes Ayatollah Khomeini: “All international laws are the product of the syphilitic minds of a handful of idiots. And Islam has obliterated all of them. [Islam] recognizes no law except its own laws anywhere in the world....” Presumably this would also apply to any secular contractual agreement. (212) The sole duly of the Islamic Republic, according to General Jaafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, is “to prepare the way for an Islamic world government and the rule of the Lord of the Time [the Hidden Imam].” (209)

So, any bets on a good negotiated agreement between the U.S. and Iran?
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on July 14, 2009 at 11:57pm
Ali Rafi, I cannot do Taheri justice in a few sentences. His arguments are documented, many with quotes from Islamic Republic authorities. I would urge you to look at the book. Remember, this man was Executive Editor of Kayhan, not a negligible qualification. Of course it is not surprise that he is not well known, given the censorship by the regime in Iran.

A better-known name in Iran is Akbar Ganji, who spent 2000-2006 in prison in Tehran, and whose writing is currently banned. He has published an important essay entitled "The Latter-Day Sultan: Power and Politics in Iran" (Foreign Affairs, Nov-Dec 2008, Vol. 87, No. 6, but originally published in Persian on his web site, 6 Feb. 2008) that focuses on Khamenei's de facto dictatorship.
Comment by Ali Rafi on July 14, 2009 at 6:52am
I've not yet heard any news about him and it maybe led me to think that he is more known in English language countries (and especially in America)... I've not read his book but some of his titles sound so exaggerated... Like: "Regime's hate of Jews"...!!! I'm now living in Iran and I've not yet felt something like HATE from political system in Iran against the Jews... And also "Khomeinist Revolution" the ideology of Khomeini has not yet grown up and also good theorized to some political School that we can call it by -ism...
So i think it's just a journalistic text and Taheri didn't used some scientific view to describe the political situation in Iran after the Revolution...!!!
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on July 13, 2009 at 8:17pm
I am about half way through Amir Taheri's new book The Persian Night: Iran under the Khomeinist Revolution (413 pp.). Taheri was Executive Editor of the Persian daily newspaper Kayhan prior to the Islamic Revolution. He now lives in Paris and London, and contributes to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and other publications. Taheri is no friend of the current regime of Iran. He argues in some detail that the regime is doubtfully Islamic, not at all Republican, and anti-Iran. But his argument is not all negative: he says that the regime of the "Islamic Republic of Iran" is generically fascist according to twelve criteria that he sets out explicitly. He has two chapters on the regime's demeaning of women, and two chapters on its hate for Jews. Later chapters deal with the regime's hate for America, and its goal of expanded influence and eventually world domination. More, later.
Comment by Anne Gilbert on July 3, 2009 at 11:51pm
Hi. I just joined. All your discussions about Iran look very interesting, but I haven't decided which ones I'm going to look at,and anyway, I'll just lurk for a while.
Anne G
Comment by Ali Rafi on June 24, 2009 at 5:54pm
I've wanted to make some group with title of Iranistik, But it made me wondered when i've seen some community of "Anthropology of Iran" which made by a non-Iranian Anthropologist...!
Thanks Dear Philip...! You make it so easy...!

If you or anyone in this group know Persian (Farsi), visiting my Weblog (also in Persian which is a collection of some Ethnographies) would make me so happy...!
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 17, 2009 at 1:58pm
For a discussion by ten commentators (myself included) about the current political situation in Iran and American policy options in relation to Iran, see Middle East Strategy at Harvard
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 10, 2009 at 12:56pm
New discussion topics are welcome. Click "Start Discussion" at the bottom left of the "Discussion Forum" box, fill in your topic and description, and we are on our way.

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