September 28, 2006
What about the combining part?
By Dr. Kamal Artin
I had noted the eloquence in the cultural articles of a retired dentist, who describes the beautiful aspect of her Persian heritage and criticizes the less beautiful elements of it in English language very well. Considering that individuals who know their own heritage tend to value the heritage of others, I invited her to a Kurdish concert, that had been advertised as a Kurdish regional and Persian classical music night by its organizers. Discussing the pros and cons of such advertisement requires a separate article. In any case, when my wife and I met my guest and her husband, we noted that their younger and livelier look and flexible attitude was not typical of a retired couple. We had different opinions, priorities, and approaches to promoting a society to move forward, yet we became good friends, as if we had known each other for years. She described our encounter as serendipity. I learned that she had used reason for many years and become a skillful professional; she then had retired early to focus on her passion for art. Apparently she was not only an articulate writer, but a talented painter, and a tasteful culinary artist. In appreciation for my invitation, she invited us to a Persian cultural and educational seminar few weeks later.
Based on my experience that Persians are reluctant to discuss the importance of the rights of other nationalities in Iran, I had avoided many such events consciously, despite admiring their heritage, which in my mind is neither richer nor less valuable than any other nation’s heritage. According to anecdotes of a more radical friend of mine, Persian is an offshoot of Kurdish and is supposed to be valuable! To support my new friend, I attended this seminar. I enjoyed the beautiful artwork of some talented musicians, poets, writers, dancers, painters, and comedians with my right brain; I also learned tremendously from the speeches of very bright academic minds in the field of economy, health, politic, history, and culture by using my left brain.
The combining part of my brain, whose priority in this stage of my personal development is promoting Kurdish cause, was not satisfied with being left out in the seminar. Although some radical views against all Iranian regimes were discussed, I wasn’t surprised by marginalizing the identity of other Iranian nationalities and neglect of their human rights. However, I was aware that for many Persians and other fully assimilated Iranians, Iran is Persia and vice versa. I knew that some are rightfully ashamed of the crimes of Hitler or a few Iranian terrorists and distance themselves from the word Iran, the land of Aryan, despite being proud of Kuroush, a relatively fair Aryan King and a supporter of disenfranchised people of his time, the Jews. I knew that some hope to get the attention of Jewish philanthropists by such a distance while others blames Jewish community for the self created misery of their country. I also knew that no one lacks all aspects of humanity and no one is immune form human flaws. Interestingly I met another writer who had demonized the religious minorities in Iran based on her few personal observations with members of such minorities. After a long discussion that the people she had offended deserve an apology, her humanistic side showed itself by accepting that generalization based on limited knowledge is of no value and all humans deserve to be treated equal.
During the seminar I paid special attention to the presentations of women and young male speakers to see if they have some new ideas since it is more difficult for the senior male intellectuals of the dominant culture to update their view on the rights of minorities in Iran. The speakers were remarkable people with some minor human flaws. A very gentle advocate of philanthropy complained that Iranians are not as giving as other people, yet had a slip of tongue and stated lucky for us that Arabs give more but do not spend it appropriately for a noble cause; she then recognized her unconscious error and apologized. A journalist and human right advocate reviewed the history of censorship of her field in Iran without mentioning anything about Kurdish newspapers and their subjugation to censorship. A kind advocate of Persian identity and language emphasized the importance of learning Persian outside Iran without mentioning anything about the lack of state or public fund for Kurdish children to learn their own language officially in their ancestral homeland. A humanistic physician highlighted how through dedication of a small local team and an international fund, now thousands of disenfranchised HIV patients in Iran are entitled to their basic human right of receiving proper health care; this bright physician who was residing in a Kurdish city and had expanded his efforts to help other cities and even countries in the region, did not dare mentioning anything about Kurdistan except that sometimes his team enjoyed a Kurdish dance. Form such marginalization one might conclude that a century long Kurdish struggle for basic human rights is about dancing in the mountains. Still in search of satisfying the combining part of my brain, I wrote a few questions on these issues and turned them in during the Q&A, but unfortunately time was too short for any of them to be answered.
Overall thanks to the invitation of my friend, I had a unique and enjoyable learning experience. It reminds me that despite their lack of resources and all the hardship they have experienced and are experiencing, Kurds should be self critical first, if they want to make a change in their lives. Instead of blaming Persians, Turks, and Arabs for all of their miseries, they should start learn from them to promote their own identity, language, and culture first, before they promote the one of other ethnic groups. It is very safe and possibly financially rewarding for the Kurds in all parts of Kurdistan to submit to cultural dominance of their neighbors, but they will remain a second class ethnic group in their ancestral homeland as long as they postpone fulfilling their dream and let others determine their destiny. Once they are equal with their neighbors, they could create a voluntary cultural, political, and social union with them. Meanwhile every effort should be made to know people of all ethnicities on an individual level so that there is an end to generalization and fear form unknown based on myths.