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Wednesday, March 23, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Nothing ‘Western’ about ancient Persian values required for the new Iran

By Sheda Vasseghi

At the dawn of a new Iranian year (Norooz), the majority of Iranians are hoping that it is also the dawn of the fall of the Islamic regime in Teheran and the rise of a “new” Iran.


In that regard, Iranians both domestic and abroad have been debating on how to set up an interim government to better guide the people towards their ultimate goal — a democratic, secular, national and patriotic regime. During these discussions, it will be imperative for the emerging Iranian leaders to note and convey that the best way for the nation to guard against future tyranny and backwardness is to pursue the policies of their ancestors in order to establish the freedom the majority desires.

Just as the early European travelers erred in naming the ancient lands of the Near East as the “Islamic Civilization,” they have also spread the misguided notion that “freedom,” “equality,” and “good governance” are “Western values.” This misconception has led to the Iranian people’s inability to progress because it is the natural desire for self-rule and sovereignty to reject foreign elements.

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Granted that Western people are about 150 years ahead of Middle Eastern nations in having secured their right to choose by utilizing reason over revelations. But human rights such as the right to choose, freedom, equity, equality, freedom of religion, and the like were not Western in origin.

The West was settled and populated after the establishment of Eastern civilizations whose inhabitants had to wrestle with these shared, universal social and political problems centuries earlier.

It is well-known that the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, established the first world empire in 550 BCE based on human civil rights. A copy of his famous decree, the Cyrus Cylinder, hangs in the halls of the United Nations as a reminder to all given that people have a short memory. But it appears that it is not so well-known that the first political theory regarding state guardianship was established by an Iranian, not Western, philosopher.

In the study of political philosophy, one of the first and extremely important Western works is Plato’s The Republic, while for the Far East, Confucius makes it on a short list. Curiously, however, the Near East (Middle East) has nobody listed under the earliest study of government legitimacy and formation as well as laws and citizens’ rights.

Here is where the future Iranian leaders must take note and drive the message home. The great Iranian philosopher, religious reformist, and the first monotheist of antiquity, Zoroaster, is believed to have lived around 1700 BCE — a thousand years before the Greek Plato or the Chinese Confucius. Yet, his teachings are completely ignored or overlooked with respect to political science.

People are led astray when they are not properly credited with their contributions to civilization. They are more apt to be confused and easily led to believe that certain pursuits are foreign rendering them undesirable or inappropriate.

The Iranian people have been taught for centuries that their yearning and struggle for freedom and the right to choose are non-Iranian values causing them to be easily persuaded by misguided or selfish leaders in the past to follow the wrong path. Freedom and the right to choose may be non-Islamic, but they are very much “Iranian.” In fact, it is the Islamic teachings that are foreign elements to Iranians. Today, as majority of Iranians know and believe that their country is very near freedom, it is imperative that these misunderstandings and misinformation are corrected as soon as possible. Just as the human civil rights decree was an Iranian accomplishment, so is early political philosophy! Zoroaster, in his hymns The Gathas, teaches:

(YASNA 48) Let those who know how to rule well, and not the evil rulers, rule us! Let them rule us with wisdom – rule us with skill O Piety! O Thou, bring humanity to perfection, and give hallowed blessing for its future life! Let man be active, zealously caring for his land and creatures so that they may flourish… When shall happy life in peaceful pastures come to us through good rule? Who shall bring peace to us from cruel and wicked men? To whom shall the wisdom of the Good Mind come? Such are the saviors of the earth, Who, inspired by the Good Mind, cause betterment, By actions in tune with the laws of Truth and justice….

(YASNA 51) A righteous government is of all the most to be wished for, Bearing of blessing and good fortune in the highest, Guided by the law of Truth, supported by dedication and zeal, It blossoms into the Best of Order… Where shall we find security from threat of harm? Where, compassion for our precarious state? When shall Truth come into its own? Where is the power of Holy Benevolence? Where is the illumination of the Good Mind?… That receiving guidance from Truth, we may work for the welfare of creation, Ever wise in dedication, Ever upright in action, Acknowledging the Teacher of Truth appointed for the just well-being of the people…. (by D. J. Irani,

On the eve of Zoroaster’s birthday, March 26, let all Iranians know that their nation was a pioneer in world civilization before falling into darkness and falsehood. As a people, Iranians have a chance to regain that status and once again inspire many parts of the world that are in decay and anarchy to emerge and follow the path of humanity. Iranians believed the truth, wisdom and human kindness were necessary elements for a good leader, irrespective of gender, and a responsible government. The future leaders of Iran should stand on this platform.

Sheda Vasseghi is on the Board of Azadegan Foundation and is a regular contributor to and on Iran’s Affairs.

Thanks for your great article on subject so badly neglected for so long. I wished everyone reading this would take the time to propagate it through social media like Facebook Twitter etc....

r habibi      10:39 p.m. / Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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