Ethnicity Paper: Iran
Each individual comes from a unique family bloodline that goes back literally to ancient history. It's easy to not think about such things with the every day lives we lead today. However, to fully understand who a person is, it is important to understand where they come from.
My ethnicity is Iranian on my father's side. My dad is my only family member from Iran living in the United States. He was born in Tehran, Iran, which is the capital and I still have family living in the area today. My dad left Iran to come to college here in the United States in 1978.
Iran is in the center of the Middle East bordered by Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Depending on the location within the country the climate varies. In the desert areas the climate is hot and dry, especially in south Iran. The winters can be subfreezing temperatures for a few months out of the year, especially in areas where the two main mountain chains, Alborz and Zaggros are located. In places like the capital, Tehran, in the center of the country winters are less extreme and summers are generally warmer. There are four distinctive seasons: fall, winter, summer, and a long spring. Most people know of the chaos that Iran has been involved with in history. Examples are the Iranian hostage crisis or even more frequently known as the place of nuclear weapon development. The people and the genuine culture of the country are different than the world-wide view. One typical characteristic that Iran is known for is their handmade Persian carpets. A plethora of places around the world display these extraordinary works of art.
The main subsistence strategies used today in Iran are Agriculture and Industrialism. Agriculture was the main source for many aspects of Iran including employment, food, foreign exchange, and raw materials. However, due to the low amount of area able to be used for growing crops, the production has declined over the last twenty-five years. The most efficient area of production is by the coast near the Caspian Sea. Despite the low decline per capita, food production has doubled for the country. Wheat is the main crop grown in Iran, but other common foods are, sugar beets, rice, saffron, onions, pistachios, and barley. An irrigation system is used only for rice. Everything else is planted by hand using hoes, rakes, shovels, and hoses. The labor is mainly done by farmers who are generally lower class workers. They spend all day working in the fields during the planting season and continue to work and maintain the crops.
Industrialism is defined in two different ways in Iran: small businesses and the more prominent, larger-scale businesses. From the smaller businesses come goods that are handmade and unique like Persian rugs, pottery, paintings, sculptures, and tile, architecture and construction materials. These products are used to make life more efficient for the people. From transportation, agriculture needs, to households, and national defense. Looking at the bigger picture, larger employment manufacturers are mainly around for the economy's use because they are merely oil refineries. These companies basically keep the economy flowing because of the nationwide demand of the substance. These are found in many locations of the country unlike the smaller businesses that mainly conduct in more rural areas. Machinery is used to pump and distribute the oil.
The culture is politically organized by a dictator who has the main say over the decisions in the government. Much like the system used in the United States of America, Iran's political system consists of the same three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Second to the dictator is the President of Iran who runs for four year terms. Currently the President is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who just won in the elections held June 2009. He has the privilege of choosing vice presidents and 21 cabinet ministers out of the 86 total bodies. The people have minimal to no power over what of authority of the government in any efforts to get someone to listen and stop the total control. Unfortunately, the Totalitarianism regime does not tolerate this behavior very long and reacts with violent methods and tries to instill fear in the people. The political system is centralized; however, the people have no control over yielding their personal sovereignty. In the first five years of the Islamic Republic of Iran, journalism and press related means have been given more rights but are still under close watch of the authorities. Boys are required to do two years of military service after graduating high school. After this time, it is up to the individual to either stay and continue to higher ranks or get out and move on with future endeavors.
The country has been a part of many historical events, both world-wide and internal. The main religious belief that is followed is absolute monotheism, or the belief in one and only one God. The majority of Iranians follow Islam or Muslim. There are also other minor religions co-existing within the country, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Zartosht. For those that are followers of Islam, their days already have a ritual plan. At three points during their days they pray. Once before sunrise, at noon, and at sunset in the evening. They attend Mosque, which is an Islamic version of a church, several times a day but mainly for the last two prayers of the day. Many people attend the Mosque and it is always very crowded. The service is held by a speaker who leads the people in their daily prayers and in some cases tea is passed around. There are many public celebrations in the Islamic religion when it comes to the birthdays of the prophets, like Mohammad. Ramadan is a type of fasting that occurs for an entire month once a year. Right before sunrise the followers stop eating and they fast all day until after sunset when they allow themselves to eat again. This practice is supposed to teach the Muslim people patience and spirituality.
Two out of the three types of economic exchange occur in Iran's dealings with foreign nations. First reciprocity because it involves no surplus which is what the exchange with oil is. The second being market exchange because goods are traded in certain cases for other goods according to the demand of certain products. Generalized reciprocity applies because the exchange isn't at a specific time it depends on the product that is needed and how often. A combination of the two contemporary economic systems are present in Iran's economic system. The government runs the economics in the country, but people are able to have private ownership of businesses and homes. There are a few different sectors including the state sector and the financial sector. When estimated in the year 2006, Iran's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased six percent from the year 2005 at US$194.8 billion.
Religion's relationship to the other secondary institutions of culture is valid. Social organization in this society is vivid when looking at how precise the prayer times are arranged. Every individual who follows the beliefs of the Islamic religion attends Mosque daily with fellow peers of the same belief and ritual. The country is currently run by an Islamic leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who enforces the religious aspects on the people from a powerful standpoint. This is a major part of the political system of Iran because the people do not have the strength to change this regime. There is a controversial crescent moon and star symbol that is mistaken to be originated in the Islam religion. Due to the immediate spread and culture diffusion, it became known as an Islamic symbol by mistake.
Generally, monogamy is the most common type of marriage seen in Iran. However, if there is difficulty when it comes to having children it is not uncommon for a husband to take another wife to bear his children, in which case the situation would change to a polygymy or known in the Iranian culture as a havu relationship. Marriages are habitually arranged between the man's family and the woman's parents. The proposal is discussed, and if accepted the ceremonial processes begin. The more modern way of marriage is starting to become more conventional, therefore, more men and women are choosing who they are going to marry. Before getting married the individuals must go through a blood test and receive a certificate clarifying compatibility and genetic diseases. The festivities that occur before the wedding, such as engagement parties and specific food gatherings between families, depends upon the subculture of the family. The Islamic law does not have an exact practice code, however, they can intervene if they feel something is not being followed accordingly. After the wedding ceremony, the woman does not typically change her name and even in the case that she does, she still goes by her birth name in public. A newly married woman is expected to bear the children, be giving and trustworthy, prepare food, and take care of the primary needs of the family. Living with an extended family at this point is very normal. The in-laws to the woman are much more demanding than the new husband, especially the mother in-law who is often controlling in order to teach the new wife how to behave. It is becoming more common to live the westernized way of living as a nuclear family, separately from the rest of the family.
Family is the most important thing to the people in the Iranian culture. It provides an individual with several aspects that define who they are and gives a sense of stability. Food gatherings with extended family are very common and there is always a plentiful amount of food. Women are not able to be as independent as they would like because of human rights in the country. Head covers called hijab, have to be worn anytime in public places and shirts with full length sleeves to the wrists are mandatory. Men are traditionally the providers to their family and continue to be the more dominant element in the household. Kin is referred to by generation, meaning each group is recognized according to the time they are living, but still share strong connections to the generations still alive and respect those who are ancestors. Descent is traced by a double membership, but more so by bilateral kinship which means the children have relationships with both the mother's and father's families. There are four social classes that divide the people of Iran: the upper class, the middle class, the working class, and the lower class. The middle class holds 32 percent of the people, the working class holds 45 percent of the people, and the lower class holds on average 40 to 50 percent of the people.
Something I found interesting while doing research was that my uncle is best friends with the famous singer and actor, Dariush Eghbali, they have been friends since childhood. Another thing I found interesting is how influential Iranian poetry has been throughout history. Not just on its own culture specifically, but on other nations such as India and Turkey. They style of the many Iranian poems is similar to that of Arabic. Around the time of the revolution in the late 1970's, the country was in chaos and the people were not sure who to believe. One thing that happened quite frequently during this time was the occurrence of theater burnings conducted by the Islamic activists who were not happy with the shah. Due to the large amounts of theaters that were destroyed, people began to feel negative all together about cinema. In fact, it made the film industry in Iran non-existent, mainly because of the new government's authority.
I chose the article to go along with my research project because it is an example of how the worldview of Iran tends to be: hostile, when really Iran is a beautiful country filled with a lively spirit and genuine people.
Abrahamian, Ervand. A History of Modern Iran. New York: Cambridge University Press,2008. Print.
Curtis, Glenn E., and Eric Hooglund, eds. Iran a country study. 5th ed. Baton Rouge:Claitor's Publishing Division, 2008. Print.
Daniel, Elton L., and Ali A. Mahdi. Culture and Customs of Iran. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006. Print.
Kinzer, Stephen. All the Shah's Men. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003. Print.
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CNN. CNN Pentagon Correspondent, 2 Apr. 2010. Web. 3 Apr. 2010.<http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/0402/iran.taliban.weapons/index.html>
“In side Iran documentaries -Part 1 to Part 6” 02 September 2009. Online video. Youtube.com. Accessed on 02 April 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDgTA5pFnEY&feature=related