Back in June 2009 Neda Agha Sultan was shot by a Basij member. Basij is a so-called volunteer militia that operates in the Islamic Republic of Iran (whenever the authorities want to use violence against the public or need a rent a mob. In reality these people are not volunteers they are on the payroll). She was shot as part of the policy to spread fear amongst peaceful protesters who were upset by the rigged elections. In those days I was watching events live on the internet and broadcasting it wherever I could. I was so moved by watching this event that with the slightest mention of her name I had to force myself and hold back the tears.
Inspired by the poem “Anthem for Doomed youth” by Wilfred Owen on 23rd June 2009 I wrote this poem and created this image of a man with the face of the globe looking behind a distorted glass.
What lamenting cry for you who fell like a leaf?
More howling guns or sound of protesting feet?
What drops should pour for this anguish?
Their tears of Gas? More weeping in blood vanquished?
No mockeries for you; no drink from their martyr’s well,
Nor sound and vision from a TV deaf and blind for those who fell,
No gleam of sorrow from these murderous beasts,
Only a frenzy as they persist their blood feast.
How many candles should we burn to keep your memory alive?
Burn the World with your light or go back to just survive?
You gave your youth, life and beauty,
Shame on us to live but not to do our duty.
Life is just a day, our lives race towards the dusk,
We shall walk your path in freeway, we must until we turn to dust.
Ramin Tork 23rd June 2009
Regained Grandour, a set on Flickr.
Back in 1977 when I was 13, I was fortunate enough to be awarded this comic book titled “Azemat-e Baazyaafteh” (“Restored Grandeur”) by my school. It is perhaps now a collector’s item as it was not sold in shops and I doubt if many copies have survived in Iran. Irrespective of your views on the late king, it is a fun book to read. I will try to scan and send the 62 pages bit by bit.
It just shows that whilst other kids read Superman and Batman comics, we were being nurtured on the milk of politics from an early . I recently saw an exhibition of Soviet Propaganda posters in Tate Modern, London and it was great. It is a shame that with our regular regime change, we destroy a lot of history but If someone ever opens a Museum of Iranian Propaganda in Iran, I might be tempted to donate this book after I’m dead.
In response to BBC Persian‘s 6 greatest Iranians, I have made a list of 10 most influential Iranians as well as depict them in my Art work.
I was happy with the panel’s chosen list and apart from one or two parallel universe moments when Mr Masoud Behnoud was trying to shove-in the despicable and insignificant Mr Khatami into the list the result was in my opinion a respectable choice of 6 great Iranians.
I made the list bigger so that I could allow 4 more and changed it to most influential rather than greatest. I will explain why I added these four.
Khayyam laid the foundation of pragmatist philosophy in our culture. What is more, he expressed this philosophy in beautiful and comprehensible verse.
For the scientific minded, he is a significant mentor.
Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Fārābī os simply known as Farabi
Just as prominent as Avicenna but before him, he was another multimath but I have included him for his contribution towards Persian musical theory. His writing was in Arabic so he is mistakenly recognized as an Arab. He was born in Farab which was then part of Iran and the Greater Khorasan, and he is also claimed by Tajiks who were once Iranians.
Forough’s poetry has laid the foundation of modern Iranian feminism. There have been many prominent Iranian women and I can’t believe that for millenniums old nation a single woman was not chosen. She represents the modern Iranian woman and the Iranian woman is the most significant Iranian cultural phenomena at any time but more so in today’s Iran. Our women have become the significant force against Islamic tyranny and opposition both in and outside Iran.
Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
I have always protested that I prefer the system of republic to monarchy and by the very fact that he was the last king over a nation that was always ruled by kings he should be included.
Non-monarchists have become historically kinder to the late shah ( or at least I have!). To a great extend this is because Iranians paid a heavy price for the Islamic revolution and after 33 years many consider it as one of the worst afflictions to be bestowed on our nation and the nation could had prospered by pushing for reforms rather than bringing a regime that burns everything it touches to the ground.
Does that make Shah better? Well yes, when you review his portfolio without prejudice it does!
Shah was really a custodian rather than a king of an independent nation. The reality is that after WW2 after the allies removed his father he became a western ally that helped to keep the Russians out. He had great significance during the cold war. He was blamed for his part in the 1953 Coup against the popular prime minister Mossadegh and ironically when he rebelled against the Western leaders in OPEC and (thanks to oil wealth) he genuinely set the nation towards prosperity he no longer had the support of people.
Losing popularity from both sides and secretly being ill with cancer allowed a counter revolution to take place in an Iran that was ready to burst. Iranians forget that in his own private corner he was trying to hold a nation together, inch by inch make them more prosperous and through his last prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar let them have democracy.
About the Art work
Cyrus the great – The first Persian King. Made from his declaration of human rights on the famous Cyrus cylinder
Mohhamad Reza Shah Pahlavi – The last Persian king. Made from his speech at Cyrus the great’s tomb.
Ferdowsi – Made from the end poem of Shahnameh were he states he has spread the seeds of persian speech.
Forough – Made from her poem “Another Birth” were she openly professes her love and binding it to all that there is.
Avicenna – Made from a summary of his achievements in various fields of philosophy, medicine etc.
Mossadegh – Made from his speech at the Internation court of Justice defending the nationalisation of oil.
Zarathushtra – Made from Avesta words.
Hafiz – Made from his poem.
Omar Khayyam – Made from his poem.
Farabi – Made from the 12 musical main modal system.
Farabi the great Iranian Multimath. I chose him for his contribution towards musical theory and the foundation of musical Dastgah (Persian 12 musical main modal system) so his image is made from the list.
He was many things including a philosopher, chemist, logician, psychologist, and physicist.
Cyrus the great image made from the ‘first charter of human rights’ on the Cyrus cylinder.
Translation of the Cyrus Cylinder
[When ... Mar]duk, king of the whole of heaven and earth, the ……. who, in his …, lays waste his …….
[........................................................................]broad ? in intelligence, …… who inspects} (?) the wor]ld quarters (regions)
[..............................................................…] his [first]born (=Belshazzar), a low person was put in charge of his country,
but [..................................................................................] he set [a (…) counter]feit over them.
He ma[de] a counterfeit of Esagil, [and .....….......]… for Ur and the rest of the cult-cities.
Rites inappropriate to them, [impure] fo[od- offerings ….......................................................] disrespectful […] were daily gabbled, and, as an insult,
he brought the daily offerings to a halt; he inter[fered with the rites and] instituted […....] within the sanctuaries. In his mind, reverential fear of Marduk, king of the gods, came to an end.
He did yet more evil to his city every day; … his [people ................…], he brought ruin on them all by a yoke without relief.
Enlil-of-the-gods became extremely angry at their complaints, and […] their territory. The gods who lived within them left their shrines,
angry that he had made (them) enter into Shuanna (Babylon). Ex[alted Marduk, Enlil-of-the-Go]ds, relented. He changed his mind about all the settlements whose sanctuaries were in ruins,
and the population of the land of Sumer and Akkad who had become like corpses, and took pity on them. He inspected and checked all the countries,
seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took the hand of Cyrus, king of the city of Anshan, and called him by his name, proclaiming him aloud for the kingship over all of everything.
He made the land of Guti and all the Median troops prostrate themselves at his feet, while he shepherded in justice and righteousness the black-headed people
whom he had put under his care. Marduk, the great lord, who nurtures his people, saw with pleasure his fine deeds and true heart,
and ordered that he should go to Babylon He had him take the road to Tintir (Babylon), and, like a friend and companion, he walked at his side.
His vast troops whose number, like the water in a river, could not be counted, were marching fully-armed at his side.
He had him enter without fighting or battle right into Shuanna; he saved his city Babylon from hardship. He handed over to him Nabonidus, the king who did not fear him.
All the people of Tintir, of all Sumer and Akkad, nobles and governors, bowed down before him and kissed his feet, rejoicing over his kingship and their faces shone.
The lord through whose help all were rescued from death and who saved them all from distress and hardship, they blessed him sweetly and praised his name.
I am Cyrus, king of the universe, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world,
son of Cambyses, the great king, king of the city of Anshan, grandson of Cyrus, the great king, ki[ng of the ci]ty of Anshan, descendant of Teispes, the great king, king of the city of Anshan,
the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel (Marduk)and Nabu love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves. When I went as harbinger of peace i[nt]o Babylon
I founded my sovereign residence within the palace amid celebration and rejoicing. Marduk, the great lord, bestowed on me as my destiny the great magnanimity of one who loves Babylon, and I every day sought him out in awe.
My vast troops were marching peaceably in Babylon, and the whole of [Sumer] and Akkad had nothing to fear.
I sought the safety of the city of Babylon and all its sanctuaries. As for the population of Babylon […, w]ho as if without div[ine intention] had endured a yoke not decreed for them,
I soothed their weariness; I freed them from their bonds(?). Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced at [my good] deeds,
and he pronounced a sweet blessing over me, Cyrus, the king who fears him, and over Cambyses, the son [my] issue, [and over] my all my troops,
that we might live happily in his presence, in well-being. At his exalted command, all kings who sit on thrones,
from every quarter, from the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, those who inhabit [remote distric]ts (and) the kings of the land of Amurru who live in tents, all of them,
brought their weighty tribute into Shuanna, and kissed my feet. From [Shuanna] I sent back to their places to the city of Ashur and Susa,
Akkad, the land of Eshnunna, the city of Zamban, the city of Meturnu, Der, as far as the border of the land of Guti – the sanctuaries across the river Tigris – whose shrines had earlier become dilapidated,
the gods who lived therein, and made permanent sanctuaries for them. I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements,
and the gods of the land of Sumer and Akkad which Nabonidus – to the fury of the lord of the gods – had brought into Shuanna, at the command of Marduk, the great lord,
I returned them unharmed to their cells, in the sanctuaries that make them happy. May all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries,
every day before Bel and Nabu, ask for a long life for me, and mention my good deeds, and say to Marduk, my lord, this: “Cyrus, the king who fears you, and Cambyses his son,
may they be the provisioners of our shrines until distant (?) days, and the population of Babylon call blessings on my kingship. I have enabled all the lands to live in peace.
Every day I increased by [… ge]ese, two ducks and ten pigeons the [former offerings] of geese, ducks and pigeons.
I strove to strengthen the defences of the wall Imgur-Enlil, the great wall of Babylon,
and [I completed] the quay of baked brick on the bank of the moat which an earlier king had bu[ilt but not com]pleted its work.
[I …… which did not surround the city] outside, which no earlier king had built, his workforce, the levee [from his land, in/int]o Shuanna.
[… .......................................................................with bitum]en and baked brick I built anew, and [completed] its [work].
[…...........................................................] great [doors of cedarwood] with bronze cladding,
[and I installed] all their doors, threshold slabs and door fittings with copper parts. [….......................] I saw within it an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me;
[…..................................................................] his … Marduk, the great lord, creator (?) of [ ... ]
[….................................................] my [… I presented] as a gift…………………] your pleasure forever.