Who is shameless, Mr. Holland?
Yet another article, in the series of articles on the British Museum’s “Forgotten Empire” exhibition, where the occasion is used to give vent to more venom against the Pahlavis. This one is an article published by Britain’s New Statesman, titled “The Persian Renaissance” and written by a certain Tom Holland. It’s similar to Hywel Williams’ article in The Guardian, but as you’ll see, somewhat more ambitious.
Holland writes of the Pahlavis’ unforgivable sin of reviving the Iranians’ sense of pride in their own history and their own ancestors,
“The Pahlavi dynasty, keen to identify itself with such A-list predecessors, exploited the glories of the Persian empire with shameless gusto.”
Holland, naturally, does not explain the details of this process of self-identification for fear of involving himself in complications; nor does he explain why celebrating, or as he puts it, “exploiting”, Iranian history is shameful. The Pahlavis were Iranians; why shouldn’t they have celebrated Iran’s past? The notion that the Pahlavis celebrated the Persian Empire for self-serving reasons (according to Holland it was the characteristic of “Persian imperialism” that most appealed to the Shah!) has served the enemies of Iran well, and continues to be propagated regardless of protests and evidence to the contrary provided by Iranians themselves.
In a recent interview, for instance, Iranian scholar Shojaeddin Shafa observed, “The Reza Shah [Pahlavi] period was not merely a change from one century to another, but also of one era to another era. During this period, an Iran molded from the beginning of the Safavid to the end of the Qajar period---itself influenced by a pre-Safavid era dominated by Arab, Turkish, Mongol and Tatar rule---would give way to another Iran, one which for the first time since the Samanids, looked for Her true Iranian roots, and struggled to regain its Iranian identity next to its Islamic identity.”
“Now, more than 25 years after the Islamic revolution, the [Islamic] government has finally shown itself willing to follow in the shah's footsteps and capitalise upon the glories of its country's ancient past for diplomatic ends.”
Mohamad Reza Shah Pahlavi did capitalize upon Iran’s ancient past, but did he do so for “diplomatic” ends? Should not a commentator who wants his readers to believe that he did, have the decency to explain what those diplomatic ends were, especially as Iranian accounts, if one bothers to take them into consideration, speak of the Shah’s, and the Iranian government’s intention to put their nation on the world’s cultural map, and to encourage tourism and foreign investment? Amazing how when it comes to Iran, that which is most obvious is not even considered.
As to the compliment that common thugs and criminals who are the officials of the Islamic Republic are following in the Iranian King’s footsteps, one has only to look at the record of these anti-Iranians to realize that, unlike the government which they overthrew, they are exploiting Iran’s ancient past for diplomatic ends, and purely for self serving reasons. Could Holland be so ignorant of the character of the Islamic Republic and its Jihad against Iranian culture? No; but such facts are not very conducive to his purpose. Note how before paying the Islamists this similarity-in-motives compliment, he whitewashes their record. He writes,
“When the last shah was toppled in the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned the millennia-old traditions of Persian kingship as explicitly un-Islamic. One excitable mullah went so far as to suggest that Persepolis, the best preserved of all the ancient palaces, be bulldozed to the ground…But the revolutionary government, even at its most militantly theocratic, would never have countenanced such vandalism. The ayatollahs are no Taliban, and most Iranians, whose sense of national identity has survived countless upheavals, retain a deep sense of pride in ancestors who successfully forged history's first world empire.”
Holland must understand Robin Coningham (Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bradford)’s statement last November, that ”90% of the major archaeological sites in…Iran have been looted,” to signify the Shiite Taliban’s intolerance towards “such” vandalism! (Note the clever manner in which the ayatollahs are made to appear as a subset of most Iranians.) How else is one to counter such lies, but to suggest to the reader to do his own research on archeological vandalism under the Islamic Republic. As to Holland, his new book, which is about ancient Iran (Persian Fire), has received the seal of approval by the Islamic Republic.