Sunday, March 21

Persia, Visited

We spend this afternoon with Darius and Liz celebrating the Iranian New Year. Their son, Cyrus, (pictured, center, with Joe and Eitan) is Eitan's school pal and a maths genius (says Eitan). The Iranian custom, I learn, to welcome the New Year visiting family and friends from oldest to youngest. The women prepare food anticipating 30 guests for lunch and dinner. Darius moved to London at age-16 in 1978; his family from Esfahan in the center of the country where they were farmers and landowners - "As a child, we would get on our horses and ride for days hunting or visiting friends. Nobody worried about us. If tired we would find a house and they would celebrate our arrival - they were my father's servants." By '78, Darius had passed his exams with honours and on his way to University - "we thought we would be in the UK for a couple of months then return home. After a year, my father said we had to get on with our education." This meant entering a school and getting a job - his first: transporting equipment for a famous American celebrity photographer ("all we did was party") while his older brother found the casinos and eventually gambled away their inheritance. Today Darius tells me that visiting Iran sees tension with his peers and elders who accuse of of failing Iran during the war with Iraq - "some people are very angry but I would be one more statistic. Many people died and some cities just emptied."

The Iran-Iraq war, also known as the Imposed War and Holy Defense, began when Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980 following a long history of border disputes and fears of Shia insurgency among Iraq's long-suppressed Shia majority influenced by the Iranian Revolution. Iraq aimed to replace Iran as the dominant Persian Gulf state. Iraq hoped to take advantage of Iran's revolutionary chaos and attacked without warning - Iraq made limited progress over several months then repelled by the Iranians who regained almost all lost territory by 1982. For the next six years, Iran was on the offensive. Hostilities ended in 1988 and the last prisoners of war exchanged in 2003.

The toll massive: a half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers and civilians dead with many more maimed or injured. The war's tactics compared to WWI, including trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches, human wave attacks across no-mans land and use of chemical weapons like mustard gas against Iranian troops and civilians and Iraqi Kurds. The UN Security Council condemned the use of chemical weapons but Iraq never mentioned by name; consequently there is a lingering belief that the US prevented the UN from condemning Iraq. (Abrahamian, Ervand, "A History of Modern Iran," Cambridge)

Madeleine stuck on her homework.
Sonnet: "Tell us what you did at the British Museum?"
Me: "I saw some stuff."
Sonnet: "Tell me some more, a bit more articulately."
Madeleine: "We saw some stuff."
Sonnet: "Can you think of three or four specific things?"
Madeleine: "We saw Ginger [the carrot top mummy]. The Rosetta Stone. And lunch. We also went to Rome, but we were lost and thought it was Egypt."