Both Dr. Abbas Milani's book "The Persian Sphinx" and Ambassador Fereydoun Hoveyda's "The Shah and the Ayatollah" expand upon their conclusions based on Iranian Mythology, or more specifically their re-interpretation of Iranian Mythology.
Here again, is a good example to present the main thesis of this web site. That these gentlemen's prejudices against Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and our Imperial heritage, and their academic fetish for the idea of "a Republic", clouds their judgment so much so that, what has been 'common' sense interpretation of our history to generations of Iranian's, has been turned upside down and presented to un weary readers as the basis to promote their old political theories for contemporary consumption.
From the Shah and Ayatollah: “Of all causes of the Revolution,
the role of Iranian mythology in the life of the nation is most noteworthy…
. Understanding the root cause of the Revolution in 1979 involves a deciphering
of this rich mythology. ….. For example, the place and role of the
“father” in Iranian society is very different from that of
other Middle Eastern patriarchs and tribal chieftains, as it is a divergence
from the Western model as well. Iranian’s “father myth”
is the exact opposite of the Oedipus legend. You will recall that Dr Abbas
Milani discussed this in the book about my brother, the
Persian Sphinx. He mentions that in the western Oedipus myth, the
son kills the father. But in the Iranian Shahnameh, the father, Rostam,
kills his son, Sohrab. It is a metaphor for the victory of the patriarch.
The Iranian “father” is an omnipotent autocratic figure whose
authority cannot be questioned by his offspring. His absolute power is
ingrained in Iranian mythology and is a major key in understanding what
has happened in that nation”.
To be honest, it is sickening to have to deal with such an interpretation in deciphering of the Rostam and Sohrab myth. Let me briefly present this myth, and expand on it again, to show you Fereydoun Hoveyda and Abbas Milani are in fact attempting to uproot our national culture by propagating falsehoods.
A baby boy born with white hair and being rejected by his mother is taken by “Symorgh” (mythic bird symbol of the creator’s plan) to a mountaintop and is raised there. Later on, the son of this boy, Rostam, becomes the most powerful hero in the Iranian legends, and is assigned the job of putting down the Turanian attacks. In one of his hunting occasion near Samangan, a city of Turan, after hunt and feast, while relaxing, he goes to sleep. When he wakes up, he does not find his horse. In search of the horse, he reaches Samangan. When the Shah of Samangan learns of Rostam’s arrival, he welcomes him. At bedtime, Tahmineh, the beautiful daughter of the Shah of Samangan, goes to Rostam’s bedroom and tells him that he has such a world-wide fame of power and good behaviour that she wishes to be married to him and have a well-bred child from him. Rostam noticing that in addition to having beauty, she is learned too, asks a “Mubed”(Zoroastrian clergy) to request the Shah of Samangan for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Shah of Samangan appreciates this and a well-deserved marriage ceremony is arranged.
After the marriage, Rostam goes to Zabolestan. When departing, Rostam gives his armband to Tahmineh and tells her that if their child is a daughter to use it as her hair decoration, and if it is a boy, to use it as his armband, as his father did.
The child of this blessed marriage, Sohrab, is raised in Turan Zamin. At the age of 18, not only is he taller and stronger than the greatest Turanian historic heroes, but also he is taller and stronger than the greatest of Iranian legendary heroes, Rostam, and is assigned by the Shah of Turan to lead the war against Iran.
When these two heroes face each other to fight, Sohrab tries hard to find out the identity of his opponent. Rostam hides his identity and suffices to rhetoric and boasts about himself. They engage in different types of fighting. While wrestling, Sohrab, being the stronger, pushes Rostam to the ground. Rostam, cunningly, tries a trick and requests to be excused and be given a second opportunity. In the next move when Rostam pushes Sohrab to the ground, he does not give Sohrab a similar opportunity and pushes his dagger into his side. When Sohrab tells his opponent that you killed me, but you will not be able to get away with this when you meet my father, Rostam. Rostam is shocked and when he sees his armband on Sohrab’s arm, he notices that he has killed his own son.
To present Rostam’s killing of his son in a myth that as put by Ferdowsy “del e nazok as Rostam aayad be khashm” (anyone with a sensitive heart would be angry with Rostam) and which clearly presents the superiority of the son and suffering of the father who through trickery and diverting from truthfulness kills his son, and to use this myth as a metaphor for omnipotent autocratic “father” whose authority can not be questioned by his off-springs, in order to hint that the Iranian Monarchy is inherently dictatorial, and to justify the Revolution is beyond belief!
Again I must re-iterate, Mr. Hoveyda, the Shah did NOT kill your brother.
When those who had access to foreign classified documents that indicate foreign intrigues make such comments, it shows that their moral standards have gone as low as the moral standards of their new compatriots.
To appreciate the role of the “father figure” in Iranian mythology, one should learn how a society is formed, the function of leadership in a society, how the leadership is formed, the reasons for symbolization of leadership, how the different social forces act in a society, the forces that bring people together, the forces that create discrimination, forces of competition, the force of lust for power, etc.
When they noticed the unconscious effect of the characteristics of the “father figure” on the followers, the creation of the symbolic “father figure” became a solution to co-existence of groups of people with different languages, different religions and different ways of life. To solve the question of co-existence in a multi-cultural society, symbolization of the leader became a way of creating a general approach to life among different sub-cultures. Through accepting hereditary leadership, stability of the culture was safeguarded. Hereditary leadership also acted as a solution to the struggle of those hungry for power and those hungry for plunder. Accepting the leadership as a “father figure” which has a social position above all religious and ideological leaders was to create a counter-balance against the totalitarian religious or ideological rule which forced one groups views on the others, and to safeguard freedom of expression, and dialogue between different cultures, aimed at the improvement of knowledge and moral standards for the good of all.
Implying dictatorship to the Iranian mythological and historical “father figure” is a misrepresentation of history and should not be mistaken with the absolute totalitarian rule of God, which appeared in Iran two millennium later (or absolute totalitarian ideological rule, of the sorts promoted by Dr. Milani, that attempted to seize power in the past).
Ambassador Hoveyda goes on and states in the interview about the Shah and Ayatollah book, "The Shah, like Jamshid, became a despotic autocrat, with identical, tragic result. ….. All of this shows that there must be a complete break with the circular past. There must be a political and cultural alternative in Iran that is neither Achamenid kingship nor Islamic theocracy, but the development of an honest Republic. ….. But it must not be an attempted copy of European or American constitutional models, but a constitutional republican model that takes account of the unique role and influence of the Iranian mythologies."
After the deranged comment on the mythology of Rostam and Sohrab, discussed earlier, one should not be surprised to see the most celebrated Iranian mythical figure “Jamshid” being presented by Hoveyda as a metaphor for a despotic autocrat. Does he not know that Iranian myths created the Hakhamaneshi Shahanshahi? Does he not know that Judaism accepted Kurosh as a God sent saviour? Does he not know that Arabia, Cartage, independent Mediterranean islands and the countries north of Greece, voluntarily requested to pay “Kharaj” (tax) and become Iranian Satrapees (Province)? Does he not know that all the various religious establishments got the most support during the Hakhamaneshi Shahanshahi? Does he not himself mention that the Iranian identity survived Greek hordes under Alexander? So why should the upholder of freedom of expression be called a despotic autocrat by him, unless he is influenced by the enemies of Iranian culture.
If he has any doubt on these matters, he should read Herodotus’ (the Greek historian born within the confines of the vast Persian Empire, often called the father of Western history). Herodotus states "in this book, I hope to do two things. To preserve the memory of the past by putting on record the astonishing achievements both of our own and of the Asiatic people. Secondly and more importantly, to show how the two races came into conflict." He goes on to explain that by Asia he means both Persians and the lands dominated by them. It seems Herodotus a Greek from 2400 years ago has a better appreciation of our Cultural Heritage than Ambassador Hoveyda, Ambassador, no less, of the Pahalvi dynasty of Iran.
When he addresses His Imperial Majesty the ShahanShah AryaMehr of Iran, as “this man”, a despotic autocrat, was he himself not His Majesty’s Ambassador to the UN. Does this not reflect his own duplicity?
When he says, “he (the Shah) took the credit for any and all of the advances made in Iran. He forgot the group of liberal reformers within his country, which included Amir Abbas...", was it not Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the prime minister, who constantly expressed his honour in executing His Majesty’s wishes (the “manviaateh mobarakeh molukaneh”) and announcing his pride of the Shah’s motives for the future of the country? Is Mr Hoveyda not aware of symbolism and does he reject the creation of national identity?
What were those liberal reformers able to carry out when the shah left the country Ambassador Hoveyda?
Why criticise the departure of the Shah, when those liberal reformers were insisting that His Majesty should leave the country, and His Majesty who had to leave the country due to urgent medical necessity, related to his terminal illness, transferred the power to those liberal reformers? When he presents the Shah as a despotic autocrat and refers to an admirable legacy for his brother, is he creating a legacy or is he insulting Amir Abbas who acted as the main player in this alleged blame? Does His Majesty’s order that no blood should run from the nose of the opposition, reflect a despotic character?
The problem with Fereydoun Hoveyda's worldview is that he does not actually apply the theory that he himself so elegantly builds and thereby reaches the wrong conclusion.
When Hoveyda tells us: "There must be a political and cultural alternative in Iran that is neither Achaemenid Kingship nor Islamic theocracy, but the development of an honest Republic.... but it not be an attempted copy of European and American constitutional models, but a constitutional republican model that takes account of the unique role and influence of Iranian mythologies"
One is rather baffled, since one form of modern democracy that closely captures the essence of Iranian epics is a modern constitutional monarchy. Why should we drop it?
Hoveyda's disdain of constitutional monarchy seems to be based on the mythical model of the Iranian King. First he depicts the legend of Jamshid (Mohammed Reza Shah), the good patriot king who succumbed to his own vanity and therefore lost to Zahak (Khomeini). From there Hoveyda generalizes the conclusion that the Achaemenid prototype of Kingship is internally flawed since even a good king will end up in self-deification and eventually self-destructs.
Even though he provides no further qualification of the inevitability that ALL good kings of Iran will eventually turn out bad, the problem with Hoveyda's argument is he is selective in his choice of legends. Who defeated Zahak?
Was not it Fereydoun, an enlightened Prince of Iran who was raised amongst the people who led the people's insurrection against Zahak, the foreign evil invader who ate the brains of Iran's youth?
My unfortunate conclusion is that Hoveyda's selective choice of legends is based on personal animosities and not unbiased rationality. The unintended but logical conclusion of Hoveyda's argument is however far more damaging than it looks on the surface since it leads to the wholesale annihilation of all Iranian cultural traditions, good and bad.
The Mullahs say throw out Shirin and keep Layli. Hoveyda says throw both away and embrace Jill (Of Jack and Jill fame) for Shirin and Layli both belong to history. I ask why should not we Iranians keep Shirin and shed Layli?
Why should not we Iranians have our Fereydoun? My answer is Shirin, Fereydoun and a constitutional monarchy do the same exact job that their western counterparts do in their respective societies as far as principles are concerned. Our native or epic models of modernity have however a far better chance of success because they belong to our culture.
Hoveyda's rationale behind the "verdict" that he renders on Reza Pahlavi is even more detrimental. He argues that Reza Pahlavi is doomed because his father left Iran and did not stay back and he himself is superficial.
If Iran's miseries are rooted in its patriarchal society why would a Modern man revisit the perceived sins of the father on the son? If the Rostam Complex is about the old guard crushing the young in the bud and thereby hindering natural progress why would an experienced diplomat lash out on a young freedom fighter rather than offering him the benefit of his counsel?
Hoveyda is completely within his rights if he favors a secular republic to a constitutional monarchy. The issue is how does discrediting Reza Pahlavi help that cause? Especially at this point of time when the young heir to the throne is trying to put consensual government in his place via a multi-staged National Referendum under International Observation?
Reza Pahlavi is calling for a Referendum not the automatic reinstitution of monarchy. A secular republican and a constitutional monarchist have far more in common than any of them might have with the so called Islamic Republic. It is sad but Hoveyda, the cosmopolitan intellectual, the sole survivor of the original signatories of the Declaration of Human Rights reduces himself to a Calabrese Don out on a family vendetta.
For the record, Mr. Hoveyda, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi did NOT betray your brother. The real culprit is not even that miserable psychopath Sadegh Khalkhali. Secular Iranian intellectuals hatched the plot for the murder of Amir Abbas Hoveyda, your brother and our friend years before 1979.
The day, Iranian intellectuals gave up on the ideals of reconstructing Iran's infrastructure before attempting revolutionary political change is when your brother's countdown started. The day when Iranian lay intellectuals did not challenge Ali Shariati or Al Ahmad's gibberish, thinking, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is when they gave the first bullet to your brother's assassin. The day when educated Iranians gave up on a secular consensus and started to fight amongst each other rather than talk to each other oblivious to "Zahak" waiting at the door; that is the day Amir Abbas Hoveyda and his vision for Iran were lynched.
Mr. Hoveyda, in our tradition we have another archetype called "Pir e Farzaneh", the Sage Old Man. That is a long line of men from Bozorgmehr to Foroughi to Seddighi. The Iranian Pir's most distinguishing features are not just his science but also the unity of his thoughts and deeds. I always knew that you had the first part that is knowledge; I had hoped that you would have the second part, which is ethics (Fazilat). I still hope that true to the legacy of your last name you will be the healer of the secular consensus not the divider.
Hameh Dar Havayeh Fereydoun Bodand
You can contact the author via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org