Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Middle East history lesson #1

From my friend PD:

"As for Iraq or Mesopotamia, Iraq has never been independent in its history, until the Brits created it out of thin air in 1920. What we call Iraq today was always a part of some larger entity, or it ruled another entity next to it. Iraq and Syria for example can hardly be separated, and you must realize that the Ottoman Turks, who ruled the region for 500 years, unified it fairly well. So that you had Baghdadis living in Istanbul, and that you had Cairenes (Cairo) living in Damascus.

"Just like you had people from Lahore before the partition living in Lucknow or Allahabad and you had People from Bombay trading and working in Karachi and vice versa. Nationalism is the problem in many ways. This is why I like what Arundhati Roy has to say about it this particular "ism" that we tend to cling on to.

"As for Iran, and Persians in Particular, since 3000 years ago they have thought of themselves as a group apart from the rest in their immediate vicinity. This has to do with the fact that when the Indo Aryan tribes came south from southern Russia, the main Eastern branch went towards Ghandhara, a region of Eastern Afghanistan and North West Pakistan and then they descended into the Indo-Gangetic Plain where they supposedly overcame the native Dravidian civilization.

"A smaller part of this tribe instead of heading south, kept on drifting westward, towards the Iranian Plateau and finally had to settle there, because all along their western periphery they had to contend with more established older civilizations that were stronger militarily, like Babylonia, and Assyria, and Uruartu. Okay this is how Iran and India have a common heritage. The later shared Islamic heritage comes much much later. Also for some reason many Indians think that it was the Persians who brought Islam to India. This is an error. They also attribute Islam to Persia. Islam as you know is from the Hejaz region of Arabia, and the Sasanid Persian Empire due to constant warfare with Rome finally succumbed to the Muslim armies by 650 A.D.
Before Islam the religion of Iran Proper was Zoroastrian (like the Parsees) in Mumbai and Pune.

"Before Islam the Religion of what we call Iraq today was primarily Christian (Nestorian) and Chaldean believe it or not. But at the time Iraq (Mesopotamia) was ruled by Persia (Iran) and so the Roman (Christians) did not like the fact that Christian peoples were being ruled by Persians of another faith.

"Sasanid Persia and Byzantine Rome fought more than 26 major wars over three hundred years. The Syrian portion of the Euphrates River became the defacto border between the two empires. On its Eastern border Sasanid Persia constantly fought with Turks and Huns from Central Asia, and she traded extensively with China and India. The border there was near the region of what is today central Afghanistan, including Turkmenistan and ran south to the Arabian Sea. All these "stans" are Persian words for "State of" so Afghanistan means state of the Afghanistan and Uzbekistan means the State of the Uzbeks and so on.

"After that it took about two centuries for Iranians to recover from this blow and to Persianize and Iranianize Islam. The first major Arab Muslim advance towards the Indian Subcontinent did not occur until the 10th-11th centuries under central Asian Turks who had adopted this Islamic-Persian Civilization and brought it to Northern India. These are the people who built the Quteb Minar in Delhi. Later Mughal invasions like that of Akbar in 1526, battle of Panipat where again another tribe of Turks who had adopted Islamic-Persian Culture and came to India with it. Wow somehow I've managed to cover thousands of years of history...His Story..."