Was the Iranian passport powerful under the Pahlavis regime

History: Iran in the tradition of an ancient world empire

Iran has been a historical antipode of the western world, and not just since its nuclear plans and the Holocaust denials of its president. He was the godfather of Karl Marx's enemy image of oriental despotism as well as of the divorce between Greeks and barbarians, which Herodotus undertook in the 5th century BC under the impression of the opposition between Hellas and the Persian Empire. Even more, when the "father of historiography" attributed the antagonism between Orient and Occident to the war for Troy and the robbery of Europe, then the Persian world power also became constitutive for the self-confidence of the West.

But ancient Persia has not only carved itself into the image that the West also has of its current present, it also shapes the country to this day. It is not for nothing that Iran was able to preserve its language and culture as the only one of the regions subjugated by the Arabs in the 7th century. Even more: the legacy of ancient Persia has an impact on the Islamic world to this day.

It is not without good reason that Iran has been described as a large "passland" (Josef Wiesehöfer). In the west it is bounded by the steep chains of the Zagros Mountains, in the east by the foothills of the Hindu Kush and deserts, which are among the most inhospitable in the world. Over the millennia, the history of the country was determined by human movements that pushed from the steppes north of the Amu Darya into the rich cultural lands of Mesopotamia and India. Medes and Persians are just a few of them.

They belong to those Indo-European speaking immigrants who lived around 1000 BC. Moved to Iran and India. But while the religion and caste system of Hinduism developed with the newcomers on the subcontinent, the hikers in Iran found a different proclamation of God. Presumably at that time Zarathustra preached his belief in Ahura Mazda, the god of good, and his eternal struggle with Ahreman, the lord of evil. In his "hymns", Zarathustra's beliefs have been preserved up to the present day. And although its followers - 25,000 may still be in Iran - are subject to severe oppression, its deeply ethical doctrine, which is essentially a monotheism, is one of the country's identity-creating traditions.

The Achaemenid dynasty appeared in the name of Ahura Mazdas around 550 in southwest Iran, in the so-called Persis. She quickly subjugated the Medes, Babylonians, Egyptians and finally became the mistress of the world.

The Persian Empire was the largest empire in history to date. And it was, as the prophet Isaiah describes it vividly, something fundamentally new. His kings no longer ruled over other gods and their peoples in the name of ancient oriental city gods, but administered the world by letting the subjugated faith and elites. The ancient oriental title "King of Kings" thus got a new sound.

The hollow pomp of the 2500 year celebration of Iranian empire, which Shah Reza Pahlavi celebrated in 1971, belies the fact that the memory of the "kings of kings" has been preserved to this day - as a term for Persian statehood and space Domination. Because the discrepancy between the geographical and cultural borders of Iran already shaped the empire of the Achaemenids. Their centers Persepolis and Susa as well as the old Medes capital Ekbatana lay on the other side of the Zagros. But the "upper" of the satrapies, into which the Achaemenids divided their empire, comprised the actual realm of Iranian culture. This stretched from the borders of India in the east to the Syr Darya in the north and Mesopotamia in the west. It was not for nothing that the empire was ruled from Babylon, later rulers built their palaces in Ctesiphon and Baghdad on the Tigris. The "anabasis", the march into the "upper (high) satrapies", has been describing the conquests of western conquerors since Xenophon. The most famous was Alexander the Great.

The idea that Hellenism would have overlaid all other civilizations in his empire has given way to a more differentiated interpretation today. Especially in the east, Greek and Iranian traditions merged. How much these survived in the shadow of Rome was shown in 250 AD, when the Sassanids, a Persian dynasty, ended the rule of the Parthians over Iran and established a new world power.

In order to legitimize themselves as "kings of kings", the Sassanids appeared entirely as the successors of the Achaemenids. They made Ahura Mazda their god, set in motion the codification of texts ascribed to him and him, and revived ancient Persian traditions (or those that were believed to be). And they covered their neighbors, especially Rome, with war.

It can be taken for granted that the Arab expansion would have failed if it had challenged two intact great powers in the 7th century and not two empires that had exhausted themselves in a decades-long world war in Asia, Africa and Europe. While Byzantium was able to hold Asia Minor and parts of Syria in the long run, the Sassanid Empire collapsed completely.

But in its bankruptcy estate there were influences that made a lasting contribution to Iran's identity. "Iran", the "land of the Aryans", originally a geographical term, became a distant image of the fallen empire and thus a model for the independence of Iran in the Arab world empire. At the same time, the Zagros became the border between the Arabic and Iranian idioms. On this side, the language of the prophet replaced Aramaic, another Semitic language that had been in use in the administration of the empire since the Achaemenids. That the Koran itself was possibly originally written in Aramaic is a thesis that has been discussed for a few years. Beyond the Zagros, however, the Iranian language and culture prevailed, the nucleus of which, Zarathustra's proclamation, was finally granted the status of a book religion by the Muslims. A new one joined these traditions: the Schia.

Although the Arab conquerors left the Sassanid administrative structures in place, they set up another hurdle against the subjugated. Many Iranians, especially the aristocracy and city dwellers, were willing to come to terms with the new masters by converting to Islam. But until the end of the Umayyad dynasty of Damascus, non-Arab believers were not yet on an equal footing with Arab. Those had to join Arabs as mawáli (clients), which made them receptive to oppositional programs. One was formulated by the fourth caliph after Muhammad's death, his son-in-law Ali. During his brief reign he equated the mawáli with the Arabs.

The loyalty with which many Iranians retaliated became world-historical weight after Ali was murdered in 661 and his son Hoseyn was slain by the Umayyads near Karbala in Mesopotamia.

Because the question of whether the successor to Mohammed should have been determined by election, or whether it would only have been his blood relatives to lead the community, divided the community of Muslims. The majority followed the Umayyads, who marked out the space that the Sunni majority of Muslims would rule. A minority, however, still believes today that somewhere in the world there is the true Imam who will redeem the believers with his return as Mahdi. That is the Schia - branching out into several currents. Unlike the Sunnah, it shaped the experience of suffering, oppression and martyrdom. Their centers became the holy places of Karbala and Najaf, where Ali is buried, in what is now southern Iraq. And Iran. In the Shia the self-confidence of its culture should find a religious creed.