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  • Writer's pictureMeenakshi Sharan

Fight For Freedom From Hijab, How the Iranian women yearn for their pre-Islamic past.

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Iran stands at the crossroads of history today. Its youth continues to fight to lead a life their ancient ancestors lived, a life of freedom and pride.

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, in his separate 73-page judgement in the Karnataka hijab ban case, has stated that hijab is a girl’s choice and asking her to remove it is an invasion of her privacy. Also, All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) secretary Saifullah Rahmani stated that the verdict supports a girl’s individual liberty.

In this backdrop, one wonders if the ongoing anti-hijab protests in Iran are also “a girl’s individual choice and liberty”.

Today, statements of 20-year-old Rona from Tehran, and many young Iranians, prove right what I’d heard from some Persian friends a few years ago — that the Persians are very proud of their ancient history and culture; they disliked being identified with the Arabs invaders who enforced Islam and its customs upon them.

“Arabs have tried for centuries to finish our race and culture, our language, poetry, music, art, literature, sciences and philosophy but failed. We’ve not forgotten the sacrifices of our heroic men and women; we will overcome this fanatic primitive government one day. Persia shall rise from her ashes like Simorgh of Shahnameh to regain her ancient Persian glory,” said my Persian friend, Farnaz Safaei.

“We aren’t weak, like other young women across the world. We too love makeup, Hollywood movies and life. All we get is humiliation. The police on the streets of Iran call us names, sluts, naked and worse… We want freedom from the fanatic primitive regime. Shouting Zan, Zendegi, Azadi, I could picture Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime being crushed by every girl on the streets.

We threw our hijabs into the flames. Police released teargas, shot rubber pellets at us. We ran to the residential buildings where families gave us water to drink and said they were proud to see us fight. Despite being hit, on Friday today, I am getting dressed to join the protest again and tell the world that we are alive and fighting,” said 20-year-old Rona, from Tehran.

Over 1,200 women and girls, including 16-year-old Nika Shahkarami whose nose was smashed and skull broken, and 22-year-old Mahsa Amini have been brutally killed so far and many arrested because they were protesting against forced hijab.

Fighting for their freedom, they remind me of the 22-year-old Rani of Jhansi who bravely laid down her life fighting for the freedom of her motherland.

Persian women back in the day Back in the 240 AD, the Persian Sassanid Queen Azadokht Shahbanu had amazed the Romans with her sword fighting skills, the Romans had never before seen women soldiers fighting alongside men. The daughter of King Yazdgird III’s general, Apranik (620–655 AD), and her white horse to this day remain a symbol of Persian resistance and freedom because she fought the invading Arabs even after the Persian Empire fell. She relentlessly fought guerrilla wars against the Arabs whom she called “desert rats” who went into hiding after raids. Sticking to her principle of “no retreat, no surrender”, she fought till her last breath, like Rani Lakshmibai. Many Persian women fought alongside their men against the barbaric Arab oppressors choosing to be cut by enemy sword rather than becoming their sex slaves. Persia was never truly Arabised or Islamised. “Arabs destroyed our religion but Persian culture conquered them. Like India, Persia too didn’t become an Arab country in spite of various invasions and foreign rule. Persia has retained its own strong identity,” said Neda Hoseini.

Indo-Persian Connect Though they were made to forget that Cyrus of their pre-Islamic past whom they so admire, was called Kurus and his father Kamboja, in ancient Persian texts, Persians have retained memories of their pre-Islamic past, of Cyrus and Darius, of Persepolis, Ctesiphon and of Zarathushtra! By terming our scriptures mythology, Hindus too were made to forget that the Valmiki Ramayan mentions Kambhoj, Bahliks and the Pahlavas/ Parthians, the Pahlavi speaking people in today’s western Iran, north western and north eastern Iran which was then Uttarapath of Bharatvarsh. Bharatvarsh that extended in the west including modern Egypt, Afghanistan, Balochistan, Iran, Sumeria up to Caspian Sea, was the Greater India and the Indian subcontinent extending from Himalayas in the north to Kanyakumari in the south was known as Bharat Khand. Kuru, Gandhar and Kamboj were amongst the 16 Mahajanapadas of those times. Modern history records that Parthians of West Asia and south-east of the Kashyap Samudra (now called Caspian Sea) established their dynasty in 247 BC after overthrowing Seleucids who were the principal heir of Persia after Alexander. The Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, (1941-1979) called himself a proud Arya like Shri Ram of Surya Vansh. The first Sanskrit text to be translated into Pahlavi was Panchatantra during the reign of Khosru Anushiravan in 570 AD and was titled Kalile va Demne.

Arabs set their eyes on Persia: 634 AD The history of Persia after 651 AD can be defined in three words: Misery, massacre, and oppression! Zoroastrian Persia was vandalised and Zoroastrianism wiped out from the land of its birth. Libraries, universities and schools were destroyed, books were burnt or thrown in the river, Euphrates ran black with ink from the books. Persian from Gondishapour university translated some books into Arabic to save them, one rare Pahlavi writing of the Sassanid era that survived was Khodai-namak. Arab commander Saad ibn-e Abi Vaghas wrote to Caliph Omar about the huge library of Ctesiphon, “only the Koran is sufficient, the blasphemous books should be burnt” came the reply. Scholars, historians, writers, Zoroastrian priests were massacred; 130,000 Persian women and children were enslaved and sold in Mecca and Medina, the enslaved converts were called Mavali/ liberated slaves.

Persian Resistance Namraq and Kasker Battles, 634 AD Not many are aware of the fact that the first nation to wage bloodied battles against the desert hounds was Persia. When the Arabs captured the town of Hira, a reconnaissance force was sent to save the people of the border areas of Euphrates river, the Arabs on camels retreated into the desert in Namraq, the modern day Kufa. Drawing the Persians on horses into an unfamiliar terrain, they treacherously defeated them. Subterfuge was used to overwhelm the Persians general Narsi at Kasker forcing his army to retreat beyond the Euphrates. Bridge Al Jisr Battle, 636 AD Persians used elephants this time to trample the Arabs, retreating invaders were chased right up to Tigris river. The Persians stopped at the bridge of Tigris and did not follow the invaders into the Arabian desert, wasting an opportunity to hunt them down in their own homeland. Battle of Ghadasia, 637 AD

The tradition of fighting after sundown was breached for the first time in the history of the world. In the four-day-long battle, the Persians led by General Rustam-e-Farrokhzad were attacked throughout the third night. The Arab contingent was lured to defect from the Persian army and were made to cut off girdles of the elephants’ seats, blind the elephants in one eye to cause disorder and open passages for the Muslims to advance into the Persian ranks. General Rustam was beheaded, his decapitated body riddled with arrows, his severed head pierced on a spear was paraded to the Persian army, a sight even the war-hardened Persian army was not used to. Persians were killed to the last man. Yazdegerd III was the last Sasanian King of Kings of Iran from 632 to 651. He sent an emissary to the Arabs approaching Ctesiphon. He sent a peace proposal “on the condition that the Tigris be the boundary between you and us, and whatever you have gained on the western side be yours.” “Persians could have peace only if they accepted Islam, or the sword could decide…”, came the reply. Yazdegerd withdrew to the fortress of Hulwan and finally to Merv where he died fighting the Muslims in 651 AD. The White Palace was captured, the commandant of the retreating Persian Emperor was beheaded, his head displayed to the Persian captives. The old were given the choice of Islam or death, young girls and boys were taken slaves and distributed amongst the Arabs as war booty. When Yazdegerd was retreating, unfortunately his three-year-old daughter Shahr Banu was left behind. The Arabs presented her to the Caliph Umar, who in turn gifted her to 32-year-old Ali as maal-e-ganimat (slaves obtained by Muslims after a war), as his concubine! Princess Shahr Banu mothered Hassan and Husain, the two sons of Ali. Their descendants founded the Shia sect, the reason why most Persians are Shias who to this day yearn for the return of pre-Islamic times. The credit for the so-called Islamic renaissance, of calligraphy, astronomy, literature, etc, goes to the Persian converts, and not to the Arabs, who built Baghdad on the ruins of Ctesiphon. Iran stands at the crossroads of history today. Its youth continues to fight to lead a life their ancient ancestors lived — of freedom and pride. Meenakshi Sharan professionally is a hospitality entrepreneur. She is an avid history buff and perpetually researches episodes where history was faulted to manufacture faux narratives. She is the founder of Ayodhya Foundation Org which aims at promotion & revival of Vedic culture, Bhartiya sangeet & nritya, arts & handicrafts. Her works involve ‘Existence of Saraswati from the Shastras,’ ‘Partition of India & the events since 638 that lead to it,’ ‘History of Islamic & Christian invasions across the world’ etc. She tweets with @meenakshisharan. Views expressed are personal. Updated Date: October 16, 2022 11:56:16 IST


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