Given that Iran is much in the news at the moment and the TV reports give reasonable cause for dismissing the place as rather backward, I’d just like to redress the balance a bit here. I’m influenced, of course, by the fact I lived there for three years - admittedly in the carpetbagger years of the 70s - and developed a deep affection for its language, its culture and its people.
Writing in his book “Iran: Empire of the Mind”, Michael Axworthy reminds us it was Persian scholars who were primarily responsible for the 9th century renaissance in the Muslim world, when the lessons of Greek philosophy, mathematics, science, medicine, history and literature were discovered and applied. Further, it was another Persian – the great Avicenna – who was responsible for collating these and making them known to the West.
And a couple of hundred years on – but still well before Chaucer and Shakespeare – the great Persian poets were writing works still widely quoted today.
I guess Iran is important once again today, though not in a way most of us would want. I believe it will again find its proper place in the world. Though not, I fear, for a while yet. Meanwhile, I will raise a glass tonight in support of those trying to drag it back from the Middle Ages. And a second one to the inventors of Twitter, something which I’ve hitherto had neither interest in, knowledge of nor admiration for.