Category Archives: History

Photo series: Winter in Iran – Savadkuh County, Mazandaran

The Veresk Bridge and the Three Golden Lines, a railway spiral passing three times by the same area at different heights are located in Savadkuh County, Mazandaran Province. They are part of the Trans-Iranian Railway, a major railway building project that started in 1927 and completed in 1938. It links the capital Tehran with the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea.

The Danish firm Kampsax began constructing Veresk Bridge in 1934. The structure stands at 110m height and has a 66m long arch. It connects two mountains in the Abbas Abad region.

The construction of this bridge included craftsmen of many nationalities. The name of the bridge is derived from the name of a Czechoslovakian technician whose name was hard to pronounce for Iranians. Near the bridge is a memorial for the workers who lost their life while building the bridge and its nearby tunnels. The Chief Engineer, Austrian Walter Aigner, following his wishes, is buried in the local cemetery of Veresk.

During World War II, it was known as the Pol-e-Piroozi, or the bridge of victory. During the course of the war, Reza Shah was asked by Hitler to blow up all tunnels and bridges, including the Veresk Bridge, on Iran’s railway lines in order to delay the transfer of goods and reinforcement troops to the north for the Russians. He furthermore promised to replace and reconstruct all of such demolished structures following the Germans’ victory in the war. Reza Shah rejected the request. Today trains connecting Tehran to Gorgan or Sari pass over this bridge an average of four times a day.

Sources: Wikipedia | Veresk Bridge, Borna News, highestbridges.com, fouman.com, Wikipedia | Trans-Iranian-Railway

Iran’s Hamedan Province: ‘Ganjnameh’ – an ancient cuneiform inscription of the Achaemenid Empire (Photos)

Ganj Nameh, literally translated as “treasure epistle”, is an ancient inscription, 5 kilometers southwest of Hamedan, near a natural waterfall, into a rockface on the side of Alvand Mountain, in Hamedan Province, Iran

The inscriptions were carved in granite in two sections. The one on the left was ordered by Darius the Great (521-485 BC) and the one on the right by Xerxes the Great (485-65 BC). Both sections were carved in three ancient languages: Old Persian, Neo-Babylonian and Neo-Elamite. The incscriptions start with praise of the Zoroastrian God (Ahura Mazda) and describe the lineage and deeds of the mentioned kings.

Ganjnameh sits along the ancient Imperial Road, that connected the Achaemenid capital Ecbatana to Babylonia. It was a safe and frequently traveled road and had much visibility during the Achaemeniad period. The inscriptions were studied in detail by the French painter and archaeologist Eugene Flandin during the 19th century. Subsequently Sir Henry Rawlinson, a British explorer, used the inscriptions to decipher the cuneiform characters of the era.

The translation of the text on the right plate, attributed to Xerxes, is: “The Great God Ahuramazda, greatest of all the gods, who created the earth and the sky and the people; who made Xerxes king, and outstanding king as outstanding ruler among innumerable rulers; I the great king Xerxes, king of kings, king of lands with numerous inhabitants, king of this vast kingdom with far-away territories, son of the Achaemenid monarch Darius.”

Later generations who could not read the Cuneiform alphabets of the ancient Persian assumed that they contained the guide to an uncovered treasure; hence they called it Ganjnameh which literally means “treasure book”, but it has also been called Jangnameh, literally “war book”, possibly due to the wrong assumption that the inscriptions described ancient wars of the Achaemenid era.

Two modern contemporary carved tablets have been placed in the site’s parking lot with Persian explanation and its English translation.

Unfortunately, this archeological site is in danger due to the construction of restaurants and entertainment centers in the vicinity of Ganjnameh that have changed the historic atmosphere and endangered the cultural and natural landscape of the area. Adding to these existing problems is the construction of a cable car nearby.

Sources: Historical Iran | Ganjnameh, Wikicommons | Ganj Nameh inscriptions, Mehr News Agency | Photostishineh.com | Ganjnameh, Panoramio | M. Eskandari, Panoramio | Alexandru Velcea, Panoramio | Mauro – Iran 2013, Panoramio | Ehsan Khanjani, Cultural Heritage News Agency (in Persian)

Iran’s exceptional reaction to 9/11 attacks: candlelit vigils for the victims and 60k soccer fans respected a minute’s silence

“Iran’s sympathetic response to the American tragedy has been exceptional for a country under US economic siege for two decades. Only hours after the Sept. 11 attack, President Muhammad Khatami condemned it, as did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other officials have sent sympathetic messages, including one from the mayor of Tehran to the mayor of New York – the first public official contact between Iran and the US since the 1979 Iranian revolution. […]

More important, 60,000 spectators observed a minute of silence during a soccer match in Iran’s Azadi Stadium, and hundreds of young Iranians held a candle-lit vigil in Tehran.”
Source: The Christian Science Monitor | US and Iran must work together against Taliban by R. K. Ramazani – September 24, 2001

“Iranian women light candles in Tehran’s Mohseni Square in memory of the victims of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. [see first picture above] […]

Even the most hardline Islamic clerics, who despise the United States, have been shocked into silence by the attacks. President Mohammad Khatami set the tone for Iran’s reaction with a statement that in Persian rang with deep compassion: ‘On behalf of the Iranian people and the Islamic Republic, I denounce the terrorist measures, which led to the killing of defenseless people, and I express my deep sorrow and sympathy with the American people.’ […]

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the attacks which have been blamed on Saudi-born Osama bin Laden. […]

‘Why should Americans deserve this? That’s a sick thought. They are just ordinary people like us,’ said Massoud Moshiri, as he bought cigarettes at a juice stand.” […]
Source: Times.com | Photoessay | Iran mourns America’s dead – September 18, 2001

On Tuesday, Ayatollah Khamenei, in his first public remarks on last week’s attacks, markedly failed to brand the United States an enemy. ‘Islam condemns the massacre of defenseless people, whether Muslim or Christian or others, anywhere and by any means,’ he said, adding pointedly: ‘And so Iran condemns any attack on Afghanistan that may lead to another human tragedy.’ […]

On Tuesday, more than than 3,000 mostly young people held a candlelight vigil in Tehran for the victims of the terror attacks, closely watched by security forces.

One reformist member of Parliament, Ahmad Borghani, even went to the United States interest section at the Swiss Embassy on Tuesday with a wreath of white flowers to sign the memorial book in sympathy with the family’s of the victims. ‘This tragedy has brought the two countries closer,’ he said. ‘But the United States must not expect Iran to cooperate in a military attack — considering our past relations.’
Source: The New York Times | World | A NATION CHALLENGED: TEHRAN; Iran Softens Tone Against the United States by Nazila Fathi – September 21, 2001

“IRAN — President Mohammad Khatami condemned ‘terrorist’ attacks on the United States”
Source: The New York Times | US | Reaction from around the world – September 12, 2001

“Leaders of Middle Eastern nations, including U.S. foes Libya and Iran, have condemned the terror attacks on the U.S. […] Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian president, said he felt ‘deep regret and sympathy with the victims.’ ”
Source: CNN.com | World | Attacks draw mixed response in Mideast – September 12, 2001

“Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a moderate who is struggling for power against the country’s hard-line Islamic leaders, expressed ‘deep regret and sympathy with the victims’ and said ‘it is an international duty to try to undermine terrorism.’ ”
Source: FoxNews.com – September 12, 2001

“And in Iran, Tehran’s main football stadium observed an unprecedented minute’s silence in sympathy with the victims. Iran’s Ayatollah Imami Kashani spoke of a catastrophic act of terrorism which could only be condemned by all Muslims, adding the whole world should mobilise against terrorism.”
Source: BBC News | World | Americas | Islamic world deplores US losses – September 14, 2001

“Even in Tehran, where anti-American chants are all too common, thousands of people attending a World Cup qualifying match between Bahrain and Iran observed a moment of silence.”
Source: The New York Times | US | AFTER THE ATTACKS: THE VIGILS; Surrounded by Grief, People Around the World Pause and Turn to Prayer by Dan Barry – September 15, 2001

“In Iran, antipathy toward the United States was set aside as 60,000 spectators and players observed a minute of silence at the Tehran soccer stadium before a World Cup qualifying match.”
Source: Spartanburg Herald-Journal | REACTION ABROAD | World grieves along with America by Audrey Woods from Associated Press – September 15, 2001

“Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has strongly condemned the suicide terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. ‘Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned’ he said ‘wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be’. ”
Source: BBC News | World | Middle East | Iran condemns attacks on US – September 17, 2001

“Last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran, one of the most conservative and anti-American Muslim clerical leaders, called the fight against terrorism a ‘holy war.’ He joins a host of learned Muslims who have loudly condemned terrorism as forbidden in Islamic law in the wake of the attacks on Sept. 11.”
Source: The New York Times | Opinion | Islam and the opposition to terrorism by Roy Mottahedeh – September 30, 2001

“After news of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks spread to Tehran, hundreds of Iranians, students, merchants and housewives joined in a candlelight vigil in a downtown square. Many were crying. Three weeks later, I am still approached by ordinary Iranians, in restaurants, Internet cafes and on the street, telling me how sorry they are, and how worried they are about the ‘American war’ that is about to begin, just next door.”
Source: NBC News | Inside Iran, a nation conflicted by Jim Maceda – October 7, 2001

“On the evening of September 11, 2001, about two hundred young people gathered in Madar Square, on the north side of Tehran, in a spontaneous candlelight vigil to express sympathy and support for the United States. A second vigil, the next night, was attacked by the basij, a volunteer force of religious vigilantes, and then dispersed by the police. […]

The statement that Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s popularly elected President, made was extraordinary — extraordinary to American ears, at least. ‘My deep sympathy goes out to the American nation, particularly those who have suffered from the attacks and also the families of the victims,’ he said. ‘Terrorism is doomed, and the international community should stem it and take effective measures in a bid to eradicate it.’ ”
Source: The New Yorker | Letter from Tehran | Shadow Land by Joe Klein – February 18, 2002

“Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11
A Public Call For Rememberance of the 9/11 Tragedy […]
Now, with the first anniversary of 9/11 tragedy upon us, as SMCCDI expresses its sympathy to the families of the victims and survivors of that ungodly event, and the honorable nation of America; it invites all free spirited Iranians to honor the memory of the victims of that day by gathering and lighting a candle in front of the main entrance of the Tehran university and major public squares in Tehran, and the main squares in other cities and townships, from 6:00 PM till 9:00 PM, on Wednesday 11 September.”
Source: daneshjoo.org | Post 1873 by SMCCDI Political Committee – September 10, 2002

“Finally, I’ve found a pro-American country. Everywhere I’ve gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States […]. Iran is also the only Muslim country I know where citizens responded to the 9/11 attacks with a spontaneous candlelight vigil as a show of sympathy. ”
Source: The New York Times | Opinion | OP-ED Columnist: Those Friendly Iranians by Nicholas D. Kristof – May 5, 2004

“Ordinary Iranians have long had a softer stance toward the West than their leaders; after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iranians held a spontaneous candlelight vigil in Tehran.”
Source: Chicago Tribune | News | Contenders for Iranian presidency talk up U.S. by Evans Osnos – June 12, 2005

“In Iran, vast crowds turned out on the streets and held candlelit vigils for the victims. Sixty-thousand spectators respected a minute’s silence at Tehran’s football stadium.”
Source: BBC News | Middle East | Iran-US: Gulf of misunderstanding by Gordon Corera – September 25, 2006

“Mourners held a spontaneous candlelight vigil as thousands of people took to the streets of north Tehran chanting, ‘Death to terrorists.’ Iranian soccer fans observed a minute of silence before a match with Bahrain. Even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the attacks: ‘Mass killing is wrong, whether it’s in Hiroshima, Bosnia, New York, or Washington.’ During Friday prayers at Qom, Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini said that the Iranian people grieved with the relatives of those killed, and the traditional slogan ‘Death to America’ was absent from the crowds’ mantras.
Source: Command Posts | Focus on: 9/11, Iran | After 9/11: The United States and Iran by David Crist – September 11, 2012

“Iranians mourn 9/11 victims”
Sources: shabhaft.blogfa.com | Post 134 and LiveLeak.com | Forgotten fact: night of 9/11, Iran – Spontaneous candlelight vigil to express sympathy and support for the American people

Other must read Iran-USA news: The other Iran | Tag | USA

” 2001/09/11, thousands and thousands Iranians went instantly in the streets with candles in homage to the victims ”
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/category/terrorism/september-11/” iranians mourn 9/11 victims ”
http://shabhaft.blogfa.com/post-134.aspx” Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11 ”
http://daneshjoo.org/article/publish/printer_1873.shtml
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=44b_1359356589&comments=1#DDqQZ5dOfJ70MPYf.99
” 2001/09/11, thousands and thousands Iranians went instantly in the streets with candles in homage to the victims ”
http://news.blogs.cnn.com/category/terrorism/september-11/” iranians mourn 9/11 victims ”
http://shabhaft.blogfa.com/post-134.aspx” Iranian Students are calling for pro-american demonstrations, marking 9/11 ”
http://daneshjoo.org/article/publish/printer_1873.shtml
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=44b_1359356589&comments=1#DDqQZ5dOfJ70MPYf.99In Iran, vast crowds turned out on the streets and held candlelit vigils for the victims. Sixty-thousand spectators respected a minute’s silence at Tehran’s football stadium. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5377914.stm

Iran’s Isfahan Province: The underground city of Nushabad (Photos)

The underground city of Ouyi (Noushabad) in northern Kashan, Isfahan Province, is considered one of the masterpieces of ancient architecture. The complex spreads across thousands of square meters and consists of many labyrinth-like architectural structures, corridors, rooms and wells. Natural air conditioning and water supply of the city are among its ancient engineering wonders. The ventilation system used in the underground city through devising canals made it possible for the refugees to breathe even at a depth of 20 meters below the ground.

A large number of historic evidence including earthenware vessels and stone instruments ranging in date to Sassanid (224-651 AD), Ilkhanid (1256-1336), and Safavid (1501-1736 AD) dynastic periods have been retrieved from the underground city. After three seasons of performing archeological studies, tourists can once again visit the city from entrances adjacent to two old water reservoirs.

In the past this region was quite insecure and by forming an underground chain of passages beneath the entire city, the inhabitants would shelter there in the time of being attacked. Through these passages they could reach any spot of the city without being seen.

The depth of this underground city varies from 4 to 18 meters. Entrances to the city were from population concentration points such as water reservoirs, markets, fortresses and also some individual houses. People could live in the underground passages and room for several days without the need of going outside.

There are three levels in this underground city and these levels were cleverly planned in a way that going to the different levels required moving from down to up. This made it easier for the people sheltering in the underground city to prevent enemies from getting to the upper levels.

Another interesting feature of their architecture was the curvy passages that made it possible for the inhabitants to ambush enemies. Furthermore there were several other tricks that were used to resist against the enemies, for instance digging deep holes in the middle of the rooms and covering it with rotating stones that would fall down if anyone stepped on them.

Other great photo series and stories on Iran: The other Iran | Photos

About Nushabad
Nushabad (Persian: نوش آباد‎, also Romanized Noshabad) is a city in the Central District of Aran va Bidgol County, Isfahan Province, Iran about 5 kilometers north of Kashan. At the 2006 census, its population was 10,476, in 2,859 families. As Nushabad city is located in the region of central desert of Iran, its weather is quite harsh. During the day Nushabad has a very hot temperature and during the nights it gets pretty cold.

Sources: Wikipedia | Nushabad, Hamshahri Online (Photos), Fars News | Photos, Historical Iran

Italian festival ‘Il Cinema Ritrovato’ screening movies from Iranian New Wave cinema

Il Cinema Ritrovato, an Italian festival dedicated to screening newly restored classics running in Bologna until July 4, is showing four Iranian films from the Iranian New Wave cinema. The program is curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht in collaboration with the National Film Archive of Iran.

The black comedy “Night of the Hunchback” (1965) directed by Farrokh Ghaffari, set over the course of one night against a backdrop of uptown Tehran partying to Ray Charles, focuses on the efforts of a group of stage actors, the father of a bride, and a hairdresser and his assistant (played by Ghaffari himself) to rid themselves of an unwelcome corpse.

The satirical documentary “The Night It Rained or The Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy” (1967) directed by Kamran Shirdel, offers a crash course in 1960s Iran. A newspaper story of a heroic village boy who prevented a train disaster appears and spreads quickly. The incident, reported on and challenged by local officials and journalists, is soon doubted and leads ultimately to confusion, with nobody knowing exactly who has saved whom.

“The Cow” (1969) by Dariush Mehrjuii, which is considered as the milestone of Iranian new wave cinema, tells the story of a poor villager whose only source of joy and livelihood is his cow, which provides milk for the village. One night the cow is mysteriously killed and that’s when the madness, or rather transformation, begins.

“A Simple Event” (1973) by Sohrab Shahid Saless depicts a few days in the life of a young boy living by the Caspian Sea. At school he falls behind his classmates and is almost expelled. He helps his father to fish illegally, and at home watches as his mother’s health deteriorates.

About Iranian New Wave
Iranian New Wave cinema came about as a reaction to the popular cinema of the time which did not reflect the lives of regular Iranians. It began in 1969 and then ended with the beginning of the Iranian revolution in 1979. The films produced were original, artistic and political. The House Is Black by Forough Farrokhzad (1963) is considered to be a precursor to the New Wave cinema. Other films such as Farrokh Ghaffari’s “The Night Of The Hunchback” (1964), Abrahim Golestan’s, “Mud-Brick And Mirror” (1965), and Ferydoon Rahnema’s “Siavush in Persepolis” are all considered to be precursors as well. The first film considered to be part of this movement is Darius Mehrjui’s “The Cow” (1969). Other films considered to be part of this movement are Naser Taqvai’s “Peace in the Presence of Others” (1969/1972), which was banned and then heavily censored upon its release, and Sohrab Shahid Saless’ “A Simple Event” (1973) and “Still Life” (1974).

Sources: Tehran Times | News, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Wikipedia | Iranian New Wave

Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province: Saint Stepanos Monastery near Jolfa

The St. Stepanos Monastery (Armenian: Maghardavank) is an Armenian monastery about 15 km northwest of Jolfa, East Azarbaijan Province, northwestern Iran. It is situated in a deep canyon along the Arax river on the Iranian side of the border between Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Iran. Since 2008 it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List together with the St. Thaddeus Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor.

The general structure mostly resembles Armenian and Georgian architecture and the inside of the building is adorned with beautiful paintings by Honatanian, a renowned Armenian artist. Hayk Ajimian, an Armenian scholar and historian, recorded that the church was originally built in the ninth century AD, but repeated earthquakes in Azarbaijan completely eroded the previous structure. The church was rebuilt during the rule of Shah Abbas the Second.

History
The first monastery was built in the seventh century (AD 649) and completed in the tenth century. However, St Bartholomew first founded a church on the site around AD 62 but it was partly destroyed during the wars between the Seljuks and the Byzantine Empire in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Following the conquest of the region by the Mongols of Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan, in the middle of the thirteenth century, Christians benefited from the favorable Ilkhanid dynasty, and a peace agreement is signed between the Armenian Church and the Ilkhans. The monastery was restored in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The monastery was completely rebuilt in 1330 under the leadership of Zachariah. St. Stepanos Monastery found the height of its cultural and intellectual influence in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The monastery produced paintings and illuminated manuscripts, in areas as diverse as religion, history and philosophy.

In the early fifteenth century, the new Safavid dynasty protected the Armenians but the region is at the center of the rivalry between the Safavids and the Ottomans, who invaded Western Armenia in 1513. St. Stepanos in the sixteenth century observed a gradual decline until Shah Abbas I decided to evacuate the region from its inhabitants in 1604. The monastery then was abandoned. From 1650, the Safavids, however, decided to occupy the region again, and the damaged and abandoned St. Stepanos monastery was restored in the middle of the century.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the area became a challenge for the conquest of the Russian Empire. Yerevan was conquered by the Russians in 1827. The border between Persia and Russia was established on the Araxes by the Treaty of Turkmenchay. Consequently part of the population was displaced by force to Russian Armenia. The Qajar rulers continued to protect the Armenians. They encouraged the rebuilding of St. Stepanos Monastery between 1819 and 1825.

The monastery has undergone several restorations recently twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially since 1974.

On UNESCO World Heritage List
The Armenian monasteries in Northwestern Iran have borne continuous testimony, since the origins of Christianity and certainly since the 7th century, to Armenian culture in its relations and contact with the Persian and later the Iranian civilizations. They bear testimony to a very large and refined panorama of architectural and decorative content associated with Armenian culture, in interaction with other regional cultures: Byzantine, Orthodox, Assyrian, Persian and Muslim. The monasteries have survived some 2,000 years of destruction, both of human origin and as a result of natural disasters. They have been rebuilt several times in a spirit in keeping with Armenian cultural traditions.

Further information: Iran Chamber Society | Church of Saint Stephanos

Sources: Wikipedia | Saint Stepanos MonasteryIran Chamber Society | Historical Churches in Iran, Tishineh | St. Stepanos Monastery, Wikimedia Commons | Saint Stepanos Monastery, UNESCO World Heritage List | Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran, IRNA | Photos 1, IRNA | Photos 2

Iran’s South Khorasan Province: Furg Citadel (Photos)

The Citadel of Furg, or Arg e Furg, is a citadel from the 12th century, located in Iran’s South Khorasan province 90 km east of the city of Birjand. The citadel was founded by Meerza Muhammad Rafiee Darmiany I (Lama). Materials used in the building include stone, brick, clay, gypsum, lime and mortar (Sarouj).

Source: Payvand News of Iran