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Transcript of Understanding Persepolis
Iran is located in the part of the world referred to as the "Middle East" (meaning it is between Europe - "The West" - and the regions bordering the Pacific Ocean, known by Europeans as "The East". North America is considered to be part of "The Western World", as it lies to the west of Europe.) Throughout history, many conflicts between the "West" and the "East", over land, religion, trade, and resources, have been carried out in the region known as the Middle East.
The Middle East
Iran and its neighbor, Iraq, went to war in 1980 after Iraqi soldiers invaded Iranian territory, and the conflict lasted for eight years.
The United States and the Soviet Union (Communist countries controlled by Russia) both tried to control the war by giving weapons and assistance to different military groups
The Iran-Iraq War
Iran has an ancient civilization, dating back to about 2,700 BCE (that's about 2000 years older than classical Ancient Greece - as many years apart as we are from the beginning of the Common Era! In other words, it's very very old.)
This civilization was polytheistic (their religion was called Zoroastrianism), and their language was "Farsi" or "Persian".
In 637BCE, Arabian forces invaded Iran and established the monotheistic religion of Islam. Although most Iranians embraced the new religion, they kept many of their traditions, and their language.
Brief History of Iran
Islamic militants take 52 Americans hostage inside the US embassy in Tehran (the capital of Iran). They demand that the USA send the Shah back to Iran to stand trial. At the time, the Shah and his family are in the USA, where the Shah is being treated for cancer.
(See the recent film "Argo" to find out how the hostages were rescued...it's pretty amazing!)
The Middle East: Resources
The main resource in this region of the world is oil, which is used all over the world as fuel for transport and industry. Since there is such a high demand for, and dependence upon, oil around the world, countries with a lot of natural oil reserves under their land (like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan) can make a lot of money selling their oil to other countries. This means that the group who controls the country, also controls the money received from selling that country's oil.
Many powerful countries (Russia, Britain, and the United States) have attempted to control the governments in Middle Eastern countries, in order to have more access to the oil they sell.
Another factor that makes this part of the world so
(violent) is its combination of different religions. The three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were all born in this region, and all are still practiced there. However, there is often tension when different religions, or even different interpretations of the same religion, exist in the same country under the same government. Many of the governments in this region are non-secular, which means that (unlike the governments in the USA and other Western countries), they are not separate from the religious leadership.
The Middle East: Religion
There were two branches of Islamic faith in the region: the Sunni majority, and the Shia minority. The main difference between the two faiths was a disagreement over who should have been leader of the religion after the prophet Muhammad died in 632BCE. Tension between these two groups caused many conflicts in the region, sometimes even more than the tensions between the different religions!
Brief History of Iran - 2
Brief History of Iran: 3
From 1926 - 1979, Iran was ruled by the Pahlavi dynasty (whose leader was known as the "shah"). The Pahlavi rulers wanted to make Iran more like a modern Western nation, and they had close political and economic ties to Britain and the United States. This upset the traditional Islamic religious rulers. Although the Pahlavi were successful in improving the country's education and health systems, there was a growing rate of unemployment. As well as this, the Pahlavi violently put down anyone who opposed them politically, by imprisonment, exile (being forced to live in another country) or execution; and brutally oppressed many of the minorities living outside the major cities. One of the people exiled was Ayatollah Khomeini, an Islamic fundamentalist leader.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran
During the 1960s, the Shah became increasingly dependent upon his secret police (SAVAK) to keep his political enemies under control, but his use of force to control the population leads to riots, protests and strikes. Martial law is imposed (meaning the country is in a state of crisis, and under military control). In 1979, the Shah and his family are forced to leave the country, and Ayatollah Khomeini returns after fourteen years of exile to set up a new government, and make himself "supreme leader".
In April 1979, after a referendum (vote by the people), the Islamic Republic of Iran is declared: the world's first Islamic State
Marjane Satrapi was born in 1969, and grew up in Tehran, the capital of Iran. As a child, Satrapi went to a French school in Tehran, as most of the educated people in Iran spoke a European language as well as Persian. Satrapi describes what life was like before and after the Islamic revolution, and during the Iran-Iraq war, in her memoir, "Persepolis" (originally published in French). Persepolis is the name of the ancient capital of Persia (Iran), but it was destroyed by the army of Alexander the Great (a Greek conqueror) in 330 BCE.
Not all Iranian people agree with the way the country is being run, especially the way the the church and the government are now being run by the same people.
New rules are made, dictating what people had to wear, how many times they should pray, what should be taught at universities, and banning "western" influences like alcohol, cigarettes, punk music, long hair and jeans.
Resistance to the Regime