Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Need to Satisfy the Iranian National Pride in the Search for a Solution to the Nuclear Issue
NISHIKAWA Megumi  / Journalist

October 3, 2019
As the United States tries to rally the Coalition of the Willing to protect shipping in and around the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Iran tries to put a brake on it by saying “participation in the Coalition is a hostile act against Iran.” Their hard-line stance of not giving in an inch to the American pressure seems to go beyond political bravado. It probably has more to do with their mettle, the deep-rooted Persian ethnicity.

A common misunderstanding among the Japanese is to see Iran as a part of the Arab world, as Iran also belongs to the same Islamic world. However, the Arabs and Iranians (Persians) fall into completely different cultural zones both ethnically and linguistically.

Persian is of the Indo-European language family, and is related to Italian and French. In the 7th century when the Arabs invaded Persia with the aim of expanding the Islamic religion, the Arabic characters were superimposed on the ancient Persian language, partly because the central religious text Quran was written in Arabic characters. As a consequence, the present-day Persian language was formed.

For those who are not familiar with the Arabic characters, it is a challenge to read or write them. However, as for speaking and listening, the language is not so difficult if you have knowledge of French or Italian. When I was working as a correspondent in Teheran, I had a Persian tutor. The language was similar to French in terms of grammar, and it did not take me too long to master everyday conversation.

Just as symbolized by their language, the Iranian society is structured in two-tiers; traditional culture of Persian civilization constituting the foundation of its society, with Islam on top. Looking back at its past, at times the Persian civilization was bolstered whereas at other times Islamic values were upheld, depending on the social environments that surrounded them. For example, while the Pahlavi dynasty sought its orthodoxy in Persian civilization up until the Iranian Revolution, the current regime which toppled the dynasty adopted Islam as its political and social norm.

For a certain period of time in the post-revolutionary Iran, the current regime, which prioritized Islamic solidarity, maintained a harsh posture, including the ban on literary work that may lead to reappraisal of Persian civilization. Reasons behind such attitudes were concerns towards Persian ethnic consciousness eroding Islamic values, and fear of giving excuses for monarchist backlash.

Over the course of time, such harsh attitudes gradually softened. Instead, what became conspicuous in recent days is the attitude of the current regime seemingly inspiring the resurrection of ethnic consciousness. Obviously, there lies an intention of the current regime to enhance unity within the nation amidst growing pressures from the Arab nations led by United States and Saudi Arabia. However, putting aside such political intentions in the background, it would be important to note the fact that Persian national pride is being spurred by the notion that they are “a nation with ancient civilization unlike the Arabs”. We have seen in the past the proof that Iranians came together as one when they were at risk, as seen in the Iran-Iraq War when Iran was isolated from the rest of the international community. In order to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, what is required is to seek a solution that satisfies the national pride of the Iranian people, not a solution by force.

Megumi Nishikawa is Contributing Editor for the Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川 恵 / ジャーナリスト

2019年 10月 3日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Need to Satisfy the Iranian National Pride in the Search for a Solution to the Nuclear Issue