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War and Religion: The Iran−Iraq War  

Peyman Asadzade

Religion has historically played a central role in motivating rulers to start and individuals to participate in war. However, the decline of religion in international politics following the Peace of Westphalia and the inception of the modern nation-state system, which built and highlighted a sense of national identity, undermined the contribution of religion to politics and consequently, conflict. The case of the Iran−Iraq War, however, shows a different pattern in which religion did play a crucial role in motivating individuals to participate in war. Although the evidence suggests that religious motivations by no means contributed to Saddam’s decision to launch the war, an overview of the Iranian leaders’ speeches and martyrs’ statements reveals that religion significantly motivated people to take part in the war. While Iraqi leaders tried to mobilize the population by highlighting the allegedly Persian-Arab historical antagonism and propagating an Iraqi-centered form of Arab nationalism, Iranian leaders exploited religious symbols and emotions to encourage war participation, garner public support, alleviate the suffering of the people, and build military morale. The Iranian leadership painted the war as a battle between believers and unbelievers, Muslims and infidels, and the true and the false. This strategy turned out to be an effective tool of mobilization during wartime.

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Near Eastern and Old Iranian myths  

Jenny Rose

This entry concerns mythological narratives that developed in ancient times in lands extending from the eastern Mediterranean seaboard as far as Central Asia. Whereas the term Near Eastern applies to a range of different cultures—including Mesopotamian, Elamite, Hittite, Canaanite, Hebrew, Urartian, Phoenician, and Egyptian—the expression Old Iranian is used only of ancient Iranian culture as evidenced primarily in the texts of the Avesta, and in certain Old Persian inscriptions and iconography. From the early 1st millennium onwards, as ancient Iranians moved across the plateau into Mesopotamia and beyond, so Iranian culture, including its mythology, interacted with that of the Near East. The ensuing worldviews continue to impact the religions that evolved within the region, specifically, the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.Mesopotamian myths comprise the earliest literature committed to writing. Alongside the discovery of archaeological sites in which some of the myths are set and of material objects relating to those myths, these texts provide insight into the general ethos, ritual activity, and social structure of the pertinent cultures of Mesopotamia—notably, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Assyrian. The contemporary ancient Egyptians present a similar richness of material and literary culture. In contrast, the Old Iranian myths of the Avesta endured within an oral context until about the 6th century ce, with only cursory allusion to a cosmogony in Old Persian inscriptions, Achaemenid reliefs, and stamp seals.

Article

Iran-US Relations  

Kelly J. Shannon

Historian James A. Bill famously described America’s relationship with Iran as a tragedy. “Few international relationships,” he wrote, “have had a more positive beginning than that which characterized Iranian-American contacts for more than a century.” The nations’ first diplomatic dealings in the 1850s resulted in a treaty of friendship, and although the U.S. government remained largely aloof from Iranian affairs until World War II, many Iranians saw Americans and the United States positively by the early 20th century. The United States became more deeply involved with Iran during the Second World War, and the two nations were close allies during the Cold War. Yet they became enemies following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. How did this happen? The events that led to the Islamic Republic of Iran dubbing the United States the “Great Satan” in 1979 do indeed contain elements of tragedy. By the late 19th century, Iran—known to Americans as “Persia” until the 1930s—was caught in the middle of the imperial “Great Game” between Great Britain and Russia. Although no European power formally colonized Iran, Britain and Russia developed “spheres of influence” in the country and meddled constantly in Iran’s affairs. As Iranians struggled to create a modern, independent nation-state, they looked to disinterested third parties for help in their struggle to break free from British and Russian control. Consequently, many Iranians came to see the United States as a desirable ally. Activities of individual Americans in Iran from the mid-19th century onward, ranging from Presbyterian missionaries who built hospitals and schools to economic experts who advised Iran’s government, as well as the United States’ own revolutionary and democratic history, fostered a positive view of the United States among Iranians. The two world wars drew the United States into more active involvement in the Middle East, and following both conflicts, the U.S. government defended Iran’s sovereignty against British and Soviet manipulation. The event that caused the United States to lose the admiration of many Iranians occurred in 1953, when the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the British Secret Intelligence Service staged a coup, which overthrew Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, because he nationalized Iran’s oil industry. The coup allowed Iran’s shah, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to transform himself from a constitutional monarch into an absolute ruler. The 1953 coup, coupled with the subsequent decades of U.S. support for the Shah’s politically repressive regime, resulted in anti-American resentment that burst forth during the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The two nations have been enemies ever since. This article traces the origins and evolution of the U.S. relationship with Iran from the 19th through the early 21st centuries.

Article

Religious Regulation in Iran  

Mehran Tamadonfar and Roman B. Lewis

The history of religious minority politics and rights in Iran dates back to the early periods of the ancient Persian Empire. With the passage of time, expansion of the empire led to increased religious pluralism that necessitated official religious tolerance and accommodation. With the adoption of Shi’a Islam as the official religion of the country at the outset of the 16th century, which was largely motivated by the monarchs’ search for greater political legitimacy, Shi’ism was gradually linked to Persian monarchism and was effectively integrated into the Persian national identity and values. The growing influence of Shi’ism empowered the Shi’a clerical establishment that effectively sought exclusionary and discriminatory policies toward religious and sectarian minorities. With the establishment of the Islamic Republic in the aftermath of the revolution in the late 1970s, religious minority politics in Iran gained a more complex and nuanced dimension that facilitated Shi’a dominance and ushered in increasingly exclusionary and discriminatory governmental policies that have undermined religious and sectarian minority rights. This article surveys the history of religious pluralism and regulation in pre-Islamic Persia as well as pre-revolutionary Iran, and examines the legal and practical underpinnings of religious regulation in the Islamic Republic. While Islam does account for certain exclusive rights for Muslims in an Islamic state, it explicitly rejects discrimination against the Peoples of the Book (ahl-al Kitab). To a large extent, the current discriminatory practices against religious and sectarian minorities in Iran are rooted in the regime’s advocacy for sectarian exclusivity and political self-interests, which have very little to do with the Islamic worldview.

Article

Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance in Afghanistan since 1979  

Jennifer L. Fluri and Rachel Lehr

Afghanistan has been on the receiving end of uneven development aid and humanitarian assistance since the early days of the Cold War. Since the onset of war in 1979, a lack of strategic planning has contributed to poorly coordinated and irregularly implemented relief and development aid only worsened by proxy wars of competing empires and the capriciousness of donor governments. Armed conflict, whether between empires or regional and local actors, has been a consistent challenge. The intent of humanitarian assistance is to alleviate suffering and save lives in times of crisis, political or environmental. It is by design reactive, limited in duration and reach. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has required relief and assistance over a long rather than limited time period. Humanitarian aid worldwide is mostly coordinated through UN agencies and implemented by local affiliates or partners. Development aid is designed to address structural issues in a country in order to improve lives and livelihoods, through improvement programs for infrastructure and economies. Institutional and political reform are part of development aid, often conceived in accordance with the political systems and to meet the goals and interests of donor countries. In Afghanistan, in the past twenty years the problems relating to the distribution of massive amounts of donor funding, the coordination and implementation between local and international Non-Governmental Organizations, the role of the United Nations, and the international military forces, have all hampered success across spatial scales. From 1979 to 1992 humanitarian assistance was also delivered in response to the political goals of donors—in the proxy war between the US and Soviet empires—and from 2001 to 2021 as a primary target of the US-led Global War on Terror. Relief and aid have always suffered from top-down administration, allocation decisions made at the donors’ political whims, decisions about programs and budgets taken at headquarters, or implementation in the field where reality does not meet expectations.

Article

Hizbollah in the Global Arena  

Shirin Saeidi

A comprehensive review of the scholarly literature on the transnational movement of Hizbollah (Party of God) in the global arena examines the sociopolitical history, military capacities, strategies, and alliances of the Hizbollah movement. Situated in a narrow understanding of global politics and international relations such an examination reveals that Hizbollah poses a particular problem for international relations when the hegemonic nation-state remains the primary site of analysis. The literature on Hizbollah consistently fails to acknowledge the limitations of this worldview, and as such, continues to characterize Hizbollah as a disruptive Iranian-led militia instead of a transnational social movement rooted firmly in its followers’ self-confidence and commitment to an ideology with religious elements. As a transnational movement, Hizbollah has all but abandoned the realization of an Islamic state, holds limited military power, and is influenced by international norms and socialization. As such, the most interesting aspect of Hizbollah’s political trajectory is its imaginative politics—forms of expression rooted in its transnational attributes, developed in historical contexts, and acted upon by individual supporters of the movement through social relationships. A narrow view of the global arena as organized states in a hierarchy expands explorations of the Hizbollah movement into areas and subfields such as a Middle East studies and gender studies. These subfields have contributed valuable ethnographic research that informs a new methodological approach and resulting arguments. From this framework, based on a spatially cognizant recognition of a global Middle East, the analysis shows that Hizbollah’s various transnational attributes—including a commitment to ideological production, becoming a martyr, and following the spiritual leadership of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei—become “transitioning spaces” (as used by diaspora studies scholar Dora Silva Santana) forged in kinship that make it possible to imagine other worlds. The spiritual and sensual world that Hizbollah supporters conjure competes with the international system of political organization to make the movement noteworthy to the global arena. Importantly, this is not an alternative world, but one that coexists to challenge a focus on military, alliance, or material approaches alone.

Article

Muslim–Buddhist Relations and Buddhism in Muslim Sources until the Mongol Period  

Anna Ayse Akasoy

The history of Muslim–Buddhist relations has long been underexplored or been dominated by impressions of hostility. Recent scholarship has revealed a long history of contacts, often against the backdrop of trade, mission, and imperial expansion. How early these encounters took place and what their earliest shape was depends on views regarding the westward spread of Buddhism, the religious landscape of pre-Islamic Iran, and the nature of early Islam. Medieval Muslim authors sometimes associated the religious traditions of pre-Islamic Arabia with Buddhism or Indian religions in general. The early Abbasid period (8th–10th centuries) was especially significant for the development of Muslim knowledge of Buddhism. Details about the religion, including descriptions of the Bamiyan Buddhas and religious practices, can be found especially in geographical and historiographical literature, but also book catalogues and surveys of different religions. The family of the Barmakids, formerly keepers of the Buddhist Naw Bahār in Balkh, rose to great power at the Abbasid court and represents the integration of Buddhist elites into the cosmopolitan caliphate. A version of the Life of the Buddha, known as the story of Bilawhar and Būdhāsaf, began to circulate in the Middle East at around the same time. One of the difficulties in assessing Muslim descriptions of Buddhism is to reconstruct and historicize categories of religion and religious taxonomies.

Article

The Safavids  

Colin Mitchell

The Safavids (1501–1722) controlled a land-based empire that comprised the modern-day nation of Iran, with extensions into Iraq, the Caucasus, and Afghanistan. The family of the Safavids originated as Sufi mystical sheikhs based in the region of Azerbaijan but were later imperialized thanks to the dynastic founder, Shah Ismaʿil (r. 1501–1524). The transition from Sufi tariqa to imperial polity was not smooth, and Ismaʿil faced external threats from the Ottoman Empire to the west, as well as internal pressure from his popular base, the Qizilbash tribal Turks who revered their shah as both a Sufi sheikh as well as a manifestation of the millenarian figure Mahdi who was popularly understood as the Muslim agent of the Apocalypse. The success of the Safavids was partly based on their ability to distance their family from such decentralized, tribal elements and seek out those constituencies that could help with regard to establishing and building legitimacy: orthodox Twelver Shiʿite jurists and scholars as well as urban Persian administrators and bureaucrats. It was Ismaʿil and his successor, Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524–1576), who proclaimed and enforced Twelver Shiʿism as the new state doctrine, thus contributing to a stark Sunni-Shiʿite division between themselves and their neighboring rival empires of the Ottomans and the Uzbeks. The apogee of the Safavid Empire took place during the reign of Shah ʿAbbas (r. 1589–1629) who, among other things, transformed Isfahan into a city of international stature with fantastic architectural patronage while at the same time enticing European merchants and traders to trade in textiles, silk, and other manufactured goods. Following the reign of Shah ʿAbbas, the Safavid Empire became less stable and more susceptible to outside elements, namely those Caucasian nobles and landed gentry who had been previously incorporated into the Safavid state as court officials, provincial governors, and ranking military officers. Concurrently, there was a rise in conservative orthodoxy among the Shiʿite religious scholars, and the previous era of open trade and strong international relations began to wane as Christians, Jews, and other minorities became increasingly targeted and persecuted. By the end of the 17th century, the Safavid court was politically isolated from the other provinces, so much so that the imperial capital was easily besieged and conquered in 1722 by an invading conglomerate of Afghan tribes.

Article

West Africa and the Middle East since 1900  

Oliver Coates

West Africa has long-standing economic, religious, cultural, and military ties to the Middle East and North Africa. Historical links between the two regions include centuries of pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, educational travel to Al-Azhar University in Egypt, and trading and religious links with the Arabian Peninsula and Maghreb. The years from 1900 to c. 2020 can be divided into three periods: the colonial era until 1960, the years of pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism from 1956 to around 1979, and the intensification of political and religious contact after 1979, with Saudi Arabia and Iran playing prominent roles. In the 21st century, trading relations have intensified and diversified, involving new interventions by Turkey, the Gulf States, and Morocco, while Middle East and North African actors, both state and nonstate, were closely implicated in the destabilization of the Sahel in the 2010s, including providing military, intelligence, and ideological support to West African states and terrorist groups. Since 1900, significant issues and ideas affecting interactions between the Middle East and West Africa included pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism, Salafi and Wahhabi thought, spanning far beyond jihadist ideas to incorporate social and political critique, and new formulations of shiʾi Muslim identity following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Importantly, Africans actively appropriated and developed these ideas for diverse ends, mounting their own interpretations of the Middle East, ranging from ʿulema settling in Mecca to shiʾa students in Iran, Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem, and the search of West African Jews for recognition by Israel.

Article

The Iran-Contra Affair  

Malcolm Byrne

Iran-Contra was a major political scandal in the late 1980s that nearly derailed a popular president and left American society deeply divided about its significance. Although the affair was initially portrayed as a rogue operation run by overzealous White House aides, subsequent evidence showed that the president himself was its driving force with the knowledge of his most senior advisers. Iran-Contra was a foreign policy scandal, but it also gave rise to a significant confrontation between the executive and legislative branches with constitutional implications for their respective roles, especially in foreign policy. The affair exposed significant limits on the ability of all three branches to ferret out and redress official wrongdoing. And the entire episode, a major congressional investigation concluded, was characterized by a remarkable degree of dishonesty and deception, reaching to the highest levels of government. For all these reasons, and in the absence of a clear legal or ethical conclusion (in contrast to Watergate), Iran-Contra left a scar on the American body politic that further eroded the public’s faith in government.

Article

Georgia before the Mongols  

Stephen H. Rapp Jr.

Nestled in one of Eurasia’s most energetic crossroads, Georgia has a long and multifaceted history. The remains of Homo georgicus excavated at Dmanisi in southern Georgia belong to the oldest hominids yet discovered outside Africa. They have been reliably dated to 1.8 million years ago. Subsequent Neolithic, Chalcolithic, and Bronze Age sites are distributed throughout the region between the Black and Caspian Seas. But it is not until the early 1st millennium bce that the immediate ancestors of modern Georgians emerge in the historical record. Their attestation sharpens in the Achaemenid and early Hellenistic epochs. The peoples of Caucasia were thrust upon the Eurasian stage principally as a result of their associations with Iran. They were, at the same time, active members in the first Iranian Commonwealth, a massive cross-cultural enterprise stretching from Central Asia to the Balkans. Toward the end of the 4th century bce, the disruption triggered by Alexander’s conquest of Achaemenid Persia sparked the formation of a kingdom anchored in the eastern Georgian territory of Kʻartʻli (Iberia). Caucasia’s Iranian and especially Iranic (“Persianate”) cultures proved remarkably durable. The Irano-Caucasian nexus pushed into the medieval period, having endured the Christianization of the realms of Kʻartʻli, Armenia, and Caucasian Albania. As was the case elsewhere, Christianity’s long-term success hinged on its adaptation to the existing social pattern. Caucasia’s social landscape continued to be dominated by dynastic noble houses, but the hybrid Zoroastrianisms they had long favored were eclipsed by Christianity starting in the 4th century. Meanwhile, in western Georgia the polities based in Egrisi (cf. Greek Colchis) fell under the stronger influence of the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean. They too were brought into the Christian fold in late antiquity. The Kʻartʻvelian monarchy was abolished by the Sasanians circa 580 and remained in abeyance until 888. In the afterglow of the interregnum, the ascendant Bagratid dynasty—following the “Byzantinizing” path blazed by the Georgian Church—consciously reoriented kingship from an Iranian to a Byzantine basis as it politically integrated eastern and western Georgia for the first time. Nevertheless, at the height of the all-Georgian kingdom, many aspects of Iranic culture flourished, including epic literature. Mongol hegemony across much of the 13th century marks a crucial turning point in Georgian history. Under Īlkhānid rule, Caucasia’s access to the Eurasian ecumene expanded significantly, but the political fragmentation of Georgia intensified. In the new phase of imperialism ushered by Timur (Tamerlane), the Irano-Caucasian nexus blossomed one last time under the Safavids before the isthmus fell under Russian and then Soviet control.

Article

The Ilkhanate: Mongol Rule in Medieval Western Asia, 1256–1335  

George Lane

Despite enduring years of adverse and highly critical propaganda and entrenched negative attitudes from both the scholarly world and the general public, the Mongols and successors of Chinggis Khan have continued to hold the world’s rapt attention and interest. However, the Chinggisids have in recent years and especially since 2001 and the publication of Thomas Allsen’s Culture and Conquest, benefited from a spreading positive re-evaluation by the academic community and revisionist researchers, which amounts to a fresh assessment of the Chinggisid domination of western Asia. It is now acknowledged that they enjoyed a constructive, generally positive relationship with much of the Muslim world. Relations with Iran were particularly strong, so much so that it was Iranians who invited Hulegu and the Chinggisid army to come to the west in 1254 and who actively cooperated in the establishment of the Ilkhanate. The state of Iran had ceased to exist after the Arab invasion of the region in the 7th century, and in its place, Greater Iran became a collection of often warring statelets: Azerbaijan, Khorasan, Fars, Iraq al-Arab, Iraq al-‘Ajam, Sistan, and Jabal, to name a few. After Hulegu crossed the Oxus, c. 1254, he revived the idea of Iran, and the Ilkhanate essentially became the basis for what eventually became the modern state of Iran. From 1220 to 1254 Iran had existed in a state of anarchy, loosely under the control of Chinggisid military governors. Iran’s city-states were peripheral to an empire to which they paid taxes but from which they derived few advantages nor enjoyed any of the benefits to which their taxes should have entitled them. The delegation sent from Qazvin to Mongke’s coronation requested the Great Khan to send a prince of the blood to rule Iran and to replace the inept military governor. The delegation wanted Iran to be absorbed by the empire so that the country could benefit from joining a global community and a global market. Chinggis Khan had initiated the world’s first experience of globalization, and Iran wanted to be part of that experience. The Ilkhanate (1258–1335) was a Persian renaissance and established Iranians once again as key regional players. Although the ruling family remained ethnically Mongol, the government was multiethnic, and the country was multicultural. In 1295, when the seventh Ilkhan, Ghazan, ascended the throne and announced his submission to Islam, his act signified the union of Turk and Tajik, of “steppe and sown,” of Iran and Turan, of Persian, Chinese and Turkish cultures, and the coronation of a king of and for all Iranians. It was immaterial whether his conversion was sincere or just politically astute. What was important was his proclamation of becoming a legitimate Iranian king duty bound to serve all his people, whether Turk or Tajik, and that his reign was hailed as the start of a golden age, as well as being a high point of relations with the Yuan regime in the east. The Mongols never left Iran, but simply assimilated.

Article

Slavery in Islamic Central Asia  

Jeff Eden

By the late 19th century, when much of Islamic Central Asia was conquered by the Russian Empire, the region was home to tens of thousands of slaves. Most of these slaves were Shiʿa Muslims from northern Iran, though the slave trade also ensnared many Russians, Armenians, Kalmyks, and others. Slave labor was especially commonplace in the Sunni Muslim domains of Khwarazm and Bukhara, where enslaved people constituted a substantial proportion of all agricultural workers, domestic servants, and soldiers. Slaves also labored in many other roles, and an individual slave could be tasked with a variety of jobs. Slaves served, for example, as concubines, craftsmen, miners, herdsmen, entertainers, blacksmiths, calligraphers, and even, in rare instances, as government officials. Before the 16th century, the majority of the slaves in Central Asia—defined here as the region extending from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea through Xinjiang, China, and from southern Siberia to northern Iran—seem to have been trafficked to the region from India. This changed in the 16th and 17th centuries, as a significant number of Iranian war-captives were brought north and enslaved during the course of numerous armed conflicts between the Central Asian Uzbeks and Iranian Safavids. Many of these slaves evidently labored on the region’s rapidly expanding agricultural estates. In the 18th and 19th centuries, frequent Turkmen raids into northern Iran resulted in tens of thousands of Iranian Shiʿas being captured and funneled into a booming slave trade in Khwarazm and Bukhara. Further north, a much smaller number of Russians were seized and sold into slavery by Kazakh nomads along the steppe frontier. The region’s slave trade declined in the late 19th century and seems to have remained dormant throughout the Soviet period. The post-Soviet period has witnessed a resurgence of human trafficking throughout Central Asia. In recent decades, local governments and international organizations have labored with mixed success to combat a new kind of slave trade, as Central Asian victims are trafficked by criminal cartels to neighboring countries, or to other regions of the world, for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

Article

The Persian Cosmopolis  

Richard Eaton

The Persian cosmopolis refers to the vast territory between the Balkans and Bengal in which, for 1000 years, an integrated sense of moral, social, political, and aesthetic order was informed by the circulation of normative Persian texts. Several centuries after the Arab conquest of the Iranian plateau, a spoken form of a hybridized Middle Persian and Arabic emerged in written form, using a modified Arabic script. What had begun as a regional vernacular swiftly became a transregional, literary medium as regional courts in Khurasan and Central Asia patronized Persian literature and used that language in their bureaucracies, building on a tradition of professional writers that had served Persian empires for centuries. The technology of paper-making, recently introduced from China, facilitated the rapid movement of Persian texts across space, while Firdausi’s epic poem the Shah-nama (1010) celebrated Iranian mythology and pre-Islamic history in ways that connected widely scattered peoples of different ethnicities. Territorial conquests by Persianized Turks, followed by Mongol invasions that drove peoples of Central Asia and Khurasan into new lands, also served to expand the geographical extent of the Persian cosmopolis. By the 14th and 15th centuries, the political, aesthetic, and moral order elaborated in a growing Persian canon—for example, the principle of justice—had become associated with a prestigious, cosmopolitan style that was emulated and absorbed by widely scattered peoples of diverse ethnicities and religions. Persianate architecture, attire, urban design, music, cuisine, and numismatic traditions were also assimilated by such peoples. With the translation of a rich store of romance literature into vernacular tongues, the Persian cosmopolis became as much a subjective phenomenon, inhabiting people’s collective imagination, as it was an objective, mappable zone in which popular, discursive, and normative texts circulated along networks that connected royal courts, provincial notables, Sufi lodges, merchant communities, and schools.

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Buddhist and Muslim Interactions in Asian History  

Johan Elverskog

In the popular imagination, the meeting of Buddhism and Islam is often conceptualized as one of violence; namely, Muslims destroying the Dharma. Of course, in more recent years this narrative has been problematized by the reality of Buddhist ethnic cleansing and the genocide of Muslims in Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Yet, what needs to be recognized is that the meeting between Buddhists and Muslims has never simply been one of confrontation. Rather, the interaction of these two religions—which has been going on for more than one thousand years across the length and breadth of Asia (from Iran to China and Indonesia to Siberia)—has also involved much else, including artistic, cultural, economic, and intellectual exchanges.

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Oil Industrialization in the Middle East  

Katayoun Shafiee

The building of the global oil industry in the Middle East served as the occasion for one of the largest political projects of technical and economic development in the modern world. Scholarship has long associated an abundance of natural resources such as oil with autocracy in the Middle East while overlooking the sociotechnical ways in which oil operations were built with political consequences for the shape of the state and the international oil corporations. The early period of oil development was marked by oil abundance up to World War I, when demand for oil started to increase rapidly with the invention of the internal combustion engine. The cheapest source of production was in the Middle East. From the perspective of the largest transnational oil corporations to emerge in this period, the energy system needed to be built in a way that demand and overabundance were managed. Oil industrialization enabled the production and large-scale consumption of this new and abundant source of energy but was also connected with striking oil workers and controlling or blocking processes of industrialization in rival sectors such as the coal and the chemicals industries. In the first three decades of the 20th century, the process was made possible through the building of an international oil economy that took the form of production quotas and consortium agreements to restrict new oil discoveries in the Middle East. Oil industrialization projects intensified after World War II due to a flood of petrodollars into OPEC countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Rising oil revenues and sovereign control achieved through oil nationalization triggered the execution of five-year development plans of industrial and infrastructural expansion. The birth of environmental activism in the 1960s–1970s coincided with the end of oil abundance and the fear of the planet’s destruction, spurring the passage of legislation to place limits on the hydrocarbon economy in which the machinery of oil industrialization had thrived.

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Homa: Tantric Fire Ritual  

Richard K. Payne

The homa is a votive offering involving the construction of a fire in a hearth-altar, and the immolation of offerings in the fire. The altar is homologized with a mandala, and as with other ritual uses of mandalas, the deity evoked in the course of the ritual is located at the mandala’s center, and in this case identified with the fire itself. As a tantric ritual, the practitioner is also ritually identified with both the deity and the fire, and the offerings made into the fire are the spiritual obstacles that impede the practitioner from full awakening. Tantric homas are generally categorized according to different functions or goals, such as protection, subduing adversaries, and so on. As a form of individual practice conducive to awakening, the practitioner’s own inherent wisdom is identified with the fire, and just as the offerings are transformed and purified, the practitioner’s own spiritual obstacles are as well. Ritualized activities of maintaining and making fire are some of the most ancient forms of social coordination, which is essential to the development of the human species. Such ritualization would seem to be the basis for fire cults, forms of which are known throughout the world’s religions. In the scope of Indo-European religions, similarities of practice and symbolism provide a shared background to the homa per se. More directly, there appear to be both Vedic and Indo-Iranian traditions of ritual praxis that converge in the tantric homa. The homa is found in all of the Indic tantric traditions: Buddhist, Śaiva, and Jain. Once established as part of tantric practice, the homa was spread throughout Central, East, and Southeast Asia, particularly in its Buddhist form. This transmission of ritual practice engaged local traditions wherever it spread. Tibetan tantric traditions developed an extensive literature of homa rituals, and from there the practice also influenced Mongolian fire rituals as well. In China, interaction between tantric Buddhism and Daoism led to the creation of a homa devoted to the Northern Dipper, a figure unknown in Indian sources of Buddhist tantra. Two similar examples are found in Japan. The Shintō traditions of Yuiitsu (or Yoshida) and Miwa modified the tantric Buddhist form for the worship of a selection of Shintō deities. Similarly, the tradition of mountain asceticism, Shugendō, also adopted the homa and adapted it to its purposes. As a result of the repression of Buddhism in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the Shintō forms are no longer extant, though in the present many Shintō shrines perform rituals of various kinds in which fire plays an important role. In contrast, the Shugendō homa, sometimes as a prelude to fire-walking, remains an active part of Japanese religion into the present day. The tantric homa has been interpreted in a variety of ways, reflecting the multifaceted character of fire itself. There are two important strains of interpretation. One is the yogic interiorization of ritual found in post-Vedic Indian religion, more as a form of esoteric physiology than as a psychologized understanding of visualization. While closely related to yogic interiorization of ritual, the sexual symbolisms that are attached to all aspects of the fire rituals constitute a second strain of interpretation. These symbolic associations are important for their role in understanding tantric notions of ritual efficacy, which require greater nuance of understanding than can be attained by simply categorizing such practices as magic.

Article

Old Persian language  

Benjamin Fortson

Old Persian was the Iranian language spoken by the ruling class of the Achaemenid Empire, probably reflecting the Southwest Iranian dialect of Persis (see Persia). It is preserved in documents in a cuneiform script superficially modeled on Mesopotamian (Sumero-Akkadian) writing and first used under Darius I in the late 6th centurybce. As a spoken language, Old Persian was the direct ancestor of Middle Persian and Modern Persian (Farsi). The script was the first cuneiform writing to be deciphered by modern scholars, starting in 1802 with the pioneering work of Georg Grotefend; this laid the basis for the subsequent decipherment of Mesopotamian cuneiform and the languages written in it, one of the most far-reaching achievements of 19th-century science (see cuneiform).Of the two Old Iranian languages that survive in written records (the other being Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian liturgical texts), only Old Persian is attested to in original documents contemporary with when it was spoken. Most are monumental royal inscriptions, often trilingual (Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian) in the early period, and have been found primarily in the historical regions of Persis, Elam, and Media. Many of these, most famously the massive trilingual inscribed on a high rock face at Bisotun (Behistun) that records the deeds of Darius I, are of immense value to historians. Though there is evidence of the language throughout the reign of Artaxerxes III (d.

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Farmaian, Sattareh Farman  

Karen Smith Rotabi

Sattareh Farman Farmaian (1921–2012) founded the Tehran School of Social Work in Iran.

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The Ismaili Tradition in Iran: 13th Century to the Present  

Daniel Beben

The Ismailis are a minority community of Shiʿi Muslims that first emerged in the 8th century. Iran has hosted one of the largest Ismaili communities since the earliest years of the movement and from 1095 to 1841 it served as the home of the Nizārī Ismaili imams. In 1256 the Ismaili headquarters at the fortress of Alamūt in northern Iran was captured by the Mongols and the Imam Rukn al-Dīn Khūrshāh was arrested and executed, opening a perilous new chapter in the history of the Ismailis in Iran. Generations of observers believed that the Ismailis had perished entirely in the course of the Mongol conquests. Beginning in the 19th century, research on the Ismailis began to slowly reveal the myriad ways in which they survived and even flourished in Iran and elsewhere into the post-Mongol era. However, scholarship on the Iranian Ismailis down to the early 20th century remained almost entirely dependent on non-Ismaili sources that were generally quite hostile toward their subject. The discovery of many previously unknown Ismaili texts beginning in the early 20th century offered prospects for a richer and more complete understanding of the tradition’s historical development. Yet despite this, the Ismaili tradition in the post-Mongol era continues to receive only a fraction of the scholarly attention given to earlier periods, and a number of sources produced by Ismaili communities in this period remain unexplored, offering valuable opportunities for future research.