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Anti-Iranian sentiment (ایرانی ستیزی also ایران ستیزی) is feelings and expression of hostility, hatred, discrimination, or prejudice towards Iran and its culture, and towards persons based on their association with Iran and Iranian culture. Its opposite is Iranophilia.
Historically, prejudice against Persians particularly on the part of Arabs following the Islamic conquest of Persia may be described as anti-Persian sentiment. More recently, anti-Iranian sentiment has been prominent also in the Western world and in international media.
According to the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), nearly half of Iranian Americans surveyed in 2008 by Zogby International have themselves experienced or personally know another Iranian American who has experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or country of origin. The most common types of discrimination reported are airport security, social discrimination, employment or business discrimination, racial profiling and discrimination at the hands of immigration officials.
The Iranian hostage crisis of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979 precipitated a wave of anti-Iranian sentiment in the United States, directed both against the new Islamic regime and Iranian nationals and immigrants. Even though such sentiments gradually declined after the release of the hostages at the start of 1981, they sometimes flare up. In response, some Iranian immigrants to the U.S. have distanced themselves from their nationality and instead identify primarily on the basis of their ethnic or religious affiliations.
Ann Coulter has referred to Iranians as "ragheads" and Brent Scowcroft has called the Iranian people "rug merchants." Additionally, the Columbus Dispatch recently ran a cartoon that portrayed Iran as a sewer with cockroaches crawling out of it.
In May 2005, the Fox News network broadcast a special program called Iran: The Nuclear Threat, hosted by Chris Wallace. Kaveh Afrasiab, an analyst and expert on Iran who once worked with Wallace at ABC, noted that the program "lacked the minutest evidence of objectivity, displaying instead piles of prejudice on top of prejudice reminding one of the Iraq weapons of mass destruction threat played up by the right-wing, sensationalist network during 2002 and early 2003, duping millions of American viewers about the authenticity of the Bush administration's allegations against the regime of Saddam Hussein." Other examples of stereotyping Iranians as terrorists and anti-West is found in Comic books. Dennis O'Neil, a comic book writer and editor notes in the postscript of Batman: A Death in the Family:
|“||"...these sagas (comic books) are more than just entertainments, at least to many readers; they are the post-industrial equivalent of folk tales and as such, they have gone pretty deeply into a lot of psyches."||”|
In the aforementioned story, Batman's nemesis, the Joker tries to sell Lebanese extremists a nuclear weapon before fleeing to Iran. The Joker then meets Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who appoints him as the formal ambassador to the United Nations. In this function, the Joker addresses the United Nations General Assembly, saying he and the "country's current leaders... have a lot in common", before lethally gassing the assembly. The mentioning of Iran was later retconned to the fictional Middle Eastern state of Qurac and panel with the image of the Ayatollah removed. Colonel Abdul al-Rahman first appeared in the comic book "Ultimates" as a 17-year-old Muslim boy from Iranian Azerbaijan (as stated in The Ultimates v2 #12) who witnesses Captain America's led invasion of his country. Outraged, he becomes the Middle East counterpart to Captain America before he is finally killed by Captain America.
In 2009, Martin Kramer, a Harvard professor, warned about the dangers of allowing Iranian Americans to get too close to power during the 2009 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference:
|“||...Iran can have behind the scenes leverage over Iranian Americans, many of whom occupy key positions in the think tanks and are even being brought now into the administration...What this means is that we have to be extremely cautious about what we take away from Iranian diaspora communities when it comes to understanding Iran.||”|
Since the 1980s and especially since the 1990s, Hollywood's depiction of Iranians has vilified Iranians as in  television programs like 24, John Doe, On Wings of Eagles (1986) and Escape From Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981) (based on a true story).
According to Kaveh Afrasiabi,
Some of Hollywood's "stereotypical" and anti-Iranian movies include The Peacemaker (in which a character, says about the main antagonist's car to be "Five miles from fuckin' Iran!"), The Hitman (in which several mobs join together to demolish an Iranian mob operating in Canada), MadHouse (partially centering upon a wealthy Iranian who is in the process of divorcing his American wife. In one scene, the wife, speaking to her Iranian husband, utters "you goddamn towel heads, sand rats"),
The 1991 film Not Without My Daughter was criticized for its portrayal of Iranian society. Filmed in Israel, it was based on the Pulitzer-nominated autobiography by Betty Mahmoody. In the book and film, an American woman (Mahmoody) traveled to Tehran with her young daughter to visit her Iranian-born family of her husband. Mahmoody's husband then undergoes a strange transformation in Iran, ranging from an educated and sophisticated citizen to a backwarded and abusive peasant, eventually deciding that they will not return to the United States. Betty is told that she can divorce him and leave, but their daughter must stay in Tehran under Islamic laws. Ultimately, after 18 months in Iran, Betty and her daughter escape to the American embassy in Turkey.
Several Western critics, including Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times and Caryn James of The New York Times, criticized the film for stereotyping Iranians as misogynistic and fanatical. According to Ebert, the film depicts Islamic society "in shrill terms", where women are "willing or unwilling captives of their men", deprived "of what in the West would be considered basic human rights." Further, Ebert says, "No attempt is made - deliberately, I assume - to explain the Muslim point of view, except in rigid sets of commands and rote statements." Ebert then contends,
|“||If a movie of such a vitriolic and spiteful nature were to be made in America about any other ethnic group, it would be denounced as racist and prejudiced.||”|
According to Jane Campbell, the film
|“||...only serves to reinforce the media stereotype of Iranians as terrorists who, if not actively bombing public buildings or holding airline passengers hostage, are untrustworthy, irrational, cruel and barbaric.||”|
The film was also criticized in Iran. A 2002 Islamic Republic News Agency article claimed that the film "[made] smears... against Iran" and "stereotyped Iranians as cruel characters and wife-beaters." In a Finnish documentary, Without My Daughter, film maker Alexis Kouros tells Mahmoody's husband's side of the story, showing Iranian eyewitnesses accusing the Hollywood film of spreading lies and "treasons." Alice Sharif, an American woman living with her Iranian husband in Tehran, accuses Mahmoody and the filmmakers of deliberately attempting to foment anti-Iranian sentiment in the United States.
The 2007 film 300, an adaptation of Frank Miller's 1998 graphic novel, was criticized for its "racist" portrayal of combatants in the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae. Reviewers in the United States and elsewhere "noted the political overtones of the West-against-Iran story line and the way Persians are depicted as decadent, sexually flamboyant and evil in contrast to the noble Greeks."  With bootleg versions of the film already available in Tehran with the film's international release and news of the film's surprising success at the U.S. box office, it prompted widespread anger in Iran. Azadeh Moaveni of Time reported, "All of Tehran was outraged. Everywhere I went yesterday, the talk vibrated with indignation over the film..." Newspapers in Iran featured headlines such as "Hollywood declares war on Iranians" and "300 AGAINST 70 MILLION" (Iran's population). Ayende-No, an independent Iranian newspaper, said that "[t]he film depicts Iranians as demons, without culture, feeling or humanity, who think of nothing except attacking other nations and killing people" Four Iranian Members of Parliament have called for Muslim countries to ban the film, and a group of Iranian film makers submitted a letter of protest to UNESCO regarding the film's alleged misrepresentation of Iranian history and culture. Iran's cultural advisor to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the film an "American attempt for psychological warfare against Iran".
Moaveni identified two factors which may have contributed to the intensity of Iranian indignation over the film. First, she describes the timing of the film's release, on the eve of Norouz, the Persian New Year, as "inauspicious." Second, Iranians tend to view the era depicted in the film as "a particularly noble page in their history." Moaveni also suggests that "the box office success of 300, compared with the relative flop of Alexander (another spurious period epic dealing with Persians), is cause for considerable alarm, signaling ominous U.S. intentions."
According to The Guardian, Iranian critics of 300, ranging from bloggers to government officials, have described the movie "as a calculated attempt to demonise Iran at a time of intensifying US pressure over the country's nuclear programme." An Iranian government spokesman described the film as "hostile behavior which is the result of cultural and psychological warfare." Moaveni reported that the Iranians she interacted with were "adamant that the movie was secretly funded by the U.S. government to prepare Americans for going to war against Iran.
|“||If 300, the new battle epic based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, had been made in Germany in the mid-1930s, it would be studied today alongside The Eternal Jew as a textbook example of how race-baiting fantasy and nationalist myth can serve as an incitement to total war. Since it's a product of the post-ideological, post-Xbox 21st century, 300 will instead be talked about as a technical achievement, the next blip on the increasingly blurry line between movies and video games.||”|
According to Encyclopædia Iranica, the word "ajam" in Arabic "is applied especially to Persians" and means "to mumble and speak indistinctly" (similar to the Slavic use of words from the root nemoy ("mute") to refer to the Germans; see Names for Germany), which is the opposite of the meaning of speaking "chaste and correct Arabic language."
Dehkhoda Dictionary also verifies this, stating the meaning as "کند زبانان" i.e. "one who mumbles". For another detailed discourse on this subject see:
However, Arabic dictionaries state that the word Ajami is used for all non-Arabs, a term used by Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimah. It is believed that Ibn Khaldun has meant Persians. Moreover, the word "Ajam" itself is derived from the root A-J-M and refers to "to be unclear, vague and/or incomprehensible" as opposed to Arabi which means "clear, understandable, with perfect Arabic tongue".
Patrick Clawson states that "The Iranians chafed under Umayyid rule. The Umayyids rose from traditional Arab aristocracy. They tended to marry other Arabs, creating an ethnic stratification that discriminated against Iranians. Even as Arabs adopted traditional Iranian bureaucracy, Arab tribalism disadvantaged Iranians."
The conquest of Persia and beyond was thus seemingly intended to raise new revenues. Naturally, the native population did not appreciate this exploitation. Many Arab Muslims believed that Iranian converts should not clothe themselves as Arabs, among many other forms discrimination that existed.
Mistreatment of Persians and other non-Arabs during early Islam is well documented. To begin with, the Umayyids did not recognize equal rights of a Mawali and believed that only "pure Arab blood" was worthy of ruling. Neither did they make any effort to mend relations with the Mawali after making declarations like:
Zarrinkoub presents a lengthy discussion on the large flux and influence of the victorious Arabs on the literature, language, culture and society of Persia during the two centuries following the Islamic conquest of Iran in his book "Two Centuries of Silence".
After the Islamic conquest of the Persian Empire, during the reign of the Ummayad dynasty, the Arab conquerors imposed Arabic as the primary language of the subject peoples throughout their empire. Not happy with the prevalence of the Persian language in the divan, Hajjāj ibn Yusuf ordered the official language of the conquered lands to be replaced by Arabic, sometimes by force.
From Biruni's From The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries (الآثار الباقية عن القرون الخالية):
- وقتی قتبیه بن مسلم سردار حجاج، بار دوم بخوارزم رفت و آن را باز گشود هرکس را که خط خوارزمی می نوشت و از تاریخ و علوم و اخبار گذشته آگاهی داشت از دم تیغ بی دریغ درگذاشت و موبدان و هیربدان قوم را یکسر هلاک نمود و کتابهاشان همه بسوزانید و تباه کرد تا آنکه رفته رفته مردم امی ماندند و از خط و کتابت بی بهره گشتند و اخبار آنها اکثر فراموش شد و از میان رفت
- "When Qutaibah bin Muslim under the command of Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef was sent to Khwarazmia with a military expedition and conquered it for the second time, he swiftly killed whomever wrote the Khwarazmian native language that knew of the Khwarazmian history, science and culture. He then killed all their Zoroastrian priests and burned and wasted their books, until gradually the illiterate only remained, who knew nothing of writing and hence their history was mostly forgotten."
It is difficult to imagine the Arabs not implementing anti-Persian policies in light of such events, writes Zarrinkoub in his famous Two Centuries of Silence, where he exclusively writes of this topic. Reports of Persian speakers being tortured are also given in al-Aghānī.
Predominantly Shia Iran has always exhibited a sympathetic side for Ali and his progeny. Even when Persia was largely Sunni, this was still evident as can be seen from the writings remaining from that era. Rumi for example praises Ali in a section entitled "Learn from Ali". It recounts Ali ibn Abi Talib's explanation as to why he declined to kill someone who had spit in his face as Ali was defeating him in battle. Persian literature in praise of Ali's progeny is quite ubiquitous and abundant. These all stem from numerous traditions regarding Ali's favor of Persians being as equals to Arabs.
Several sources speak of a dispute arising between an Arab and an Iranian woman. Referring the case to Ali for arbitration, Ali reportedly did not allow any discrimination between the two to take place. His judgment thus invited the protest of the Arab woman. Thereupon, Ali replied, "In the Quran, I did not find the progeny of Ishmael (the Arabs) to be any higher than the Iranians."
Again, Ali was once reciting a sermon in the city of Kufah, when Ash'as ibn Qays, a commander in the Arab army protested, "Amir-al-Momeneen! These Iranians are excelling the Arabs right in front of your eyes and you are doing nothing about it!" He then roared, "I will show them who the Arabs are!"
Ali immediately retorted, "While fat Arabs rest in soft beds, the Iranians work hard on the hottest days to please God with their efforts. And what do these Arabs want from me? To ostracize the Iranians and become an oppressor! I swear by the God that splits the nucleus and creates Man, I heard the prophet once say, just as you strike the Iranians with your swords in the name of Islam, so will the Iranians one day strike you back the same way for Islam."
When the Sassanid city of Anbar fell to the forces of Mu'awiyeh, news reached Ali that the city had been sacked and plundered spilling much innocent blood. Ali gathered all the people of Kufah to the mosque and gave a fiery sermon. After describing the massacre, he said, "If somebody hearing this news now faints and dies of grief, I fully approve of it!" It is from here that Ali is said to have had more sympathy for Iranians while Omar highly resented them.
The following traditions are also recorded in Safinat al-Bihar:
It was in Baghdad where the first Arab nationalists, mainly of Palestinian and Syrian descent, formed the basis of their overall philosophies. Prominent among them were individuals such as Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (the Mufti of Jerusalem) and Syrian nationalists such as Shukri al-Quwatli and Jamil Mardam. Sati' al-Husri, who served as advisor to the Ministry of Education and later as Director General of Education and Dean of the College of Law, was particularly instrumental in shaping the Iraqi educational system. Other prominent Pan-Arabists were Michel Aflaq and Khairallah Talfah, as well as Sati' al-Husri, Salah al-Din al-Bitar, Zaki al-Arsuzi and Sami Shwkat (brother of Naji Shawkat). These individuals formed the nucleus and genesis of true pan-Arabism.
Sati' al-Husri's campaigns against schools suspected of being positive towards Persia are well documented. One dramatic example is found in the 1920s when the Iraqi Ministry of Education ordered Husri to appoint Muhammad Al-Jawahiri as a teacher in a Baghdad school. A short excerpt of Husri's interview with the teacher is revealing:
Saddam Hussein Al Majid Al Tikriti forced out tens of thousands of people of Persian origin from Iraq in the 1970s, after having been accused of being spies for Iran and Israel. Today, many of them live in Iran.
Early on in his career, Hussein and pan-Arab ideologues targeted the Arabs of southwest Iran in an endeavour to have them separate and join 'the Arab nation.'  Hussein made no effort to conceal Arab Nationalism in his war against Iran (which he called "the second Battle of al-Qādisiyyah). An intense campaign of propaganda during his reign meant that many school children were taught that Iran provoked Iraq into invading and that the invasion was fully justified.
On 2 April 1980, a half-year before the outbreak of the war, Hussein visited al-Mustansiriyyah University in Baghdad. By drawing parallels to the 7th-Century defeat of Persia in the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah, he announced:
Hussein also accused Iranians of "murdering the second (Umar), third (Uthman) and fourth (Ali) Caliphs of Islam", invading the three islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs in the Persian Gulf and attempting to destroy the Arabic language and civilization.
In the war, Iraq made extensive use of chemical weapons (such as mustard gas) against Iranian troops and civilians as well as Iraqi Kurds. Iran expected a condemnation by UN of this act and sent allegation to UN. At time (-1985) the UN Security Council issued statements that "chemical weapons had been used in the war." However, in these UN-statements Iraq was not mentioned by name, so that the situation is viewed as "in a way, the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds" and it is believed that the United States had prevented UN from condemning Iraq.
In December 2006, Hussein said he would take responsibility "with honour" for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 war, but he took issue with charges he ordered attacks on Iraqis.
On the execution day, Hussein said, "I spent my whole life fighting the infidels and the intruders, [...] I destroyed the invaders and the Persians." He also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians. Mowaffak al Rubiae, Iraq's National Security adviser, who was a witness to Hussein's execution described him as repeatedly shouting "down with Persians." Hussein built an anti-Iranian monument called Hands of Victory in Baghdad in 1989 to commemorate his declaration of victory over Iran in the Iran-Iraq war (though the war was considered by many to have ended in stalemate). After his fall, it was reported that the new Iraqi government had organized the Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era and that the Hands of Victory monument had begun to be dismantled. However, the demolition was later halted.
Some Arab states show hostility to Iran. Al-Salafi magazine, quoted in The New York Times, states, "Iran has become more dangerous than Israel itself. The Iranian revolution has come to renew the Iranian presence in our region. This is the real clash of civilisations."
In January 2007, Saudi Arabian King Abdullah said that attempts to convert Muslim Sunnis to the Shi'a branch of Islam would not succeed and that Sunnis would always make up the majority of the world's Muslims. Although Abdullah did not mention Iran by name, his comments appeared to be aimed at easing Arab concerns over the Shi'a nation's growing influence in the Middle East.  "We are following up on this matter and we are aware of the dimensions of spreading Shi'ism and where it has reached", Abdullah told the Kuwaiti Al-Siyassah daily. "However, we believe that this process will not achieve its goal because the majority of Sunni Muslims will never change their faith", he added. Ultimately, "the majority of Muslims seems immune to any attempts by other sects to penetrate it (Sunnism) or diminish its historical power." While there have been no specific examples of Iranians trying to convert Sunnis, Arabs fear such conversions would accompany Iran's growing powers.
The requests of the Ministry of Education and Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands to monitor Iranian students has led to a situation that Iranian students cannot study at the University of Twente in the city of Enschede and Eindhoven University of Technology in the city of Eindhoven. The latter university had even asked the AIVD (the Dutch intelligence service) to monitor the Iranian students. AIVD stated that it was not their duty to do this and the University has decided to stop admitting any applicants from Iran no matter what degree they are seeking. The reason provided by the Dutch government is that it fears the theft of sensitive nuclear technology that could assist the Iranian government in constructing nuclear weapons. After protests were lodged, the Dutch government announced again that the Iranian students and the Dutch citizens of Iranian extraction, are not allowed to study at many Dutch universities and some areas in the Netherlands are off-limits to them.
Additionally, several other universities stated that the government had prohibited them from admitting students from Iran, and technical colleges weren't to allow Iranian students access to knowledge of nuclear technology. It was noted that this was the first time after the German occupation during the Second World War that ethnic-, religion- or racial-based restrictions were imposed in this part of Europe. Harry van Bommel, a parliamentarian of the Dutch Socialist Party (SP), condemned this berufsverbot, deliberately using a German word which is associated with the Second World War. Although the Dutch authorities state that the UN security council's resolution 1737 (2006) authorizes them and obliges all member states of the UN to take such a measure, the Netherlands remains the only country to have done so.
Iran's Minister of Culture Hossein Saffar Harandi has called the disrespect to the Persian Shahnameh by some Pan-Turkists as the "introduction to Anti-Iranianism".[unreliable source?] Canadian author Kaveh Farrokh claims that pan-Turkist groups have encouraged anti-Iranian sentiments.[unreliable source?]
Historically, the Shia Muslims were discriminated in the Ottoman Empire as they were associated with their Iranian neighbors. In Turkey, relatively large communities of Turks, Kurds and Zazas are Alevi Shia, while some areas in Eastern Anatolia, notably Kars and Ağrı, are Twelver Shia. Even in modern Turkey, Kurds and other Iranic peoples are targets of discrimination and violence ...
The United States has been creating obstacles for research of Iranian scientists, according to the 2004 ruling of the US Department of the Treasury, which tied their scientific work to trade embargo of Iran.
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