modern Tehran? Angel?

Iranian Identity and Issue of Flags

When you are from middle east, everything has a political flavor to it. And when you try to get people together and represent all, all these small differences suddenly erupt!  I was in New York this week and was able to attend the annual “Persian Parade” event in Manhattan. It was definitely something of interest if you are Iranian. It also reminded me of a recurring problem: which flag is Iranian flag?

Let’s start with some background. I was born after the Islamic revolution and the flag I am accustomed to is this one:

iran-flag

Current Flag of Iran, 1979 – present

There is nothing special to it. It was introduced after the 1979 revolution, and the emblem inside is an “Allah” and has 22 “Allaho Akbar”s in it. Yes, it is religious. No, I am not particularly religious. But this is the one I am used to, and I understand there are others feeling the same to other versions. To the people who left Iran before the revolution, this is the flag they are used to:

Old Flag of Iran before 1979 Revolution

Old Flag of Iran before 1979 Revolution (variations used from ~1900 to 1979)

Problem is, these flags have come to represent (at least in the mind of their opponents) the government that erected them. Some Iranian expats call people holding the “current” flag as ‘agents’ of the Iranian government. Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) attributes the lion and sun flag to monarchists that want to bring back the Pahlavi dynasty. I personally always fight to have the “current” flag (#1) above. Why? Because when I was growing up, watching the Iranian diaspora holding the “wrong” flag disconnected them from me. If we are trying to say we are one, that our nation is beyond names and flags, we should understand that there are people who are disconnected from these “old” flags too. Unity requires some tolerance. As some say IRI has caused them harm, there are those who say the same about Pahlavi dynasty.

And that’s what happened during this parade. There were many many flags. Even one from Sassanid Empire (224-651 AD).

sassanid Flag in Persian Parade

What year is it? This one is from ~600 A.D.

And there even was a float named “we are one” but not even one instance of the “current” flag.

"We are one" float, yet no 'current' flag on it. Disappointing to me.

“We are one” float, yet no ‘current’ flag on it. Disappointing!

And it was funny that they had the big posters of new additions to Iran (Tohid tunnel, Milad tower, etc.) that are all built under this IRI flag.

Modern Tehran? Angel? Who built these?

Modern Tehran? Angel? Who built these?

The fact that some do not want to accept that the flag of that country has been a different one for the past 35 years is just a signal to me. It shows they are not ready to accept that many many things have changed in Iran. That immigrants like me who have moved away are stuck with an old vision of the country that may no longer exist.

Even though I closely follow happenings inside Iran using social media and recent travelers, the image in my head of the country is the one last updated when I lived there. And any conclusion I draw from news coming out of Iran is based on this dated image. If anyone wanted to have an impact on the people inside Iran, they would need to have no illusion about accuracy of this image. If we want to stay connected to our home, maybe we should accept the diversity of the nation and its difference from the small community of other Iranian immigrants around us.

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