Friday, December 30, 2005

Theory of Conspiracy & Dr.Matthee

I just interviewed Rudi Matthee who wrote Pursuit of Pleasure(1500-1900,Drug & Wine history in Iran).Interview will be published in coming weeks on WashingtonPrism.org.
Here is one question about Theory of Conspiracy:

You wrote in an article that conspiracy theory, a very popular theory in Iran which speculates that foreigners are manipulating the country’s affairs, is a 20th century theory, and it did not exist in the 19th century in Iran. What were the reasons which gave rise to this theory in the early 20th century in Iran?

First of all, I think it is true that there was no such a theory until the late 19th or early 20th century, but I will say that the context of Iranian history and its social ambiance was a fertile breeding ground for such a theory. Iranians were suspicious about foreigners coming to Iran. If these foreigners claimed that they had come for curiosity or to learn about Iranian culture, Iranians would not have believed them. Rather, Iranian were convinced that such foreigners had hidden motives.

Another important element is the realisation that, in Iranian culture, everything is either black or white. In the pre-Islamic period, there was good and bad, but with Shi’ism it became Hasid/Imam Hussein, and then, in the contemporary period, the Shah/ Khomeini. But an influential event happened in the early 20th century: a secret accord was reached, an Anglo-Iranian agreement that would have given the British control over Iran. The agreement, of course, was suspended after the Majlis refused to ratify it when various forces mounted enormous opposition to it. In the early 20th century, Iranian students came back from Europe, especially Berlin, greatly influenced by anti-Britain propaganda in Germany. After World War I, Germany was present in Iran and spread anti-British propaganda there, too. I explained that these are some of the elements that explain the emergence of a conspiracy theory, but in order to understand more of the reasons, more research must be done. Ahmad Ashraf has done great work on this issue, and he also believes that a conspiracy theory is a 20th century


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