Around the Haft Seen.

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"It's now", exclaimed my father. "It's now" repeated my brother as they sat-up straight around the table, dressed well before the 'haft seen', ready as if at a restaurant waiting for food. I stood a few steps away, looking at my phone screen aimed at the TV screen. I was ready to capture something but not sure what that might be. The digital farsi clock sat in the corner of the screen found its way to the Norooz (the Iranian new year) showing 09.55.35pm. We heard fireworks explode outside, I captured two ambiguous photos turned my head to see if the fish - as part of the 'Haft Seen' - were motionless (as mentioned that they might be by my father) and enquired, "It's now?". It's now 1385.

The changing of the year coincided with Eastenders on BBC Prime to which my step mother immediately attended to her fix. The screen switched from the supreme spiritual leader presenting an annual address not unlike the folk in Britain receive on Christmas day (from HRH herself) to two east London girls in an interracial lesbian bed-scene. I could not contain my shock and burst out in what later became laughter. It wasn't offense that befell me but amusement in juxtapose and a reminder of the acceptance I once enjoyed. "What she needs is a good seeing to..." exclaimed Mo whilst waltzing though the market - this episode could not have been any more unsavory. Television is not something I indulge in, but for a rare moment I was fixated, refreshing my mind of where I wasn't whilst noting each topic that might not even arrive in people minds here.

Our following morning expedition asked that we wear black and not wish a happy new year as we visited three houses in mourning. The new year also coincided with the mourning of Imam Hossein, the 40th day being exactly on new years day. This coincidence resulted in the much anticipated, and in my mind, legendary Haji Firooz not dancing the streets in his black and red get-up and blacked out face. Although I don't fully apreciate the meaning of this, the idea of an Iranian minstrel interfering with the remaining Tehran traffic was a sight I had yearned for since purchasing the dancing doll months previous.

For these reasons I uncomfortably wore a solemn face while we saw long missed family. We travelled around the blissfully empty streets of Tehran being nothing more than sacks of tea, fruit and nuts. At each house I would stare at the portraits of the late family member with the black ribbon wrapped at 45-degrees to the corner while my ears picked up my father's small talk and odd joke. Unfamiliar with the etiquette I cringed as the other guests brought themselves to laughter.

Within the last month I've had the revelation that I'm half Azari. After parting with information about my family to friends I would often be asked whether I was Azeri - somewhat ignorantly I would answer that I'm Iranian. The queries were normally put forth after mentioning that my family speak Azerbaijani (pretty much the Turkish language) with one another. After several of these moments I asked my father if I was Azari to which he gave a puzzled response - "of course". This frustrating reminder, that much is assumed of what I know, has caused another period of reevaluation. Being Azari I figure, from the little I have learned, is like maybe being Scottish - I'm British but Scottish. As the family gather around the nucleus - my grandmother - for the new year's visitations I found I was in exactly the same position I was 3-years previous (my first visit to Iran as an adult), I was at a loss as to what was being discussed. Normally the Azerbaijani is broken up by third parties and I have benefit of listening to my grandmother's increasingly odd Farsi accent, yet on this occasion I was in a thick gaggle of Azari. The gradually familiar tonguey sound of Azerbaijani - a language that sounds like a person talking with a boiled sweet on the go - resonated around the walls as they have for years gone and I was left, sat at square one, tea in one hand, pistachio in the other.


  • They are so formal about the arrival of the new year, your brother and father, made me giggle thinking of them sitting so seriously around the haft sin waiting.

    The link for the Azari entry in Wiki reminded me of lively debates I used to hold with pan-Iranists regarding Azarbaijan and the "unification" of Iran and Azarbaijan. I think it is only Iranians that advocate the idea that the Azari are an ethnically Iranian people. I actually used to believe that they were as well, I subscribed to the "Turkification" theory, but genetically it's been proven that the Azari are more closely related to Turkic rather than Irani tribes. This is also apparent from the language, Azari is an Altaic language while Persian is Indo-European.. and not wholly related but as a side note, the fact that Azari specifically is classified under Southwestern (Oghuz) Turkic is the reason I've used that specifically as a Turkic people the Azari descend from the Oghuz tribes. The Western Oghuz in particular are attributed to the Turkish, Gagauz and Azari languages.
    Anyway, being Azari, though ethnically not Irani, makes no one any "less" of an Iranian in a.. "patriotic" sense (unless you're speaking to one of the mad "purist" sort of Iranians). The fact is that only 51% or so of Iran is made up of ethnic Persians, the largest minority are the Azari, the remaining minorities are split - some are ethnically Iranian (Kurds, Balochi, Gilaki) and some are not - most notably the Arabs of the south but also the Armenians and Assyrians. In a national sense though they are just as Iranian as ethnic Persians, Iranians who say otherwise are only further dividing the people of the country. Those who dislike calling Azaris in Iran "Iranian" should also dislike Iranians claiming famous Azari poets as their own. Ethnic nationalism is perhaps the most dangerous form around, the Shah made an attempt at this and destroyed a lot of Azari culture in the process. So none of this is very relevant to anything you've said, but that's okay.. these are the three main arguments for Azaris - the Pan-Iranist view, the "Purist" view... and the rational view, haha, the one that I hold :)

    I want photos of Hajji Firooz, entering it in the tag search on Flickr brings up one phone alone - and that is yours. Next year maybe..

    Anyway, they had to ask that you wear black? :P

    By Anonymous Tahereh, at 2:10 PM  

  • Happy New Year to you and your family!

    My best wishes from London.

    By Anonymous aa, at 3:44 PM  

  • Hi there.I am an Iranian Azeri living in Tehran.My friend as u live in another country and may not be aware of Iranian society well , I just want to tell u some realities of Iranian society regarding Azaries:

    Iran is a multi-ethnical country and that is a beuity for Iran. But this country has been represented as a Persian culture,Language and identity since England brought fachist,illeterate Reza khan to power in 1920.This racicst guy systematically destroyed other languages and cultures mostly Azeries which make a great minority(or may be majority).They banned our language in schools,courts and other places .They insulted Azaries through shameful means.In Media they insulted( and still do) to azaries and humilated(still do) them. That is the main reason why Azeries are integrated and assimilated to Persian cultures and sometimes deny their indentity.Many of Iranians that claim are persian are originilly azeries but they are assimilated ,brainwashed.I know many many of this kind of people.I can tell u that more than 60 % of Tehran population are azaries.Anyway I like Iran and its multi-cultural body and I hope Iranian government pay attention to other cultures too.If they continue this policy regarding ethnics , be sure that the political map of Iran will be changed.
    Viva Iran , Viva azarbaijan
    Viva Freedom

    By Anonymous yashar, at 5:02 PM  

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