Master thesis

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Måske skal overskrifterne byttes om? Denne overskrift vil passe bedre sammen med Moharram. Kig på det! As stated the next two case stories are expressions of more extreme actions, the first directly connected with the establishment, the second directly separated from the establishment. Despite this seeming clarity, it will become evident that they are no less ambiva­lent than the previous case stories. With these two vignettes I wish to elaborate on the practices of the "official" Islam, as opposed to expressions of sentiments which are conflicting with the this Islam. The two cases are the ritual of the Friday sermon, and a complete­ly differ­ent, but equally ritualised activity, namely trips to the mountains in north TehranVi må have et klarere oplæg til cases. .
CASE STORY 5: Friday Prayer in Tehran

The Friday Sermon at the University of Tehran was insti­tuted by Ayatollah Taleqâni shortly after the Revolutiono Han havde en anden tiltrækningskraft. Hvad udviklede han. Lav en fodnote om ham. Havde han levet havde meget været anderledes- Beskriv fra at være et massemøde til i dag, fra folkelig ??? til institution. . It soon developed into an important political forum where the people in power could make political statements, and give hints about what was going to happen politically in the near future (Nyberg 1981; p.201). For the same reason the event is transmitted both on the radio and on television.

One Friday morning I left early in order to reach in time to the Friday prayer at the University of Tehran. My religious host-family could to my surprise not tell me when the sermon was to start, and I did not wish to be late. Normally, in ordinary traffic, it would take me around an hour to reach the university, but on the empty streets it only took around 20 minutes. The otherwise always crowded and congested Khiâbân-e Enqelâb (Revolution Street) was closed for all vehicles (the exception being various VIP such as high-ranking ruhâniun or members of parliament, who had been driven in their limousines to the main entrance). Even the public bus had a detour, and we thus walked the last kilometre. In the side street busses were park­ed, having brought people living far away, or groups, like sol­diers, to prayer.

The entrance was heavily guarded, and steel-boots were put up where people were body-searched. Bags should be deposited at the entrance. The guard was very angry and shouted at me since I was walking back and forth and each time wanted my bag. I was not allowed to bring in my camera, unless I received a special permission. This permission I could not get, but instead I was asked to come to the jour­nalist box, where I was free to use my camera. In this area the officials were friendly and told me to be back at noon, since nothing would happen before then. They explained: "On a hot day like today people do not like to stay in the sun." Thus waiting for the prayer to start I strolled in the area where people had rolled out their prayer mats, and sat in small groups, of course with a tasbih in their hand, talking relaxed with each other about everyday activities. Only hesitantly did they interrupt their conversation in order to raise their fists when the speaker, who was 'warming up' for the main speaker, sug­gested it, and say (not really shout) 'Death to America', 'Death to Israel' and the like. They were indeed not very enthusi­astic, saying it with the same kind of automatised spirit as they shouted 'God is Greater'. The ones being most zealous were the leaders of the shouting, shâ'er. They were facing the crowd, back to the speaker, as were some security people. When asking about the latter's presence I was only answered that sometimes they were necessary. All in all there were only a few hundred pious men who defied the hot weather and came to the University ground. I guess that the number of women was less, I only saw few glances of them from the other side of a tall fence separat­ing the sexes.

The leader of the Friday's prayer is called qotb (qotb-e awal and dovom, first and second). Today Musavi Ardibili, who is Ayatollah Ozmâ79, was qotb. He is holding a Ph.D. in Econ­omy, and was born around 1923.

Who come? Some always come, others only when they know the speaker. "Hâshemi (Rafsanjani, the President) and Ardebili are easy to understand, consequently many people come when they are speaking. Ayatollah Kâshâni is probably the one which is most difficult to understand, consequently fewer people come." The young man who provides me with this informa­tion adds that the reason Kâshâni is so difficult to understand is that he is so very much learned.

In the front row very important persons, like the presi­dent etc., were sitting. In the second row were many members of parliament sitting, and behind them were other important religious, mili­tary and civil servants seated. They were separated from the rest of the crowd by an iron fence. Also there was a row of men in wheel-chairs.

The whole event was filmed and recorded in order to be broadcast on television and radio. From the journalists box beside the pulpit of the qotb I got to talk with the only jour­nalist present, besides the two camera men from IRIB, namely a young photo­grapher from the Tehranian daily Hamshari80. He was more inte­r­­ested in explaining the difficulties of working in a place where nearly no girls are working, than in discussing the Friday prayer. It seemed without interest for him what was being said, it was anyway, quite predictable: A little about Israel and the injustices they inflict on the Palestinian people, a lot about Bosnian-Herzegovin and the injustices the Muslims suffer at the hands of the Western powers and their instruments, the UN. "This is typical, we hear it all the time," he commented.En bedre overgang, en bedre afslutning!
CASE STORY 6: Mountain climbing & and visiting parks:

This case story is different from the others in as much as it has nothing to do with religion. This ritualized activity can however be seen as a comment to the appropriated religion. It is a perfect normal free-time activity, but certain aspects make me include it as a case story concern­ing ritualized activities.

First there is the popularity of climbing mountains and visiting parks. It is an activity going on all year, for many every week. Secondly there is a pattern of significant events involved which I believe tell us much about life in Tehran today.

Another Friday morning, I as usual get up while it was still dark. I admire my friends, who either work or study hard every day of the week except for Friday, that they manage to get up this early on their only day off. Yet the beautiful sunrise awaiting us is worth all the "hardships", and it is, especially in the Summer, an advantage getting up before the sun gets too high on the sky, and the crowds around the tea-houses too dense.

Mountain climbing, tracking or walking (kuh navardi) is one of the most popular free time activities in Tehran. Tehran is situated at the Southern foot of the spectacular Alborz-range crossing from west to east and separating the Caspian Sea from the plateau, and access to the mountains is easy by share taxi, mini bus or public bus. People go to the moun­tains espe­cially on Thurs­days and Fridays. Kuh navardi is performed in many ways. There are early risers who start at four o'clock in the morning and walk at a fast pace to a top, either following the trails or simply crossing the moun­tain­side, they are, respectfully, called ahl-e kuh navardi (the genus of kuh navardi). Others start later and use the trip more as a picnic. Our group is somewhere in between.

The mountains are among young­sters called "Tehran's Disco­theque", and it is probably the place where people can behave most freely. Many young people come here, like we are, only with a friend or a group of friends. Some girls are careful­ly arranging their hair and putting make-up and perfume on. Many even bring a ghetto-blaster or a radio. They are called ahl-e titish mâmâni (a depreciatory for the vain, mainly coming to meet the opposite sex and to show off). One of the reasons for getting a relatively early start is to avoid these kinds of people, who seem to enjoy light talk and the crowds more than the reflexiveness that the mountains also invites to. Equally often people are singing by them­selves, to them­selves or to the whole world. Some do it very beautifully, others are nearly shouting, enjoying the echo and the loud noise. Thus, up in the mountain we heard singing accom­panied by the sehtâr. We spotted the couple that produced these wonderful sounds, and went to sit beside them. My friends knew the poetry, which (of course) was by Hâfez (otherwise it would likely be by Mowlânâ) and they quietly sang along. They explained to me how beautiful this poetry is. Their mood changed from the gai­ety of the early morning to a though­t­fulness which often follows this kind of poetry. Later on, while we sat resting and talking quietly beside a brook by our­selves, our mood got a bit gloomy when komiteh came to our small party and demanded that we identify ourselves.

Komiteh is present to secure the moral order of things. They stand at the entrances to the mountains and check that the females wear proper hejâb. They also patrol the mountains with their automatic weapons (for example Kalashnikov). A few of them will be in civil. Girls and boys are not supposed to be together if they are not related to each other. We did not get any problems this time while my friend had made a false ID-card (library-card) for his girlfriend which showed that they were sib­lings. This way we could all be together because my friend could take his male friends with him and his 'sister' could bring her girlfriends without problems. Furthermore one of the young men in our company was a lieutenant in the army, but he could get problems if the komiteh went to his superiors with a complaint. Frightened and a bit cheerless we continued our tracking further up in the mountain where we knew komiteh would not come, and the girls would then take off their hejâb. We soon recovered the good spirit, and similar to many other groups like ours we recited poetry, sang, and discussed 'existen­tial' matters. On our way we would drop in at one of the tea-houses situated at the major tracks81 and have a cup of tea and a late break­fast (eggs, bread, jam, and cheese), and around noon we would return and call it a day, or meet later in the afternoon, going to the cinema, or watch a video.

Families, especially those having small children, would seldom come to the mountains. If they did not stay home or went visiting each other, they would probably prefer the parks. Depending on the weather, they would carry kitchen utensils and blankets and picnic there.

The parks are very beautiful, having marvellous flower decorations, fountains and coloured lamps, and are to a high degree the work of the mayor's beautification campaign for the capital. It is more the people using the parks who give them atmosphere, however. People are everywhere, but since everybody has a good time, the atmosphere is relaxed. Children are playing, eating ice-cream and candy-floss, young men are playing football or volley ball, youngsters are strolling romanti­cally side by side, the elder are sitting on the benches watching, and groups of young men or young girls are strolling around, to look, or maybe to be seen, and to talk. The parks are crowded especially on holidays. Families bring kitchen utensil, and blankets and pil­lows. Not only in the parks is it like this, but also on the different squares. Haft Hoz (The Seven Pools), where I lived, is always crowded in the evening, and there is the same gaiety here as in the parks. I always enjoyed walking around the pools, watching people. It was very relaxing.

Comments on case story 5 & 6:

The connection between the Friday sermon at the Univer­sity, and the mountain trips with friends or family might seem far fetched. For me, nevertheless, it came to be a choice between either the Friday sermon or the mountain trekking. My friends had no intentions of giving up the weekly trip to the mountains in order to follow me to something they detested, and I on my side did mind giving up those beautiful trips we had every Friday in the mountains, so for me those two events were always in opposition to each other. My desire to be part of the Friday Sermon was surely part of my luggage of prejudices con­cerning Iran, namely that religion is a cornerstone of the society, especial­ly now after the Islamic Revolution. I do not claim that it is not, but I contest that it is the corner­stone in the form it has been given by the ruling regime, and by which it has become known in the West. There are wide differences between different perceptions of what Islam is in Iran. It might thus even be possible that the official Shia doctrine not is the version which is embraced and accepted by most people82.

There are some points I want to make which are of import­ance. Bearing Espo­sito's word in mind concern­ing the "ulama-mosque system as a natural, infor­mal nationwide communications net­work, [that] became the foci for dissent, centres for political organization and agitation," and the "Friday sermon [which] became a political platform" (Esposito 1987; pp.190-191) we now certainly face a different real­ity. As hinted, coming or not coming to a sermon is indeed a political statement. Not only does it show the sermon seekers' religious zeal, but it also shows who of the qotbs have the support of the people83. It might be a politi­cal plat­form, but it seemed rather shallow with a few hundred people sitting in the shade. The heavy security seemed much exagger­ated to control this very idle crowd. It is difficult to interpret it in other ways than to say that it is the regime's fear for assassins.

Shahla Haeri from the Department of Anthropology at Boston Univer­sity describes a sermon in November 1990. It was the presi­dent, Mr. Rafsanjani, who held the sermon. Mrs. Haeri describes that there was 'a huge audience' and that Rafsanjani's 'provo­cative' speech 'made news headline in Iran and abroad' (Haeri 1994; pp.98-99)84. I am not the least contesting that import­ant pol­icies are announced from the platform of the Friday Sermon. Rather am I saying that its importance is neglectable. At the most there is the symbolic qualities in having the leader address the whole nation after having performed a meritful (savâb dârad) activity, namely namâz (prayer), which is a cornerstone of the faith (and one of the five pillars). But today the message will reach out anyway. The media are at the disposal of the regime, and the political debate is fairly open, and, at least, taking place outside the arena of the Friday sermon. This symbolic importance can backfire, namely when people find the topics too ridiculous for their everyday life. Such a thing happened for example when one Friday it was preached that one should not wear t-shirts with American motives and names. People at this point in time will loose whatever respect they had for the mullah. With all the serious problems the Iranians are facing daily, the mullah's talk about T-shirts with American motives! and the like, seemed like an insult to most Iranians.

At the same time there was a sharp contrast between the University place and the empty streets in down­town Tehran (they were comparable with the streets of Copenhagen an early Sunday morn­ing), and the crowds in the moun­tains, walking around or sitting in the tea-houses along the mountain paths or in the terrain. Peoples' dress and behaviour, especially the ahl-e titish mâmâni, put them in direct opposi­tion to the activities going on at the sermon, and I feel that the two scenes can be said to demon­strate two poles of contem­porary Iranian societyuddyb! . I speak about poles because I am aware of class differences. Roughly it can be said that it is the secularized higher middle- and upper class that amuse them­selves in the mountains. It is difficult for me to judge what strata come to the Friday sermon, maybe simply because the event is so un-popu­lar85.

This might be interpreted as a conscious disapproval of the regime, people do not want to be part of this newly established and powerful offi­cial religion, which has turned identical to the state power. It can also be seen plainly as lack of interest in religious matters as they are presented by the regime. There are many other factors point­ing to a reorientation in relation to the regime. For example the overwhelm­ing participation in official events such as the International Book Fair and the International Film Festival, as well as great interest in private activities such as video-watching86, show, not a pur­suit after Western objects (the negative aspects of Western culture is too well known to make it attractive), but rather a turning towards alternatives to the existing order, a turn to "the outside world". Like the Friday Sermon are other official holidays or commemor­ations are likewise not very popular or well attended (22. Bahman, Ruz-e Qods, etc.).

These observation should be seen in the light of the fact that the Tehranian population generally speaking are very politicised. This is without doubt one of the results of the Revolution, the ensuing war with Iraq, and the abnormal relation­ship to most of this World's nations. Otherwise it would be tempting simply to regard the behaviour as a lack of political engagement.

The singing in the mountain is significant in a number of ways. Firstly it can be noted that many feel that the confine­ment they live with in the metropolis finally has a chance to be given vent. This is confinement of feelings, of desires. In the crowded city, with ears and eyes everywhere, there is no way to express those con­fined senti­ments. One must on the contrary always be on guard for neigh­bours and strangers (zâher-et-râ hefz kon!; conserve your (outer) appearance!) while there still exists a mutual mistrust and suspicion among Iran­ians (see for example Olesen 1989; pp.64-65 and Nyberg 1981; pp.69-74 for an elabor­ation of this). In the mountains "there exist no walls", as it often is stated. People feel like shouting, and they do it.

Another point is that people rarely go alone to the moun­tains. Singing and the recitation of poetry is intended to be heard by others. It is a form of communicating between people who otherwise have no possibility to communicate, and since there are no walls and no established fora for speech, it becomes a very free and open communication.

A third point concerns the poetry, and as such it relates not only to the mountains. As the above chapter about sorrow described, there is a tendency among Iranians to speak about a subject in a circumlocutory way, never to address a problem or a request directly. Poetry is a favoured way to address existen­tial problems. The literary discourse is polysemous in nature, and the images presented disclose and hide at the same time. Consequently contemporary Persian literature tends to conceal the structure of the argument presented by the writer. However, in historical periods when members of a community of meaning share a relatively stable cultural content, what a certain sign in a certain context hides and what it reveals become more or less the same for an entire social group (Karimi-Hakkak 1991; p.508-509). This condition is expressed by statements such as: "This is difficult for you to understand [while you are not Iranian]". This polysemousness hold true not only for contempor­ary literature and poetry87, but also for the classics. In the mountains it is first and foremost the classical poetry that is recited. First and foremost by Hâfez, but also by Mowlânâ, Bâbâ Tâher, Sa'di, Attâr, and many others clas­sics. Their poetry is no less ambivalent than the contemporary one.Dobbelttydighed --> frihed i tolkning

Glæde ved nydelse, afstand fra autoriteter --> tage for pålydende

There are many reasons for the popularity of the poetry of for example Hâfez. Hillmann (1990) lists four dimensions to Hâfez's appeal as a cultural personal­ity, which I find relevant. Hâfez often uses the term rend (libertine, a person inwardly upright but outwardly lewd. clever. cunning.) in his poetry. He is, especially among the non-establishment intellectuals, perceived as being a rend himself, that is,

"...a reckless individual unconcerned with or un­con­strained by prevailing mores, a privately moral person who hods his exterior up for reproach (either because of a lack of concern for what others think or because of deliberate courting of disfavour) (Hill­mann 1990; p.80).88

It is signifi­cant to behave without regard to one's reputa­tion in a culture in which propri­ety, formality, and approved style count for so much89. When per­sons cannot afford to be reck­less in their own behav­iour they may price such qual­ities in the vicarious experi­ences of such mytholo­gized his­tori­cal figures as Khayyâm and Hâfez. Second, in so far as political concerns have long been a major reason for circum­spectness in public in Iran, behaviour that exhibits disregard for public opinion strikes some latently anti-estab­lishment people as heroically anti-establish­ment. Thirdly there is a sheer romantic appeal of individualist behaviour for people who cannot achieve great public individual­ity in a patriarchal culture in which the only true individuals have been the monarch and his representatives, and fourthly there is an implicit ambiguity of the rend, the possibility that a relig­ious spirit, perhaps a gnostic intent, is behind it all ((ibid; pp.80-81). In classic Persian poetry, I was told that there are some words that are to be regarded as key-words: Mey, bâdeh, sharâb (wine, drink, liquor), meykadeh or meykhâneh (a tavern, wine cellar, public house, pothouse, pub, bar), sâqi (cupbearer, butler), jâm, (cup, chal­ice, grail, gob­let), sabu (jug, pitcher, pot), motreb ((hired) musician, minstrel, troubadour, bard) and mast (drunk, intoxicated) (Ali Farzânfar, personal communica­tion). This selection clearly shows with what ambiguity this body of poetry can be read.

Another aspect of the classic poetry is its many hints to a Sufi philos­ophyKan man knytte en kommentar til Khomeinis sufisme, hans digte?. With this in mind it can be seen as another way of turning from the officia­lised relig­ion to the more private religion of the Sufis. It might be argued that even Khomeini is known to be a Sufi, and that he has had a divân (collection of poetry) published. Many Tehranians are discarding this body of poetry, and his poems are being ridiculed as being "pseudo-Hâfez"90. Many poems (and short stories) show a distinction between 'them' and 'us', good and evil, Arab and Iranian, and they show that the Revol­ution is considered something foreign, that the present situ­ation has gone out of control: Satanic or nonhuman rulers whose men are ultimately non-Iranian, alien, outside the good and the beauti­ful that define the writer and his readers as repre­senting the "true" Iranian culture (Karimi-Hakkak 1991; pp.522-525). Komiteh, controlling the mountains, harassing the people, are actually functioning as a reminder, as an illustra­tion for the mountain trekkers, of this dichotomy between them and us, and their presence will only make the feeling of unity among the trekkers even greater.

In summing up the case stories there are certain character­i­stic that are salient in the religious life of Tehran­ians. It is clear that we do no longer observe the relig­ion as a vehicle of protest, of political activity, as it has been described in the literature. In Iran today no official rituals exist that are used to demon­strate dissatis­faction91. Before the Revolution, in 1931, Shâh had the Moharram rituals banned for sociopolitical rea­sons. He then attempted to make ta'ziyeh into an art form, by the cre­ation in 1976 of the "Institute for Tradi­tional Perform­ance and Ritual" in Tehran. Having thus changed a strong social means of expression into art it is the director of this insti­tute who has written the fore­word to the comprehensive book on Ta'ziyeh (Chelkowski 1979) which is proceedings of an interna­tional symposium on Ta'ziyeh held in 1976 at the Shiraz Festi­val of Arts, Shiraz, Iran.

Despite prohibitions of the Moharram rituals, the Shâh was not able to pacify the sentiments being expressed in these rituals, and as described they did play a major role in the events ending his dictatorial regime.

Today, in the Islamic Republic, it seems, as also Hegland notices, that the appropriation of the rituals has taken the spark out of the perform­ance. All rituals have like the Moharram rituals gone into a "passive" state. Good and Good saw the rituals (or relig­ious discourse) as perfor­ming the "work of culture". Thereby they mean that the religious discourse reconciles idealized experi­ences of tran­scendence with compro­mised parti­cipation in social and politi­cal life. Today, after the appropriation of the religious discourse by the regime, this seems to be a doubtful function of this discourse.

One can then ask what other means of expression is left.Dette er en dårlig overgang. Den skal uddybes, og spørgsmålet skal svares alvorligt. It seems that secular activities, and activities not associated with religion is emphasised. Looking at Iranians abroad, one notices that the most important event, the event that Iranians gather around, is the pre-Islamic Novruz (lit. New Day, i.e. New Year). This is even the case with the Islamic Mojaheddin who also mention pagan feasts such as Mehre-gân (which not in any way is celebrated in Iran). I wish to discuss the Novruz holiday it being one of the few holidays which is not appropriated by the current regime, and since it is the major non-Islamic holiday.

Måske det der bliver gjort mest ud af.

Mest ukontroversielle, familiecentreret, upolitisk i modsætning til de andre.

Koges ned! Pre- and non-Islamic rituals are generally not opposed by the regime today. Châhâr Shanbe suri which is the night of the last Wednesday of the year, and part of the Novruz tradition, is not accepted by the regime. This day is marked by various rites to ward off evil such as using fireworks and jumping over the fire, a tradi­tion dating back to the Zoroastrian times. Young­sters use this pagan and non-Islamic tradi­tion to make contact with each other, and it thus has the potential to function as a protest demonstration turned against the sitting regime. It is not very widespread among people, and then only among the younger ones, but the police does strike down hard on these perform­ances92. Novruz is likewise non-islamic but it is the Iranian festival par excel­lence. It is the festival of Spring, (may also be related to the Egyptian shaman nasim and to the Chris­tian Easter) of renewal, held at the spring equi­nox. The Novruz, is the begin­ning of the Iranian official year, when spring clean­ing takes place and new clothes is worn. At the precise moment of solstice, new year wishes are exchanged beside a cloth-covered table bearing various traditional objects, notably haft sin (seven "s's"); seven dishes of fruits, food or plants with names beginning with "s" and each have a symbolic value93o Efterse hvornår og hvorfor der fandt et bogstav skift sted. (Soufi 1991; p.83).

On the first day of the year which naturally is a national holi­day, people visit each other and usually the younger go to see the elder rela­tives or colleagues first. During these visits the elders or the wealthiest are supposed to give a gift, often in the form of cash, to children and subordinates. This gift or cash is called 'eidi. The conservative Tehranian morning daily Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi (The Islamic Republic), that has been published since 1982, however had the following critique of the traditional Iranian New Year's celebration. I quote at length while the comment gives a good picture of how the time is spent around New Year. Editorial from Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi, Sunday, 3 April 1994:o Hvem representerer denne avis, er det den officielle holdning. Uddrag essensen af citatet.

"...Considering the nearly one month of holidays at the start of every year, practically everything comes to a standstill for two weeks, this time even 17 days. Even though it is pretended that government departments are operating in the second week of the new year, the offi­cials are not accessible and the national affairs are paralysed From the third week, owing to the resump­tion of school work, things go back to normal to some extent but in practice, one month of the year is almost lost.

We, as a country engaged in reconstruction, have to double our work and efforts. These kind of long holidays are just unacceptable. Those unprincipled holidays have caused the rate of useful work in our country to be slightly more than half an hour a day! That rate in some countries like Japan is seven hours.

The fundamental questions in this respect are:

- Why do the schools and other educational centres, being closed throughout summer, have two weeks of holi­days in Novruz?

- Why does IRIB broadcast Novruz programmes for 13 days event though official holidays are only 4 days? Is that not one of the reasons for closing down the whole country in the first two weeks of the new year?

- Why does the government not think of serious remedies to change the status quo?

This year, most of the papers were closed for 16 days; is this not contrary to the press work supposed to propagate work and principles?

The principal question is directed at the govern­ment responsible for the prevalence of principles and efforts throughout the country. It is time for the gov­ernment, espe­cially considering the Novruz message by Leader Khâmeneh'i calling on work and self-discipline in the new year, to take serious actions in this regard." (Ghazi, No.14/7 (April 2-8, 1994), p.2-3)94.

We here see steps taken from official side (Jomhuri-ye Eslâmi was the paper affiliated to the Islamic Republican Party until 1987 when this party dissolved it self) to curb the extent of a strong and prevalent Iranian tradition. However, the article also shows to what extent the tradition already has been encompassed and is propagated by the regime. The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is thus covering the event with many films, comedies, quizzes, and other forms of light entertainment. This is much appreciated after the pre­dominant religious programmes, especially in the months of mourning, Moharram and Safar. That these programmes last for 13 days is due to the new year's feast ending on the thirteenth day after novruz. This day is called sizdeh bedar, on which people indulge in outdoor amusements, abandoning their homes to all sorts of demons and genii who are then supposed to leave the occupants in peace for the rest of the year.

All the rituals connected to novruz can be characterized as rather private. Everything takes place with and within the family. The only noticeable exception is Châhâr Shanbe Suri where people gather to jump over bonfires and to use fire-works. In this regard it is not a private ritual, and maybe that is the reason why it is suppressed this much from official side. Even describ­ing the event with so many lines in this paper is to place too much importance on it, since it in no way is prevalent today. Sizdeh bedar is also an outdoor activity where thousands of people gather, but there are no common activities, rather each family is sitting by itself, enjoying the picnic, often in beautiful sceneries outside Tehran. It can generally be said that the rituals and tradi­tions around Novruz are very a-political, and family-centred.

In Turkey, on the contrary, they are always very politi­cally used by the Kurds. From 1995 on they have been endorsed as a national holiday. This way the Turkish government takes a powerful occasion to demon­strate Kurdish identity from the Kurdish people, analogous with what Shâh did to the ta'ziyeh performances in 1931. The Turkish regime is probably not to succeed while it in Turkey really only are the Kurds who celebrate this holiday, which they know as their own. In this sense Novruz is used political­ly by Kurds in Turkey by giving large public feasts and proces­sions, thus demonstrat­ing a separate Kurdish ident­ity.

In Iran one cannot see the New Year celebrations as a part of an identity creating device vis-a-vis the state power. Everybody is indeed celebrating it, not just some segments of society. Rather the holi­days are used as an extended vaca­tion where people have the chance to rest and forget an other­wise hard and little-pleasure filled life. This is amplified by the national broad­casting service which for a change sends much light entertain­ment. This way the event testifies to the fact that Iranian identity is strong, and that it not only is composed by Islamic bricks.

By having looked at various religious and non-religious rituals and activities I have shown how rituals have been used and changed under a changing macro-political environ­ment. The results are not contradicting any of the cited works on Iran, which on the contrary to a large extent have been con­firmed. The thesis does additionally show, I argue, that there is more to Iranian ritual life than Moharram rituals, and that there is more to Iranian identity than Islam. Most of the anthropological research in Iran has been carried out in smaller cities or in villages. In this connection I do think that we should bear the quota­tion of Motta­he­deh in the intro­duction in mind when we analyze any activity, and also the fact that Tehran is a very complex, multi-cultural metrop­olis. It did for example come as a shock to me to dis­cover that some of my very relig­ious friends were deeply dissatisfied with the sitting regime. I had indeed expected dissatisfied sentiments from my more western educated and western­ized friends, but not from this generation who grew up in an ortho­dox Muslim home after the Revolution.

Throughout the thesis I have tried to avoid falling into what the director of Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Jersey, has labelled "the government trap" (Hooshang Amirahmadi 1995: "The Civil Society Approach to Iranian Studies" iran­ By this term he is referring to the preoccu­pation of research and writings with the Islamic Republic in term of its ideology, power structure, social and cultural visions, economic policy, political behaviour and foreign policy. It is unavoidable not to touch on any of these subjects at all while they are rather basic to societal life.

Abbâs Kiârostami, the famous Iranian film director, has made a film in which he uses somewhat the same approach as I here have attempted. The title of the film is "Zendegi Va Digar Hich" ("Life Must Go On", 1992), and it depicts the violent earthquake that took place in a northern province in 1991. Despite the hardships life trickle from among the ruins of the former life. People marry and watch football. This I do find to be an appropriate figure of speech on the Tehranian society. Despite all kinds of hardships, especially economic ones, life goes on. As elsewhere people are more occupied with their personal affairs than with national or even world politics. This is one impression I hope have been conveyed in this paper.

I am thus not evaluating the degree of popular support the regime is having. Neither am I interested in measuring the degree of peoples' religiosity. Eva Rosander has pointed out about women in Senegal, that we should not forget that "these people are religious" (in a lecture given in Copenhagen 27. April 1995). I am accepting the same about Iran (generally speaking). What I have tried to bring through is that Iran did not become, and is not, a fundamentalist Shi'a Muslim commun­ity because of the Islamic Revolution in 1979 as she mostly has become known for. In the words of Mehdi Mozaf­fari it can be stated that it is not recently that Islam has been introduced in Iran. The country has been Islamic for 14 centuries. Consequently, if Islamic concepts, such as velâyat-e faqih and the right to ijtihâd, as they are put forth in the constitution, were efficacious in their own right, Persians would have been living for a long time already under a regime compar­able to that of today (Mozaf­fari 1987). Rather it must be reminded that the official propaganda has been and is very strong, resulting for example in the high degree to which religion is seen to be ubiquitous by the academic world.

Government propaganda has been greatly aided by the academic literature in forming the minds of foreign scholars and students of Iran. Most of the literature in the 1980s has concerned itself with Islam as the driving force of the 1979 Revolution, and by the mid-80s the focus has been shifted towards a concern with understanding the Islamic Republic. This is understandable in terms of the aforementioned discussion of discourses. At a time when the Islamic Republic is moving into Thermidor (Abrahamian 1993, Rouleau 1995) it is likewise likely that this should be reflected in the literature and research which again should open itself to other areas and aspects of life than those related to religion.

Another reason for the over-emphasis on the role of religion in Iran today might stem from the terminology that has been used since the Revolution. o Uddyb om starten af 80'erne. Transformeret fra folkelig til bestemte grupper...I believe that understanding Iranian society today will become easier if we stop looking at the Revolution in 1979 as a fundamentalistic Islamic Revolution. This term has been used so much that it even has got a Persian equivalent (bonyâde­gar) (Abra­hamian 1993; p.13). Instead, Ervand Abrahamian suggests, we should regard the movement that lead to the Revolution as a popular movement. It is not just a question about semantics, while it has far reaching consequences for how we can regard the society today:

"...if Khomeinism is a form of fundamentalism, then the whole movement is inherently incapable of adap­ting to the modern age and is trapped in an ideo­logical closed circuit. On the other hand, if Kho­meinism is a form of populism, it contains the potential for change and acceptance of modernity - even eventually of political pluralism, gender equality, individual rights, and social democracy." (ibid; p.2).

If we look at Khomeinism, as Abrahamian choose to call the form of regime present in Iran, as a "flexible political movement expressing socio-economic grievances, not simply as a religious crusade obsessed with scriptural texts, spiritual purity, and theological dogma" (ibid; p.3), then we no longer need, automatically, to make the simplistic connection between social unrest and dissatisfaction with religion95, which otherwise appears as a common patter from the academic literature.

Thus Islam is to be regarded as a political model, as it is used in the Islamic Republic today. Since there in reality is no alternatives to this model, it is difficult to imagine any opposition to it.

The uses of the Moharram rituals, which I have treated at length in this paper, also support this understanding. Opposition have been a key word in the treatment of the Moharram rituals. The 1979 Revolution showed the world unambigu­ously how these rituals can be used politically. The question I have tried to answer here has been, what happens to the use of those rituals when the relation­ships of power are altered.

The understanding of the rituals as being in an active or in a passive mode helps us much in understanding the nature of these rituals. Hegland has excellently captured how the rituals are used politically and how their use are determined by politics. Good and Good, on the other hand, by describing how the rituals are doing the "work of culture" create some distance from Hegland's rather functionalistic approach.

I am of the opinion that particularly the Kerbalâ para­digm is rather immune to changes in power relation­ships, namely because of the constant shifting between either a passive or a active mode. These shifts are not to be understood in a absolute way" a absolute way" ? Uddyb!. They are qualitative as well. By this I hint to the fact that the Moharram rituals are so open to interpretations, that:

"[they] have been instrumental in Iran both in the preserva­tion of the political status quo and in the complete overthrow of the political, economic, and social order" (Hegland 1983b; p.96).

This openness for interpretation of the symbolic meaning is a permanent quality of those rituals, and a great strength. One danger of the passive mode is, however, that people become so indif­ferent to these rituals that they loose all meaning, and eventually disappear. I find the Kerbalâ paradigm too integrated in the Iranian society for this danger to be real. History has proved that they are very resistant. And when the possible inter­preta­tions of the meaning of this ritual complex is so open, it can still be used as a "ritual of pro­test". The Iranian identity, the feeling of "Iranianess" as opposed to "the other" is strong (cf. Karimi-Hakkak's study, the novruz-celebration, and the last case story).Hvad er de kvalitative skift" Vad innebär det här?

There are, however, few ways to express these feelings save in the mountains and at private gatherings. The Hay'ats are not proper fora for dis­cussion of the current state of affairs while they are built up around a religious core, and often have a representa­tive of the shi'i establishment as its rowzeh-khân (and will have to have in order to be a respec­ted hay'at). One of the problems with a 'opposition'-discourse in Iran today is that the regime is monistic, that is they accept only authority from God. Thus there is only one way to do the right thing (for a develop­ment of this argument, see Mozaffari 1987).

The feeling of "Iranianess" as opposed to "the other" is not only expressed as analogies in the litera­ture. An eventual opposi­tion cannot be stated clear in a repressive state, but Herz suggested that we think of opposi­tion in Iran as a state of mind (Herz 1964, p.4), and then the situation is very differ­ent. Herz's study is concerning the Shâh's regime, but his descrip­tion actually fits equally well on the regime today. It describes disaffection, frustration, disillusions, expectations across all segments of society, right into the establishment itself. Today one meets these sentiments everywhere in the capital. Rouleau's article (1995) certainly also testifies to this.

Another aim of the thesis was to show other sides of religious life than those expressed through the Moharram rituals, thereby modifying their predominance. I believe that the five case stories and the following comments have been doing that. This way it might also be possible to create some distances to the stereotypes that have been created about Iran, to realize what is official propaganda, and what is popular sentiments. And as Herz points out (Herz 1964; p.1) the intangibles in politics are exceedingly important. They are also hard to document, and often one man's antennae vibrate differently in response to such factors than those of another, equally sensi­tive observer.


In a dis­cussion of the role of rituals and ritualized activ­ities in Tehran, Iran, it is argued that relig­ious senti­ments have found new ways of expres­sions, as well as have sentiments of opposi­tion, after the 1979-Revol­ution where the previ­ous oppositional Islamic discourse achieved hegemony.

The literature on religious rituals in Iran, especially the one written after the 1979 Revolution which brought Khomei­ni to power, mainly shows these to be vehicles of protest and opposition. Various inter­preta­tions of some of these rituals are discussed in connection to empirical evidence gathered during an 11-month stay in Tehran. The empirical material is presented in the form of six vignettes depicting religious as well as secular rituals or ritualised activities in Tehran. It is contended that the functional emphasis in the literature on the oppositional force of the relig­ious rituals characteristic for Shi'a Islam has over emphasized the role of relig­ion in the Revolution and in the Iranian society per se.if a false light, then what is the real thing. Det er måske en god ide at flytte resumet til aller sidst i opgaven.


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These days are extracted from an ordinary calendar "Yâddâsht-e Ruzâneh va Sâlnamâi" (Daily Notes and Yearly Guidance) for the Iranian Solar year of 1373 (21 March 1994 - 21 March 1995).

Events typed in bold are considered official holidays.



1, 21-03

2, 22-03

3, 23-03

4, 24-03

6, 26-03

12, 01-04

13, 02-04

14, 03-04

18, 07-04

19, 08-04

20, 09-04

24, 13-04

29, 18-04


03, 23-04

05, 25-04

11, 01-05

12, 02-05
21, 11-05

23, 13-05

27, 17-05

28, 18-05

30, 20-05

31, 21-05


03, 24-05

05, 26-05

08, 29-05

14, 04-06

15, 05-06

20, 10-06

21, 11-06

29, 19-06

30, 20-06


01, 22-06

05, 26-05
07, 28-06
12, 03-07
22, 13-07

26, 17-07

27, 18-07

05, 27-07

08, 30-07

14, 05-08

15, 06-08

16, 07-08

18, 09-08

19, 10-08

24, 15-08

26, 17-08

27, 18-08

30, 21-08


02, 24-08

04, 26-08
08, 30-08
10, 01-09

13, 04-09

17, 08-09

24, 15-09

31, 22-09

01, 23-09

10, 02-10

11, 03-10

16, 09-10

19, 11-10

27, 19-10

02, 24-10

13, 04-11

16, 07-11


03, 24-11

05, 26-11
07, 28-11

14, 05-12

16, 07-12
18, 09-12

19, 10-12

23, 14-12

26, 17-12

27, 18-12

04, 25-12

07, 28-12
08, 29-12

10, 31-12

11, 01-01

15, 05-01

16, 06-01
17, 07-01

26, 16-01

27, 17-01
27, 17-01

01, 21-01

02, 22-01

08, 28-01

10, 30-01

12, 01-02

19, 08-02

21, 10-02

22, 11-02

26, 15-02

27, 16-02

30, 19-02


02, 21-02

05, 24-02

10, 01-03

21, 03-03

15, 06-03

25, 16-03

29, 20-03


01, 21-03

'eid-e nuvruz

'eid-e nuvruz

'eid-e nuvruz, intl. meterological day

'eid-e nuvruz

Festival of _brizegân

I.R. of Iran Day

Sizdeh nuvruz

International Childrens' Books Day

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm ja'far Sâdeq (148 h),

Intl. Health Day.

Festival of Farvardegân

Cutting of political relationship between Iran and USA.

Beginning of haj-week

I.R.Iran Army Day

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Rezâ (148 h.)

US.Army attaced Iran at Tabbas (1359 Sh.)

International Worker days

Martyrdom of ostâd Motahari (1358 sh.),

Teachers' Day

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Mohammad Taqi

Nullification of capitulation in Iran

International Relations' Day

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Mohammad Bâqer (114 h.),

International Museums' Day

'Arafeh day (Day before 'Eid-e Qorbân)

'Eid-e Qorbân

Liberation of Khorramshahr in the operation "The Holy Household".

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Ali Al-Naqi

'Eid-e Ghadir Khom

Death of Emâm Khomeini, Leader of the Revolution and founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran,

The election of _yatollâh Khâmenehi to Leader

Anniversary of the Bloody Uprising in 1342 (1963)

International Biology Day

International Handicraft Day

Beginning of 1415 hejri qamari



Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Zain Ol-'_badin (94 h.)

International Solidarity Day with the People of South Africa's Struggle

The explosion of the bomb in the headquarter of the I.R.Party (1981),

The changing of the Muslims' qebleh from "the holy house" to Mecca

The crasch of the Iranian passenger aircraft by American Battleships

Festival of Tirgân
Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Mohammad Bâqer (57 h.) (5th Emâm)

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Musâ Kâsem (128 h.)

The Iranian acceptance of declaration 598 from the Security counsil

Establishment of the first Friday Prayer by Ayatollah Tâleqâni

The Fourtieth day after Hosain's death

Anniversary of the Iranian Constitutional Movement (1385 sh.)

The explosion of the American A-bomb at Hiroshimâ

Death of the Prophet (10 h.)

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Hasan

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Rezâ (203 h.)

The flight of Mohammad from Mecca to Medinah which marks the beginning of the Islamic calender

Acceptance of the Algerian 1975 treaty by Irâq

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Hasan 'Askari (260 h.)

The beginning of the cease-fire in Irâq's war with Irân (1367 sh.)

Birth of the Prophet to the narrative of the generation of Sunnat (beh ravâyat-e ahl-e sunnat) (570 ad.)

Beginning of the Unity Week

Beginning of Government Week

Birth of hasrat-e rasul akram (Prophet) (570 ad.),

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm ja'far Sâdeq (83 h.)

The explosion of the first premier office and the martyrdom of the wronged Rajâi and Bâhonar (1360)

International Peace Day

Cooperation Day

International Day for the Struggle against Illit­eracy

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Hasan 'Askari (232 h.)

Beginning of the Irâq Army's attack on the I.R. of Iran (1359 sh.),

Beginning of the Holy Defence Week

The opening of the schools,

Farmers' Day

Festival of Mehr-egân

The flight of Emâm Khomeini from Irâq to Paris (1357 sh.)

International Post Day

Birth of hasrat-e Zainab,

Nurses' Day

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Fâtemeh (11 h.)

International Day of Economic Progress, UN-Day

Deportation of Emâm Khomeini from Qom to Turkey (1343 sh.),

Captivation of the American Spy Nest in Tehran (1358 sh.),

Beginning of Week of Education,

Pupils' Day

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Fâtemeh (11 h.)

Birth of hasrat-e Fâtemeh (five years after prophethood),

Beginning of Week of celebration of Women's position,

Mothers' Day

Establishment of the Mobilization of the Oppressed (basij-e mostasa'fân) by Emâm Khomeini (1359 sh.)

Day of Naval Forces

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Mohammad Bâqar (57 h.)

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Ali Al-Naqi (254 h.),

Students' Day

Declaration by UN that Irâq was responsible and the agressor of the war

Approval of the Human Rights in UN (1948 ad.)

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Mohammad Taqi (195 h.)

Birth of hasrat-e Ali, (20 years after '_m Ol-fil)

Unification Day of Ruhâniân and Students

Birth of Jesus

Issuance of Emâm Khomeini's order based upon the establishment of the literacy movement

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Emâm Musâ Kâzem (183 h.)

Delegation of the Prophet

Beginning of the Christian year 1995

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Hosain (4 h.),

Day of the Guards (Pâsdâr)

Birth of hasrat-e Abul Fazl 'Abâs

Day of Self-sacrificing (Jânbâz)

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Zain ol-'Abadin (38 h.)

Shâh's escape from Iran (1357 sh.)

Birth of hasrat-e Qâ'm (255 h.) (last Emâm)

International Day of the Oppressed

Day of honoring the Army

Election of the first President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

International Day for the help to the Leprous

Festival of Sadah (ancient festival held 50 days before nuvruz)

Anniversary of the return of Emâm Khomeini to Iran, and the beginning of the decade of dawn (1357 sh.)

Day of the Air Force

Decease of hasrat-e Khadijeh

Victory of the Islamic (1357 sh.)

Birth of hasrat-e Emâm Hasan Mojtabâ (3 h.)

Ascension of the Prophet to Heaven

Receive of blow by hasrat-e Ali (40 h.)

Martyrdom of hasrat-e Ali (40 h.)

International Day of Jerusalem (Qods)

International Day of the Struggle against Racial Discrimination

Festival of Sa'id Fatr

Day of planting a tree

Chemical bombardment of Halabcheh by the Irâqi Ba'th regime

Anniversary of the Nationalization of the Oil Industry (1329 sh.)

'Eid-e Nuvruz,

Beginning of the year 1374 Shamsi (1995-96 AD.)

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