Nazanin Armanian: “The mass media have created a distorted and demonised image of Iran”
Barcelona-based Iranian writer, journalist and teacher, Nazanin Armanian, presents the second edition of her animal story book compilation. This book sets out some basic principles about the relationships between animals and human beings and can be seen as a starting point for comparing international relationships, especially between Iran, Middle Eastern countries and the West. Armanian graduated in Political Science at Universitat de Barcelona and is preparing her doctoral thesis in Philosophy. She talked to CNA about how humans relate to animals and the relationship between Iran, the Middle East and the West.
Barcelona (CNA).- After 30 years exiled from her native country, Nazanin Armanian combines her passion for animals with current affairs. Armanian is an Iranian writer who has published 15 books on different topics including animal tales and Middle Eastern conflicts. At the end of January she presented the second edition of her book 'El cuentacuentos Persa: los relatos que hicieron soñar al Emperador' ('The Persian storyteller: the stories which made the Emperor dream'). Nazanin Armanian graduated in Political Science at Universitat de Barcelona and is preparing her doctoral thesis in Philosophy. She talked to CNA about the importance of animals relationships with human beings as a basic scheme for every kind of relationship. Inevitably, she spoke about relations between Iran and the West and briefly analyzed the current situation in her role as a journalist and columnist for the Spanish left-leaning newspaper Público. In this interview to CNA, she explains everything about her new book and gives us her take on the relationship between Iran, the Middle East and the West.
What is the origin of these tales?
These fables are a re-adaptation of the millenary Sanskrit tales, compiled in the Indian book 'Panchatantra' and which were introduced into Persia at the time of the Sassanid Emperor Josró Anoshirván (531-578). They were adapted to this culture and way of life. My book 'El cuentacuentos Persa' is the first Spanish version directly translated from the Persian.
What kind of morality do they transmit? How are they useful nowadays?
It is important to take into account that 'the wise' transmit many ideas to a prince who is going to govern his country after the death of his father. Caution is the key to all the stories, although honesty and friendship are also important values. Actually, they are relevant principles in today\u2019s society.
What was your motivation for readapting and translating them into Spanish? Are they translated into other languages? Into Catalan for example?
The most important tales are translated into the world's main languages. The version I have translated is only in Spanish at the moment. I reduced the violence that the strong 'animals' practiced over the weaker ones, the mistreatment of women and I deleted those fables which represent negative values. It is not necessary to transmit from generation to generation those things which shame us as civilised beings.
How would you describe relations between human beings and animals at the moment?
They are based on control, on exploitation and absolute disdain. Calling someone an 'animal' is an insult. If we don't respect animals, it is impossible to respect other human beings.
You are a founder member of the animalist Rescat Association. What motivated you to involve yourself in this type of project?
I have spent all my life protecting animals. One day I saw myself unable to pick up 8 cats stuck on a roof, so I looked for help and some people appeared with whom I decided to set up Rescat, with the main goal of helping trapped animals.
Not only are you engaged with animals but you are also a reference in Middle Eastern analysis and, especially, regarding your native country, Iran. What point of view does the West have about Iran?
The mass media \u2013 which belong at the same time to political and economic powers \u2013 have created a distorted and demonised image of Iran, with the main aim of preparing public opinion to justify a possible attack on this country. Undoubtedly, the Iranian leaders themselves are half responsible for this. Iran is a country with a thousand-year old civilization, a peaceful nation, a poetry lover and one that wishes to live in peaceful coexistence with the whole world.
And what point of view does Iran have about the West?
One thing is the Iranian people and another thing is the country\u2019s government. Iranian people are very open. The 5 million people who do not normally create 'a community', integrate themselves easily into the local surroundings.
Do the media fairly transmit international conflicts with Iran? Do they give a correct coverage of the context, causes and consequences of a possible conflict?
The media do not reflect the real reasons of any conflict. Today, the media cannot say someone has gone to attack Mali to kill thousands of people for their gold, uranium or petrol. The media says that someone has gone to save them from Islamists.
You have published some books ('Islam unveiled: a Serious and Rigorous Approach to the Unknown Islamic World', 'Irak, Afganistan and Iran: 40 answers to the Near Eastern conflict') along with Martha Zein. Both of you are direct witnesses of the Muslim world\u2019s relationship with the West. What kind of relationship currently exists between these two? Where could it evolve towards?
Some Muslim countries are close Western allies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. There is animosity between these governments. Another question is countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen, which have been bombarded, tortured and ransacked by some Western countries, for interests.
How do you follow the Iranian news story from here?
With great concern. The economic crisis pressures the most underprivileged people too much and the military threat hovers over the country.
You have lived in Spain since 1983, when you were exiled from Iran for political reasons. What was behind your exile 30 years ago?
Trade unions, political parties, associations and progressive organisations were forbidden so I had to go. The situation was very hard, with no possibilities for freedom.
Do you expect to go back some day?
No doubt. It is my dream.
Why did you come to Barcelona and not somewhere else?
By pure chance. The flight landed here and by international law you have to ask for political asylum at the first 'democratic' airport you arrive at.
Has it affected in some way your publications?
I have learnt a lot about Catalan culture.
You have been living for 3 decades in Catalonia, do you feel Catalan?
I am 'Persalana', that is Persian-Catalan.
Do you have a future project?
I am writing a book about bioethics in the Middle East.