See Also: Short Guide to Iraq
[DISCLAIMER: The following text and illustrations are reproduced from a U.S. War Department booklet published in 1943. The text may be inaccurate, and no attempt has been made to update or correct the material. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]
AS AN AMERICAN SOLDIER assigned to duty in Iran (once called Persia), you are undertaking the most important job of your life. There is no other war theater where military success by the United States and her fighting Allies will contribute more to final victory over the Axis.
You've heard a lot of talk in this war about life lines—the sea lanes and land routes by which military supplies flow into the combat zones to be turned against the enemy. Iran is much more than a life line. It is a major source of the power that keeps the United Nations' military machine turning over—oil.
Because of its prime strategic value, Iran is the only country in the world where the armies of three of the United Nations—Great Britain, Russia, and the United States—are operating in daily touch with each other. This combination of great powers, cooperating in the defense of Iran, is a clear-cut indication of the decisive importance of the task you and your outfit have been called upon to do.
You, as an American, have a responsibility that goes beyond the ordinary military duties required of you. Your country has a reputation throughout the world for decency and unselfishness in its dealings with other nations. That reputation is a major asset for us in this global war. By your actions you can uphold it or destroy it. Accordingly, it is part of your job to establish and maintain friendly relations with the soldiers of our Allies—Russia and Great Britain—and with the people of Iran (Iranis). Most of those you meet won't know very much about Americans, except by reputation. They will watch to see how you act and what you do and probably say to themselves: "So, this is what Americans are like." And what they think of us will have much to do with our military success or failure.
It isn't a very difficult job. You'll be expected to act pretty much as you would at home, using your common sense to tell you what to do when you run into a tough situation. You'll be expected to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open even after you are sure of your ground. And you'll need to respect the ways of thinking and doing things of the Iranis and of the British and Russian soldiers, no matter how different they may be from your own. If you adopt the attitude that we Americans don't know all the answers and that the world doesn't revolve around Kankakee, Ill., you won't be very far off the target in your dealings with other peoples.
Beyond a spirit of tolerance and a willingness to meet the other fellow half way, the thing you'll need most in order to get along in Iran is information. Your opinion of the country and the people will never be any better than your knowledge of them. As you exercise your curiosity and gain fresh knowledge, you will increase your efficiency as a soldier and will add personal value and pleasure to a tough job.
This guidebook is to help you move in that direction, but it is little more than a preview. A smart soldier will soon know far more about the country than is to be found between these covers. That is the target to shoot at, and there is no better way to begin getting acquainted with the country than by understanding Iran's present position in this global war.
OIL—THE WORLD'S LIFEBLOOD
IRAN is important to the United Nations for a number of reasons. It is the land bridge by which to get supplies to Russia, and it might have become the path over which Hitler's armies could drive into India or to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. But, more important than anything else, Iran is one of the great power reservoirs of the world. Napoleon once said that an army marches on its stomach. Today armies march on oil. Were all supplies of oil suddenly to vanish, every large industrial nation in the world would collapse almost overnight. Oil is the lifeblood of the modern world.
In that part of the world to which you've been assigned there are two great oil-bearing areas that together constitute the "powerhouse" of the United Nations. The northwest area, stretching between the Araxes River in South Russia to the steppes north of the Caucasus, is the heart of the Soviet Union, measured in terms of barrels of oil. Second only to these oil fields in and around Baku on the Caspian Sea are those in Iran and Iraq, which supply Great Britain and us in the Middle East, North Africa, and on the North Atlantic.
One of the great military thinkers of the present day has said that the quadrangle bounded by the cities of Astrakhan, Teheran, Basra, and Aleppo is the true strategic or power center of the war, "an area in which a German success would mean the almost certain collapse of Russia and the probable collapse of Great Britain as well." Should its occupation lead to a German conquest of the Near East, not only would the British Empire be cut in half, but the prestige of the United Nations would be radically lowered. Note the names of the cities and then look at the map in the center of this guide.
You will see that you and your fellow soldiers are holding down two sides of the quadrangle. You will continue to hold them down so long as there is unity between the armies of the United Nations in Iran—the unity that comes from mutual confidence and respect. It is familiar strategy of Hitler and his Axis gang to create distrust and doubt between allies and the people friendly to them. You can help defeat that strategy by working to keep the good will of your allied comrades in arms and of the Irani people.
So doing you will become a force in keeping Iran on the Allied side. You will help to keep it open as a channel by which to move lend-lease supplies into Russia. And its annual production of 80,000,000 barrels of oil, originating in the fields near Bandar Shapur and Kermanshah, will continue to supply our tanks and fighting planes in the Middle East and North Africa and to fuel the ships of the British fleet in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
IRAN AND THE WAR
FOR about 3,000 years Iran has been a battleground. Its people took turns in conquering and being conquered. After 3,000 years of it they grew tired of war; they wanted to stay neutral in this war as they did in the last. But that did not suit Hitler's program.
Until he invaded Russia, Hitler's pattern of conquest called for getting the job done in the easiest way. If his propagandists and his "tourists" could demoralize a people and an army, the panzers had an easier job to do. That way it wouldn't cost so much in men or precious material. He tried the same strategy in Iran.
Long before we got into the war, Axis agents had poured into the country. They held key jobs in power companies, in banks, and even in government departments; they infested the towns and cities and worked to stir up the wild tribesmen of the mountain and desert areas.
Hitler's public propagandists, too, were active. The Nazi film "Victory in the West" was shown to capacity crowds in Teheran, the capital city. Nazis subsidized theater managers for using German newsreels. Nazi broadcasters, among other lies, even told the Iranis that Hitler really was a Moslem, related to their great Prophet Mohammed.
It didn't work. After many protests against Nazi activity in the country, the Russians and the British moved in on August 25, 1941. That was one time we got there first. The Shah, Reza Khan, abdicated. His son took over the throne and concluded a treaty with the Allied Nations. Nazi agents who could be found were interned, or fled the country.
Now, with the consent of the Iran Government, troops of the United Nations guard this great land bridge between Europe and Asia, its oil wells and refineries, and the highways and railroads which form the life line to our Russian allies. Our troops are in the minority among these occupying forces. One whole British Army, organized in the summer of 1942, is on duty in this theater. The Russians, reacting to developments north of the Caucasus, have had to lean more and more upon the military establishment in Iran as a prop to the forces operating between the Black Sea and the Caspian. Measured against these responsibilities and undertakings, our own effort in Iran has been relatively limited and we can appropriately be modest about it.
YOUR DOUBLE PART
YOU enter Iran not only as a soldier, but also as an individual. That is our strength—if we are smart enough to use it. As a soldier, your duties will be clear-cut. But in a place like Iran, what you do as an individual—on your own—can be almost as important. Iran is a possible trouble spot. A great deal of our success or failure may depend on whether the Iranis like us. If they like us, they can help us in countless ways. If they don't, they can cause us trouble. If they are doubtful, your friendly acts may win their confidence.
GETTING ALONG IN IRAN
GETTING along in Iran is pretty much like getting along at home, except that the people are more formal. Use ordinary decency, politeness, and consideration, and you won't have trouble. But be a little restrained, though friendly. And remember always that you aren't going to Iran to change or reform the Iranis or to tell them how much better we do things at home. Their ways of doing things have been good enough for them for some thousands of years, and they aren't likely to change because you think they should.
Even with the best will in the world, you can get off on the wrong foot with the Iranis unless you know a few things about them. There are two principal danger points. Their politics and their religion. Stay out of arguments or discussions of either. In the first place, you don't know enough about them to have an opinion; in the second place, they aren't your business; in the third place, you can make a lot more friends for our side by just being a decent, ordinary, friendly American.
MEET THE IRANIS
IN THE cities you will find most of the Iranis friendly to Americans. Iran has often turned for help in her problems to American scientists and economists, and the Iranis appreciate what these Americans have done to help them. They appreciate, too, the efforts of American missionaries to build hospitals and stamp out disease. Quite a few of Iran's professional men, such as doctors, were educated in the United States, and they have brought back favorable reports about us and our country.
In the country districts you will find that the people know less about Americans. Here the German agents have been particularly active and shrewd. Since the native Iranis have a distrust of most foreigners, the Nazis have sent their agents—disguised as natives and well supplied with money—into all sorts of remote places to spread their lies and stir up trouble. (It is believed that at least 100 of these Axis undercover agents are still active in various parts of Iran, in spite of the efforts to weed them out.) Your best way to beat this game is to be friendly and not to offend the Iranis by careless disregard for their customs.
The 15,000,000 Iranis are a mixture of peoples. They belong to the so-called Caucasian race, like ourselves, despite the dark color of the skins of many of them. Today many of them are more westernized than the inhabitants of bordering countries. You will see European costumes quite generally in the cities, but less in the country. One thing nearly all Iranis have in common is the Moslem religion, which we will talk about a little later on.
In the country, most of the people are tenant farmers, and they are very poor. They grow cereals, fruits, cotton, opium, and some vegetables. From one-third to two-thirds of their produce goes to the landlord; they live on the rest. Lack of water for irrigation (only about 10 percent of the land is under cultivation) accounts for much of Iran's poverty. In many districts you will see mounds that look like giant anthills. They are "kanats" which mark wells connected by underground channels through which water is brought to fields and villages possibly from 20 or 30 miles away. Water is so precious in Iran that you should be extremely careful not to damage any "kanat" you may come across.
Wheat bread is the staff of life in Iran. Everywhere you will see people eating round flaps of whole wheat bread—a working man will get away with about 50 pounds of flaps a month.
In the more mountainous part of the country there are about two to three million semi-wandering tribesmen who tend the sheep from which comes the fine wool used in the famous Persian rugs. Because of the lack of grazing land coupled with the severity of the winters, these tribesmen follow the grass through the seasons—in the high upland valleys in the summer and in the lowland ranges in winter.
The majority of people in the cities are handicraft workers—carpenters, shoemakers, bakers, masons, and tailors. Each has a small shop in the bazaar where all the work is done by hand. The rest of the city people are merchants, Government officials, and big landowners. Except for the oil industry (developed and operated by the British with Iranian personnel) and for some recently introduced factories, manufacturing in Iran is still in the handicraft stage.
Hand-woven rugs even today are Iran's most important product. As a matter of fact, many of the modern carpets now made in the United States are woven in old Iranian designs.
THE MOSLEM RELIGION
UNTIL a few years ago, if a foreigner had attempted to enter a mosque (Moslem church) in
Iran, he would probably have been beaten to death, and even today it is safest to keep
strictly away from mosques unless you are invited there by a responsible person. At that
time the Iranis were among the most fanatical of all Moslems, and the mullahs (priests) were
the men who really ran the country. Today, the situation is somewhat changed. The westernization
of the country has greatly lessened the power of the mullahs, so that although most Iranis are
still very devout, religion is no longer the controlling national force it once was. You will
find, generally speaking, that the mullahs hold greater power in the country than in the
cities, and that the country people themselves are stronger in their religious beliefs, particularly
their distrust of infidels, as they regard any
At any rate, the Moslem religion is still a force all over the country so that you should know something about it in order to avoid making any bad breaks.
Followers of the Moslem religion believe in one God, Allah, and obey the teachings of his prophet, Mohammed. They follow the religious practices which are set forth in their sacred book, the Koran. Most Moslems are very conscientious about observing carefully the rules of their religion. Here are the five most important rules:
1. Moslems are forbidden to eat pork. To them the pig is an unclean animal. They also believe dogs are unclean. Never offer pork to a Moslem, and if you have a mascot dog, be sure to keep him away from all Moslems and especially from mosques.
2. The Moslem is forbidden to drink any kind of fermented or distilled liquor. Don't offer him a drink or let him see you drunk. To do either will offend his religious principles.
3. The good Moslem prays five times a day, facing the holy city Mecca in Arabia, kneeling and bowing to the ground no matter where he happens to be when the call to prayer comes. If he starts doing this in your presence, respect his religious sincerity. Do not laugh, but look the other way until he has finished.
4. The Moslem day of rest is Friday. You will find almost all places of business closed.
5. One month during each year all Moslems observe the fast of Ramadan. During that time they do not eat, drink, or smoke between sunrise and sunset, although they may stay up all night to make up for it. This means that they are often irritable at this season, so make allowances. In 1943 Ramadan (Ramazan in Iran) will begin about September 1 and last until about October 1.
Most of the Iranis belong to the Shia sect of the Moslem religion, which differs in some of its beliefs from the Sunni sect to which most of the Moslems of other countries belong. This probably won't make much difference in your relations with the Iranis, but it might come in handy to know about it. In the past the Sunni and the Shia sects have fought bloody and bitter wars over their religious differences.
In addition to Ramadan (Ramazan) which both the Shia and Sunni sects observe, the Shias in Iran have a week of mourning called Moharrem even more important to them than Ramadan. During that week the Shias mourn three descendants of the Prophet Mohammed whose deaths in a quarrel over the succession to Mohammed as Caliph of the Moslem religion brought about the split between the two sects. During the week of Moharrem it is a good idea to be especially careful in your dealings with the Iranis. Feeling runs high at that time and in the past many bloody fights have occurred between the Shia Moslems, Sunnis, and nonbelievers.
While Mecca is the holy city of all Moslems, the Shia sect in Iran have a holy city of their own—Meshed, in eastern Iran near the Afghan border. Pilgrims from India and Afghanistan visit the city yearly worshipping at the great "golden mosque," holiest in Iran. Meshed is also the center of education for the mullahs, the religious leaders.
In addition to the Moslems, there are also in Iran small groups of Christians, Jews, and a very ancient religious group, the Zoroastrians. All these religions are recognized officially, a fact which shows that the average inhabitant has a kind of broad tolerance. Respect his religion, and he'll respect yours. That isn't a bad rule at all times. So if somebody takes you to visit a Moslem mosque (and that is the only safe way to go) don't laugh or think it funny that the Moslems keep their hats on in church, but take their shoes off. They would think our customs just as odd, but would probably be too polite to say so.
IRANI CUSTOMS AND MANNERS
POLITENESS, as a matter of fact, is one of the first things you'll notice when you begin to meet the Iranis. Their language is one of the most flowery in the world and one of the richest in polite phrases. They are also very ceremonious. There is no back-slapping or rough-housing. And they don't know a thing about boxing or fighting with their fists. If you should happen to lose your temper and knock an Irani down, your outfit would immediately get a bad reputation, to say nothing of the fact that you might run into a mess of trouble sometime later. Personal dignity is very important to an Irani. It is a point to be kept in mind. The natural courtesy of Iranis may be a bit misleading, sometimes. Often you will find that the Iranis you meet will agree with you no matter what you say or will tell you what they think will please you rather than what you really want to know.
Another thing, most of the people are extremely conscious of their long history and their culture, and they believe that Iran is unique among all the nations of the world. There is an old saying in Iran: "Half the World is Isfahan." Isfahan was once one of the most beautiful cities anywhere, and Iranis believed that it took all the rest of the world to equal it. Feeling so, the Iranis probably won't believe any boasting you do about your own country.
Another thing to know in connection with manners is that the Moslem is very modest about exposing his body in the presence of others. Remember this and avoid offending his sense of what is proper and courteous.
Hospitality. The Iranis aren't very prosperous today, but even so they are known for their hospitality, and you may be invited to an Irani home for a meal. In the wealthier homes in the cities the meal is eaten the same way as in the United States. There are tables, chairs, plates, and silverware.
In the poorer homes, however, and in the country the old customs are followed. The best thing to do is to watch your host and do as he does. You probably won't see the women of the family at all. You will sit cross-legged on the floor and eat with your fingers from a tray in the center. Eat only with your right hand, even if you are a southpaw. This is a strict custom. Don't eat too much, because what is left is for the women and children.
When you leave you will be expected to shake hands. But do this gently. The Iranis do not have a vice-like grip or pump the hand up and down. If you want to make a gift to your host, some American cigarettes or some form of sweets will be appreciated. Better still, send them along to him later.
When you are in an Irani home don't be too enthusiastic about admiring some particular object. Out of courtesy your host might feel obliged to give it to you. If an Irani makes you a gift, the proper thing to do is to give him one of equal value in return.
Often in a home, or even in a shop, you will be offered coffee or tea. If you don't want any, you may refuse. But if you take one cup or glass, you will be expected to drink at least two and possibly three. To stop at less, once you have started, is considered rude. But do not take a fourth. It may be offered, but you are expected to refuse it. Often the third cup or glass is considered a signal that your visit is at an end and it is time for you to go unless you are quartered in the house.
Irani Women. The position of women in Iran is far more advanced than in many Moslem
countries. In the cities the veil has disappeared almost entirely, except on older women, and
European dress is becoming the rule. However, you will find that you cannot do in Iran as
you would at home. You cannot pick up or date an Irani girl. You must wait for a formal
introduction. Even then most Irani girls do not yet have the social life that we are
accustomed to. In most homes you will find that the
Occasionally you will see Irani men and women together in public, but most social life is still for men only. You will never see a man and woman walking arm in arm. On the other hand, you will frequently see men walking hand in hand. Don't let this give you any funny ideas about them. It is simply the way of expressing friendship.
Any approach you might make to an Irani woman, either in the country or the city, would be sure to be resented and would cause almost certain trouble. So keep your distance. Don't make passes. Don't even stare at the women. To do this would only cause trouble, and anyway it won't get you anywhere.
Bargaining. Most tradesmen have stalls in the bazaars, which you will find in all the cities, and bargaining is a great national pastime. You will have to bargain for almost everything you buy. The price first quoted is always higher than you should pay. A little good-natured American horse trading will get the price down anywhere from a third to two-thirds. However, you must expect to pay more for things than the Iranis do. As an American soldier, you are paid as much in a month as many natives earn in half a year or more, and they will think it only fair that you should pay higher prices.
Language. There is really no single language in Iran. The language you will hear will depend on the part of the country you are in. In the north, many of the people speak a form of Turkish. Near the Persian Gulf in the south, you will hear Arabic. There are numerous other languages and dialects, and many of the educated Iranians speak French and English. However, the official language of the country is known as Farsee, or, more commonly, Persian, and nearly all Iranis understand some of it. Study the Farsee words and phrases at the end of this guide, and use them, and you will be able to get along.
You should particularly learn some of the most common polite phrases of greeting, parting, etc., such as: sa-LAH-mun a-LAY-kum (Peace be on you) which is used in greeting; KHOO-da HAH-fiz (God be your Protector) which is said when taking leave of someone; bis-MIL-lah (In the name of God) which is said before eating; and mam-NOON-am, which is one of the many ways of saying "Thank you."
Remember again: your cue is to be polite but not familiar.
Sports and Amusements. Except in Teheran, you won't find movies or hot spots, and you'll depend on what sports equipment your outfit brings with it for amusement. There is, however, good hunting and some fishing. Iran has plenty of quail, snipe, and woodcock, and you'll find wild boar in some sections. If you are out after the latter don't make the mistake of blasting away at him with an ordinary shot gun. The bullets will bounce off his tough hide and he'll probably run you all the way back to camp—if you can keep ahead of him.
Another favorite sport is chasing gazelle in a jeep. The main difficulty is to catch up with them, for the gazelle is almost as swift and shifty as our own western antelope. Also, you'd better watch out for chuck holes during the chase.
The Iranis have a novel, and ancient, way of catching ducks worth trying. You'll need a large flashlight, a piece of net rigged like a butterfly net, a dishpan, and a club. Plant yourself in the reeds at night, turn on the flashlight, bang on the dishpan with your club, and scoop up the duck in the net when he flies down at the light. It's not as easy as it sounds and more fun than banging away with a gun.
LAND OF IRAN
THE kingdom of Iran occupies the western two-thirds of the great Iranian plateau that stretches across southwestern Asia from the Indus River in India to the Tigris in Iraq. Iran itself extends roughly 600 miles from the Caspian Sea on the north to the Persian Gulf on the south; about 900 miles from Afghanistan and Baluchistan on the east to Turkey and Iraq on the west. It has an area equal to about one-fifth that of the United States—628,000 square miles—with a population about one-tenth as great as ours.
Most of the country is tableland, ranging in elevation from 3,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level; but there are two areas of coastal lowlands. The one along the shores of the Persian Gulf is a desert with very hot dry winds. The other, bordering the Caspian Sea, is hot and wet, with tropical jungles where there are tigers to be hunted. At the edges of the tableland are ranges of mountains which resemble our Rockies. To cross these mountains the Trans-Iranian Railway requires 224 tunnels and 4,102 bridges in the course of its 870 miles from the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea.
The greater part of the tableland where most of the people live is desert—much like the drier regions of western United States. In the summer, the countryside is brown and desolate, and in the eastern part are such areas as the Dasht-i-Kavir (salt desert) and the Lut Desert, which are absolutely barren. Very few people live in this eastern part of the tableland. Those who do make their living as shepherds. In the western portion there are mountain ranges and high valleys. Here, wherever water is available, there is irrigation farming much like that practiced in Utah and Nevada.
The large cities are located in the irrigated spots. Teheran, the capital, has a population of more than 300,000. Tabriz, in the northwest corner, has about 220,000 people; Isfahan, in the western mountains, 100,000; Meshed, in the eastern mountains, 140,000; and Resht, on the rainy Caspian coast, about 90,000. Some of these cities are very interesting for their architecture and people, while Teheran is modern in many respects though you will not find the kind of entertainment to which you are accustomed at home.
The climate of Iran is healthful, except in the Caspian lowlands, where malarial mosquitoes are a danger. On the tableland the weather resembles that of Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas though there is less rainfall. In winter temperatures are low, although they seldom drop below zero. In summer, they average between 70 and 90 degrees, sometimes soaring above 100. On the tableland, even when the days are hot, be prepared for sudden drops in temperature after the sun goes down.
Everywhere, except along the northern coast, rainfall is scanty. On the eastern tableland the rain seldom exceeds eight inches annually, and the western tableland averages 15 inches—about the same as Salt Lake City.
HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT
TWO THOUSAND five hundred years ago, Iran, then Persia, was the military nation of the world. Cyrus the Great, the first of a series of soldier kings, established an empire that included the whole of the Middle East from India to the Mediterranean and from the Caucasus Range to the Indian Ocean.
In those early years as a world empire, Iran was organized for total war. According to military
historians it was the first nation to set up a system of universal military service. Boys of five
began training in the use of arms and at the age of 15 entered into a
The Persians were also believed to have been the first to employ archers on a large scale to increase the firepower of their forces. And they developed this arm further by putting the bowmen on horseback.
Darius the First, grandson of Cyrus, was noted particularly for his attention to the problems of supply. One of his major works was the construction of a vast network of military roads over which troops and supplies could be transported to any threatened part of the empire. He also established an empire-wide system of communication by mounted carriers—not unlike the famous Pony Express in America 80 years ago.
In 331 B.C., the Iranian Empire was finally overthrown by Alexander the Great at the Battle of Arbela. With about 47,000 men, he defeated more than a million Persians under Darius III. In this decisive battle, the Persians used elephants, probably the first time in history that they appeared on a battlefield as offensive weapons, their tactical employment being quite like that of the tank in today's warfare.
It took 500 years for Iran to make a come-back as a nation. Then, under Ardashir, a tribal chief, the people reconquered much of their old empire in the Middle East and again drove into India. For the next 400 years, the Persians were constantly at war, fighting about 15 major wars with the Roman Empire and numerous smaller ones with the White Huns, the Arabs, the Turks, and the Khazars.
In the 11th century, Iran, along with other countries, suffered one of the worst blitzkriegs in history. Hordes of Mongol horsemen, capable of traveling 80 miles a day or 1,000 miles a month, swept out of the East, destroying everything in their path. At Merv, a city in the north-western part of the empire, 500,000 people were killed. At Nishapur, all things living, even the animals, were wiped out, and the city was leveled. For the next 100 years, the country—what there was left of it—was ruled by the descendants of the Mongol conquerors.
Split into small states and dominated by foreign rulers for several hundred years, Persia arose again in the 16th century under the Safavid kings, the greatest of which was Shah Abbas. Partially under the heel of Turkey, whose military power was nearly at its height, Shah Abbas began the reorganization of the Persian Army which was then composed almost exclusively of light cavalry. With the help of two British soldier-adventurers, the Shirleys, a well-equipped army of cavalry, infantry, and artillery divisions was created. In its first major trial, the new army met and defeated a superior Turkish force, inflicting more than 20,000 casualties.
From the 17th century on, the history of Iran was one of increasing foreign influence, with England and Russia the predominant nations. Wars and internal strife were almost incessant so that by the time the First World War broke out Iran was almost in a state of anarchy. During the war the British, Russians, and Turks occupied parts of the country. In 1921 a new leader, Reza Khan, arose, an officer in the famous Cossack Division, later to become Shah. Under his leadership many steps toward modernization of the country were taken. In August 1941 he abdicated in favor of his son, Mohammed Riza Shah.
Today Iran is a constitutional monarchy, with a Shah and a parliament which is elected every 2 years. Iranian politics are in a somewhat delicate state due to the war situation, so it is important that you avoid any expression of opinion on political matters.
YOU will find few of the sanitary precautions which you take for granted at home. Even in the capital, Teheran, which the Iranians consider the most beautiful capital in the world, and which has wide streets and modern buildings, you will find no central water supply and no sewerage system.
In the cities, most of the toilets are crude outhouses. In the villages there are not even these, and you will have to get used to relieving yourself outdoors at any convenient and secluded spot. In both the cities and the country you will have to carry your own supply of toilet paper.
Because of the lack of sewage disposal, you must never drink any water that has not been boiled. The open irrigation ditches are so full of germs it is not even safe to wash in them. The best drink is hot tea. Ices (sherbets) are no safer than the water from which they are made, and in general should be avoided.
Malaria is carried by mosquitoes, and mosquito nets are a necessity wherever these insects are found. The nets will also help to protect you from scorpions, which look a bit like crayfish and which have a painful and sometimes dangerous sting. They like to sleep in shoes, so be sure to shake yours out in the morning before you put them on.
Skin, scalp, and eye diseases are common, so personal cleanliness is very important. Be careful, too, never to rub your eyes. Venereal disease is prevalent. Don't take chances!
These are some general health hints. Your medical and sanitary officers will give you more detailed instructions.
Currency. The principal unit of currency in Iran is the rial (pronounced "ree-AHL"). It is worth about three cents in American money, and is also worth 100 dinars ("DEE-nar"), just as the American dollar is worth 100 cents. There is no coin for a single dinar, however. The smallest Irani coin is an aluminum or bronze piece worth five dinars. Other coins are 10, 25, 50 dinar pieces; and 1, 2, and 5 rial silver, coins. The officers of your outfit will very likely make arrangements for you to change your money into Iranian currency. If you change your own, however, better go to a reputable bank. The rate of exchange varies constantly, and the professional money changers are quick to take advantage of your ignorance of exchange rates.
Calendar. In Iran the Government and most business houses follow a calendar peculiar to Iran. Their New Year's Day, called No Rooz, is the 21st of March. There are 12 months of 30 or 31 days each starting from that date. The "lunar" or "moon" calendar is used by religious groups. That means that there are 13 months of 28 days each. It also means that special dates will not occur at the same time of the year as on our calendar. For instance, in 1942, the feast of Ramadan began about September 10, but in 1943 the date falls around September 1. All religious holidays are figured by the lunar calendar, and thus vary from year to year.
Time. Train schedules and government offices use the
Weights and Measures. The metric system is used for all official measurement and weights in Iran. The unit of length in the metric system is the "meter," which is 39.37 inches, or a little more than one of our yards. The unit of road distance is the "kilometer," which is 1,000 meters or about five-eighths (a little over one-half) of one of our miles. The unit of weight is the "kilogram," which equals 2.2 pounds in our system. Liquids are measured by the "liter," which is a little more than one of our quarts.
However, the Iranis have several local systems of weights and measures of their own. If you run into any of these you will simply have to learn them when the time comes.
In rural districts, particularly, the Iranis are as vague about distances as they are about time. They have traveled very little and do not know distances. Do not place too much confidence in anything they tell you.
CHECK LIST OF DO'S AND DON'TS
Respect the Iranis as men and as soldiers; recognize that their way of life is as right and natural for them as yours is for you.
Expect to bargain for your purchases and always arrive at a price before accepting any goods or services whatsoever.
Always wash your hands before eating, and say "Bismillah" if Moslems are present.
Respect the Moslems at prayer.
Keep any dogs of your own away from mosques and from Moslem homes.
Drink water only as hot tea or after boiling.
In general, take your cues on manners from the Iranis and remember that your mission may fail if you make enemies of them.
Don't try to tell Iranis how much better everything is in the United States. They think most things are better in Iran.
Don't discuss religion.
Don't discuss politics.
Don't enter mosques unless you are invited and escorted there by a Moslem.
Don't offer an Irani liquor or drink it in front of him.
Don't offer an Irani pork in any form: bacon, sausage, or food cooked in lard.
Don't touch or jostle Irani men; even those you know quite well will resent it.
Don't touch a respectable Irani woman, or even look at one unnecessarily.
Don't strike an Irani.
Don't threaten Iranis; use persuasion, explanation, and rewards to get things done.
Don't expose your body in the presence of an Irani.
Don't mistake courtesy for friendship; an Irani is always polite, but he is fundamentally suspicious of foreigners.
Don't expect definite future commitments; when an Irani says "now" he means "this
very hour"; when he says
Don't expect definite knowledge of distances from country men; they travel little and have never learned to use numbers (except very small ones) with any exactness.
Don't ridicule or criticize the Iranis in English in public places. Some know English quite as well as you do.
Above all, use common sense on all occasions. And remember that every American soldier is an unofficial ambassador of good will.
HINTS ON PRONOUNCING PERSIAN
THESE are pronunciation hints to help you in listening to the Persian language records which have been supplied to your troop unit. They will also help you with the pronunciation of additional words and phrases given in the vocabulary below, which are not included in the records.
There is nothing very difficult about Persian—except that you won't be able to read signs and newspapers you will see. That is because the Persians use a different alphabet from ours. Therefore, the instructions and vocabulary below are not based on the written Persian language, but are a simplified system of representing the language as it sounds. This system contains letters for all the sounds you must make to be understood. It does not contain letters for some of the sounds you will hear, but it will give you enough to get by on, both listening and speaking. The sounds of Persian vary from region to region, very much as English varies in pronunciation in this country. The dialect you will hear on the records is a northern dialect, and if you follow it you will be understood almost everywhere.
Here are a few simple rules to help you:
1. Accents. You know what the accented syllable of a word is, of course. It is the syllable which is spoken louder than the other syllables in the same word. We will show accented (loud) syllables in capital letters and unaccented syllables in small letters.
2. Vowels. These are the kind of sounds we represent in English by a, e, i, o, u, ah, ay, etc. Just follow the key below and you will have no trouble.
3. Consonants. The consonants are all the sounds that are not vowels. Pronounce them just as you know them in English. All consonants should be pronounced. Never "slight" them. Here are some special consonant sounds to learn.
LIST OF MOST USEFUL WORDS AND PHRASES
HERE is a list of the most useful words and phrases you will need in Persian. You should learn these by heart. They are the words and phrases included on the Persian language records, and appear here in the order they occur on the records.
[English—Simplified Arabic Spelling]
Greetings and General Phrases
Days of the Week
House and Furniture
Food and Drink—Tobacco
Trades and Occupations
Phrases for Every Day
U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1943
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