The Iranian government has been taking steps to create its own versions of popular web platforms, with the latest effort – an Iranian equivalent to Youtube – recently being announced. The government hopes to utilize the same technologies used for sharing information on the web but to do so in a controlled way. The power of Youtube for spreading information and ideas was illustrated clearly this year when a short film produced by an American, which insulted the Prophet Muhammed, led to the outbreak of protests all over the Muslim world. In fact, this video was the inspiration for moves by the Iranian government to apply stricter censorship to Google and Gmail. There are even unconfirmed rumours that the government’s eventual intention is to create a fully-controlled separate Internet as a method to give themselves greater control over cyber security in Iran.
But it’s not only with Iran itself that Persian is flourishing. Hamid Dabashi, a professor at Columbia University, has just released a new book covering Persian literature over the last 1400 years. The book has already been met with praise, in particular for its key insights into how Persian and Arabic literature have met, clashed and intertwined over many centuries.
The University of Oklahoma is also embracing the Persian language, instituting a new language program which will let students pick up the core elements. Professors at the university have pointed to the literary heritage of the language, which has been highlighted once again by Dabashi’s new book, and contrasted the importance of the language with the relative poverty of opportunity to learn it within the United States. Students dedicated to learning Persian are often left with very limited options when deciding where to study. The ongoing tensions between Iran and the US have been cited as a reason for the relative lack of learning opportunities for American students looking to learn Persian. As one University of Oklahoma professor noted, whereas students of most European languages can go on vacation overseas and try their new language out in the real-world, that is relatively difficult for Persian language students.