Thursday October 18, 2018

Afghanistan gets Furious as Turkey and Iran Bid over Rumi’s works

The Afghan government refused to heed their claim regarding the 25,600 verses of the Sufi poet which are the most influential works of Persian literature

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Rumi
Sufi poet, Rumi. Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons
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  • Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī popularly known as “Rumi” was a Persian poet of the 13th
  • Turkey and Iran continue to fight for the honour of being the birthplace of Rumi
  • UNESCO had emphasised on the fact that Rumi is a gift to the world and confining him within the boundaries would be disrespectful towards him

Tehran and Ankara have requested UNESCO to name the collection of Rumi’s works previously archived as “Memory of the World” as their joint property. But the Afghan government refused to heed their claim regarding the 25,600 verses of the Sufi poet which are the most influential works of Persian literature.  According to them, they should have the first rights over the works of Rumi.

Rumi's most influential work in Persian.
Rumi’s most influential work in Persian.Image Courtesy : en.wikipedia.org

As Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan continue to bicker over the issue of Rumi’s place of origin, scholars believe that Rumi was born in Balkh, Afghanistan and then had fled to Turkey when Genghis Khan and his troops had attacked Afghanistan. “He is considered an important part of the culture and identity of Afghanistan,” writer and poet Sadiq Usyan, a professor at the Balkh university in nearby provincial capital Mazar-i-Sharif, told AFP. To accede to it without mentioning Afghanistan would be unacceptable, said the director of Balkh’s provincial cultural department, Salih Mohammad Khaleeq to The Hindu.

Recently, there were rumours about Hollywood wanting to film a biopic on Rumi and that Leonardo Di Caprio was going to play him. This outraged the world and there were crude comments on the topic of “whitewashing” tendency of Hollywood. Twitter users were enraged beyond belief and the hashtag “RumiWasntWhite” was rapidly trending.

The remains of Rumi's ancestral house in Balkh, Afghanistan. Image Courtesy : www.thepeninsulaqatar.com
The remains of Rumi’s ancestral house in Balkh, Afghanistan. Image Courtesy : www.thepeninsulaqatar.com

However, Khaleeq opined that the film would provide them with an opportunity to appeal to the tourists and urge them to visit the birthplace of Rumi. The portrait of Rumi stands widely visible in Balkh. But his ancestral house has been the prey for numerous weather hazards and is barely standing.

President Ashraf Ghani, who in mid-June hosted Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, has been carefully diplomatic, with a statement saying Rumi is “a shared pride of the two countries”, as The Hindu mentioned in their issue of  30 June, 2016.

A statue of Rumi in Turkey. Image Courtesy : Wikimedia Commons

In spite of their tiff, the three countries of Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran, came forward to commemorate the 800th birth anniversary of Rumi in an event organised by UNESCO in 2007.

A portrait of Rumi overlooking the street in Afghanistan. Image Courtesy : www.thehindu.com
A portrait of Rumi overlooking the street in Afghanistan. Image Courtesy : www.thehindu.com

If Rumi could see the world fighting over him, he would have said:

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing
and right-doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Aparna Gupta

    The 25600 versus are property of the World and cannot be named to the two particular nations.

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Afghan Orchestra Flourishes Despite Social Issues

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border.

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Afghanistan
Negin Khpolwak, leader of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, practices on a piano at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

The consequences of Afghanistan’s increasingly deadly war are weighing heaviest on the nation’s civilians, with women bearing the brunt of the violence. The Taliban banned music and girls education, and restricted outdoor activities of women when the group was controlling most of Afghanistan.

But violence and social pressures have not deterred members of the country’s nascent orchestra of mostly young girls from using music to “heal wounds” and promote women’s rights in the strictly conservative Muslim society.

The ensemble, known as Zohra, was founded in 2014 as part of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) in Kabul, where suicide bombings lately have become routine.

Hope and music

Students and trainers are not losing hope and regularly come to the city’s only institute to rehearse and learn new lessons, says Ahmed Naser Sarmast, the director of ANIM and the founder of the orchestra. Zohra is the name of a music goddess in Persian literature, he explained.

The musicologist spoke to VOA while visiting neighboring Pakistan earlier this month with the young ensemble to perform in Islamabad as part of celebrations marking the 99th anniversary of Afghanistan’s Independence Day. Kabul’s embassy in Islamabad organized and arranged for the orchestra’s first visit to Pakistan.

Despite the many challenges in Afghanistan, Sarmast said, student enrollment has consistently grown and more parents are bringing their children to the institute to study music. Around 300 students are studying not only music at the institute but other subjects, including the Quran, he said.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul. VOA

Advances for women

Negin Khpolwak, the orchestra’s first woman conductor, says Afghanistan has made significant advances in terms of promoting women’s rights in the past 17 years. She says there is a need to sustain the momentum irrespective of rising violence.

“We need to stand up to protect those gains and we need to open the doors for other Afghan girls,” Khpolwak said when asked whether deadly attacks around the country are reversing the gains women have made.

But violence alone is not the only challenge for women and girls, especially those who want to study music, she said.

“When you are going in the street with your instrument to the school and they are saying bad words to you and if you are giving a concert in public they are telling the bad words to you. But we are not caring about it,” Khpolwak said.

Afghanistan
Ahmad Naser Sarmast, head of Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, speaks to members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

Ethnic groups help each other

Sarmast says that girls and boys in the orchestra come from different Afghan ethnic groups and they help each other when needed.

“It’s hope for the future,” he said.

Ethnic rivalries have been a hallmark of hostilities in Afghanistan and continue to pose a challenge to efforts promoting peace and stability.

“I strongly believe without arts and culture there cannot be security and we are using the soft power of music to make a small contribution to bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and at the same time using this beautiful, if I can call it a beautiful weapon, to transform our community,” the director said.

Some of the members of the Afghan orchestra were born and brought up in refugee camps in Pakistan, which still hosts around 3 million registered and unregistered Afghan families displaced by years of war, poverty, persecution and drought.

Afghanistan
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, bring instruments to a class before a rehearsal at Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music, in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“We are using the healing power of music to look after the wounds of the Afghan people as well as the Pakistani people. We are here with the message of peace, brotherhood and freedom,” Sarmast said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have experienced years of terrorist attacks, including massive casualties on both sides of their long shared border. Bilateral relations are marred by mistrust and suspicion.

Also Read: OrchKids- Bringing Jot to Underprivileged Kids Through Music

The countries blame each other for supporting terrorist attacks. Afghans allege that sanctuaries in Pakistan have enabled Taliban insurgents to sustain and expand their violent acts inside Afghanistan. Pakistan rejects the charges.

The Islamist insurgency controls or is attempting to control nearly half of Afghanistan. (VOA)