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Lecture Series
● ISG's Past Lecture :
Speaker: Professor Abbas Edalat, Imperial College (UK)
Date & time: Thursday June 23rd, 2005 6:00-7:30 p.m.

In this talk, I will begin with a short summary of the activities and achievements of the Science and Arts Foundation-SAF during the past six years, including the establishment of Iran's SchoolNet in 17 of the country's provinces, Iran's chapter of iEARN and local ICT centers in the Sistan and Baluchistan province. By promoting team work, creative research activities and collaborative projects in schools through the launch of numerous e-clubs, the organization of regional and national conferences for extra curricular activities and support for international collaboration and the participation of teachers and students in international conferences, SAF has played a key role in creating a new ethos for education which has impacted national policies in Iran. After a brief introduction of the above programs, I will turn to my personal experiences in establishing and building SAF as an organization to empower youth.

I will explain how, in the past few years, in the light of self-reflection and interaction with undreds of Iranian individuals and organizations inside and outside the country, I have reached the hypothesis that there are deep structural problems in our national character and cultural identity which severely restrict our capacity to be empowered, to collaborate in order to develop sustainable civil society organizations and to take the gigantic steps required for development in all economic, social and cultural spheres. I will argue that these problems are symptoms of what modern science recognizes as trauma, as characterized by: hyperarousal, irritability, inner insecurity, watchfulness and avoidance. Based on advances in biological, medical, psychological and anthropological sciences, I will propose that these traumatic symptoms, now ingrained in our cultural identity, are transmitted from one generation to the next through child abuse, women abuse and domestic, social and political violence. Their roots can be historically traced to the massive trauma suffered by Iran in the invasions of the Mongols and Timur and their brutal rule in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a cataclysm which caused a catastrophic overturn of the socio-economic and political structure of Iran on the one hand and a major transformation of our moral and social character on the other hand. These momentous historic events defined a decisive turning point which resulted in the complete destruction of the great Iranian-Islamic civilization and the eradication of the creative and rational spirit in the region. While the colonial and neo-colonial domination of Iran has periodically re-enacted the original trauma, the tyrannical and despotic rule of successive dynasties, much in the spirit of the Mongol military-political code (Yasa), has continuously sustained the transmission of trauma from past generations to the present, reproducing the trauma dynamically in the family as well as in the social and political institutions existing in this region of the world. I will then assert that, in order to tackle the root cause of the main obstacle to empowerment and development in Iran, we face the grand historic task of breaking the cycle of trauma in family, social and political life. The key issue is to address and challenge child and women abuse along with domestic and social violence and to promote emotional literacy for children, teachers, parents and society as a whole.