Petals of Peace and Protest: #Day 3

Inspired by the Flower of Srebrenica, this six-day special series on the anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre (11 – 22 July, 1995) looks at six floral iconographies that have come to define war, revolution and resistance. Today we look at the Emblem of Iran.

Tulip

In Iran tulips suffuse both the territorial landscape and the collective mindscape. Be it love, revolution or martyrdom, the tulip has been the ubiquitous symbol and metaphor. According to the Shia legend, tulips blossomed from the blood of Hossein, Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, when he fell in battle against the Umayyad Dynasty near Karbala (now part of modern Iraq). So did they spring from the blood of Farhad in the Persian folklore of the eternal lovers “Shirin and Farhad”.

The Emblem of Iran chosen to resemble the outline of a tulip and the word “Allah” in Arabic calligraphy.

Called “laleh” in Farsi, the tulip is a national symbol for martyrdom in Iran. It is this logo by designer Hamid Nadimi which was officially approved by the late Supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on 9 May 1980 to become the emblem of the new Islamic Republic of Iran in the wake of the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The logo incorporates the outline of a tulip and a single word “Allah” in red Arabic calligraphy. The four crescents stand for the word Allah and the five parts of the emblem symbolize the five articles of faith of Shia Islam- faith, prayer, charity, fasting during Ramadan, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. The tulip, therefore, was widely used to commemorate the martyrs of the Revolution. 72 stained glass tulips adorn the gilded central dome of Khomeini’s mausoleum (constr. 1989-1992) symbolizing the 72 martyrs who fought and died with Imam Hossein in Karbala. The tulip was also adopted by the opposition to challenge the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the 2009 presidential election. It came to be known as Iran’s Green Revolution or Persian Reawakening where the tulip symbolised the fight for survival and justice. From revolution to counterrevolution, the delicate tulip has been a perennial essence of resistance and rebirth.

The gilded, lattice structure ‘zarih’ in the middle marks the tomb of Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini. Surrounding it above are the stained glass tulips on the high windows, admitting light.
(From Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World (p. 221), ed. by Gülru Necipoğlu , 2003, Leiden Brill)

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