By Ghulam Amin Beg
Welcome to Simurgh!
This is the first policy discussion blog for development practitioners and activists in the mountain regions of Karakoram, Hindukush, western Himalayas, Pamirs, Tien Shan and Kunlun!
Please spare some time to go through this introductory posting about the rationale for the blog and the blog name.
If this interests you we invite and welcome you to this journey of thirty birds!
The motivation to launch this blog was obviously due to the growing interest to know who is doing what in the mountain areas, what are the learnings and best practices, what policy instrumens work and don't work, and how can we look for a 'regional approach' through sharing micro level experiences with implications for cross-border and trans-border cooperation in this region.
Secondly, it is also visible that in the face of rapidly changing geo-political and geostrategic environments and the pressures of globalization in the form of growing trade, consumerism and communication networks, there are profound opportunities and risks for the livelihoods, environment and cultural,social and political rights and identities of local people.
Of course issues of participatory governance, human rights, fundamental freedoms and marginalization and accessibility are key challenges and mountain specificities that set the policy agenda and its implementation.
I looked for a a broader outlook and focus and how to title the blog? Through reflection and some intuition, I came to the word Simurgh, as this was the word I used to here in the folk songs and tales of Central Asia and about which our teachers, elders and literature talked about. Like the story of 'kuhe Qaaf' and the 'Simurgh', the folksong, 'simurgh-i zarin, jon zhu nozamin' etc.
Thanks to internet, I was able to findout more about the metaphor and the fact that it was used by non other then, Farid u Din Attar.
For the introduction and interest of all of you, I am reproducing some portion from the great epic on Conference of Birds by this 12th century great Persian poet, which might guide us on how to go from vaguely 'known' to totally 'unkown' territories.
Metaphor from the epic; 'Conference of Birds- Simurgh':
The mythical Simurgh or Simorgh is depicted in Iranian art as a winged creature in the shape of a bird gigantic enough to carry off an elephant or a camel. It appears as a kind of peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion; sometimes it is shown with a human face. The Simorgh was also called Siræng "Thirty Colors" because it is thought to have thirty different colors on its body, making it quite beautiful.
Because it is part mammal, the Simorgh suckled its young - and also has teeth. It has an enmity towards snakes and its natural habitat is a place with plenty of water. According to the 12 century persian poet Attar, the Simorgh has thirty holes in her beak and flew the wind through them whenever she was hungry. Animals heard a pretty music and gathered at the peak of mountain where they were eaten by the Simorgh.
When the Simorgh took flight, the tree of knowledge's leaves shook making all the seeds of every plant to fall out. These seeds floated around the world, taking root to become every type of plant that ever lived, and curing all the illnesses of mankind. Its feathers are said to be the color of copper, and though it was originally described as being a Dog-Bird, later it was shown with either the head of a man or a dog. It is inherently benevolent and a touch from its wings can cure any illness or wound.
(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simurgh - 28k - 10 Sep 2006)
This is the story of a long journey undertaken by a flock of birds in search of their King, Simurgh, a transparent symbol of divinity. The birds finally reach their goal after travelling through seven valleys: Love, Knowledge, Detachment, Unification, Bewilderment, Privation and Annihilation.
Simurgh, which means "thirty birds" (the number of birds who survived the journey out of the hundred thousand who started off), manifests himself as a mirror for the chosen few who manage to see him: at the end of the work, the metaphor of the journey resolves itself in the discovery that the birds and their King are one and the same being. The book is clearly a metaphor of the mystic journey, Man's spiritual ascent, and the challenges which need to be overcome to reach the Beyond, to connect with it and to find oneself in its image.
Attar paints a fresco of the diversity that humankind has to offer - kings and princesses, silver-chested youths and damsels with moon-shaped faces, archangels who talk to people and love-struck errant sufis, characters drawn both from Biblical sources and from the Qu'ran. (Ref: http://www.babelmed.net/index.php?menu=1&cont=1272&lingua=en)
Taking this metaphor of Simurgh from the 12th century, in our discussions in 21st century, on the Future of the mountain people and sustainability, I think we may have to pass through seven valleys: participation, justice, peace, freedom, pluralism, equity and empowerment.
At the end of this voyage we may be able to reach a state where we are able to grasp the challenges of globalization and market forces and raise our people to a level where where at the end of the day, the mountain people find themselves in the image of nature and is tamed to live in harmony with nature and in dignity and honour.
Hence the very name 'Simurgh' for this blog is wide ranging; having personal, cultural, spiritual, social and political dimensions to discuss and promote global ethics of humanism and its relevance in a time and space to mountain people.
Refering to the range of issues that may be discussed in the context of shaping the future, ranging from youth and women rights to social and political movements and poverty, climat change and to good governance, it touches the nerves of making a journey into the future.
What I wish here is a lively discussion on the future of the people in the mountain areas in general, but with major and particular focus on the Central Asia: Karakoram, Hindukush, western Himalayas, Pamirs, Tien Shan and the Kunlun ranges.
Who are the 'birds' in this context? I am thinking of the youth, development practioners, teachers, professionals, students, rights activists, policy makers, politicians and all those who have a stake in shaping the future of the mountain areas.
Lets jointly undertake this voyage and fly through the seven valleys, so to speak.