Iranian Ambassador to Tanzania Murahhedi has been explaining to Citizen reporter Lugenzi Kabale how relations between Tanzania and Iran go back a very long time. Extracts from the report:
‘From early times monsoon winds have permitted rapid maritime travel between East Africa and Asia. Although large-scale Persian settlement in East Africa is unlikely, Persian cultural and religious influences are unmistakably present.
Cooperation between Tanzania and the Islamic Republic of Iran dates back over 1,000 years when Iranians, then under the Shiraz empire, sailed to East Africa’s trade gateway, Kilwa to exchange goods with the locals. “It is that historical fact which drives Iran’s desire to re-awaken the two countries’ ties at this time, but putting more weight on health, diplomacy, trade and agricultural aspects”.
The Shiraz who traded with East Africans mingled with the local people, a process that contributed in developing the Kiswahili language with additional vocabulary from the Portuguese, Chinese, Indian and later on German and English languages. “Aware of this rich history, I am proud of the 1000 years of cooperation between Iran and the East African coast. with special attention to Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar,” he said. “On coming to serve here as ambassador, I had all the feelings that I am going to a place where I may call ‘home away from home’.” Ambassador Murahhedi added that with the warm and friendly attitude abundantly found among Tanzanians, he finds work¬ing in the country very attractive.
Speaking on efforts by the two countries to strengthen the historical cooperation, the ambassador said his government has recently released a $10million grant to Tanzania for building two health centres in Zanzibar and the Kigamboni area in Dar es Salaam, as well as constructing an up-to-date irrigation technology transfer centre. In the agricultural sector, his country has provided 150 light tractors to enable rural peasants to increase acreage.
In the higher education sector, Mr Murahhedi said 10 Tanzanians will be flying to Iran annually for Masters and PhD academic programmes in different areas of specialisation. Iran has recorded significant educational, technological and scientific developments in the past 33 years of the Islamic revolution and is prepared to share what it has by training Tanzanians who will come back home and spearhead their nation’s efforts to alleviate poverty.
The envoy revealed that before the 1979 revolution, Iran was a market for consumer and industrial goods, but after the revolution this trend was reversed and presently Iran is a major exporter of industrial manufactured goods including farm machinery. He noted “What we have learnt in Iran is that if someone hates you and imposes sanctions on your economy … he is instructing you to work hard and be self-sufficient. Western powers sanctions have made us strive to produce all our needs locally.” Ninety per cent of equipment for Iran’s defence forces is locally manufactured. Furthermore, Iran has managed to design, manufacture and launch into orbit several light satellites for various national uses.