Castles of South West Cornwall

During the summer months South West Cornwall is something of a mecca for those in search of sun, sand and surf. However, after one has spent just a small portion of time in the region, it’s unique history and a more diverse picture of the area begins to unfurl. The Cornish past is arguably best explored by visiting the large number of forts, ruins and stately homes which are open to the public. This article introduces some of the more unique and special castles in the region.

Pendennis Castle
Built by Henry VIII to protect Carrick Roads from the Spanish, Pendennis Castle at Falmouth was completed in 1545. The castle saw action during the Civil War of the 1600s and was armed once more during World War II but has since become a tourist attraction and is now under the ownership of English Heritage. The fort can be visited all year round and hosts a number of events throughout the summer. There are also fantastic walks on and around Pendennis Point, with Little Dennis right on the rocks.

Carn Brea Castle
The curious folly-like castle at Carn Brea, near Redruth, is one of a number of intriguing sights in this relatively small area including Bassett Monument and Cup and Saucer Rock. Carn Brea Castle was originally built as a chapel in 1379 but was later rebuilt by the Bassetts as a family retreat. Its unique design incorporates large uncut boulders at its base and seems to give the impression that the building has formed naturally from the land. Somewhat in-keeping with its unique design, the castle is privately-owned today, and operates as an acclaimed Middle Eastern restaurant.

Pengersick Castle
Pengersick has been of local significance for around 5000 years, and in the 12th Century a family settled here and took their name from the area. The Tudor building at the site today dates from the 1500s and is notable for its dual tower and newel stairs. After the death of the last owner, the castle was given to English Heritage and a local conservation officer to ensure its ongoing preservation. The building is widely considered to be one of the most haunted in England and is a top location for ghost enthusiasts.

St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is located just off the south coast around seven miles from Hayle. The castle is home to the St Auben family while the community of villagers who live around it work to sustain the mount as a self-contained parish. Today the castle is owned by the National Trust, but in the past it has acted as a fortress, stately home and even a priory – and offers an excellent insight into the history of the region. The castle is open to the public at specific times relating to the seasons, so it is sometimes necessary to book.

How Important is Iran to the West and Why Iranians Support the Islamic Republic?

Iran, meaning the land of Arians, is the 18th largest country in the world, with nearly 80 million population, with impressive advancements in science and technology since the 1979 Revolution and establishment of the Islamic Republic. It ranks 8th in arms production in the world, with 11 million trained paramilitary on reserve. It is a country of special geostrategic significance due to its central location in the Middle East and between Europe and Asia. Iran is bordered on the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, on the west by Iraq, northwest by Turkey, on the north by Russia and Kazakhstan, Iran also holds an important position in international energy security and world economy because of its huge reserves of oil and natural gas. Thus, it is utmost important particularly to governments in Europe and United States to understand the Iranian mind and system of government if they desire to have good relations with it.

One of the essential problems toward understanding the nature of the Revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran is the lack of knowledge of the concept “Islamic Republic.” The result has been a serious misunderstanding of governing principles, political structure, decision making process, the system of operation, and the bases for foreign relations. For proper understanding of this concept, one has to pay attention first to the structure of Islamic religion and then within this context consider the meaning of the republic and ensuing form of government.

Islamic Society

The Islamic religion, unlike Christianity, is devoid of hierarchical structure. For example, under the catholic sect of Christianity, there is a strict hierarchical structure. It starts at its summit with the Pope and goes downward to cardinals, archbishops, bishops and ends with the parish priests. The total operation of the system is governed quite strictly from the top. The higher we go within the administrative structure of Christianity, the offices become more luxurious and the officeholder’s outfits more expensive, more symbolic, more impressive, vary for different occasions, and the number of servants increases. Everything excels to its summit when it reach the Vatican and the highest officeholder, the Pope.

There is no such religious hierarchy in Islam. Islam is an individualized socialistic oriented religion. Everyone is the master of his own faith and individually follows the teachings of Islam to the degree that he desires. Millions of Iranians, as in the rest of the Muslim world, do not pray five times a day, do not fast, don’t believe in full covering of body for women, and do not attend the Friday sermon. Yet, they confidently consider themselves Muslim. Often, it is forgotten that to be a Muslim, you need only to believe in Allah (God) and Mohammed as his prophet. What extras you believe and follow is totally up to you and between you and your creator. In studying the Islamic Principles and Laws developed at the time of Prophet Mohammad and later, it is obvious that many may have problems in proper understanding of them and need to refer to a man of knowledge in Islam to solve them. These are a few who have devoted many years of their life and their time in studying Islam and its corresponding societal norms,

Each large community, depending on its size, has one or more of these men of knowledge. They are classified based on the level of their knowledge, extensiveness of their studies, and scholarly contributions At the lowest official level of knowledge are those known as “mullah” followed by “hojjatol-Islam” and the “ayatollah” which is the highest scholarly degree bestowed upon an expert on Islamic religion, its principles, laws, history and tradition. To reach this title requires many years of hard studies, several levels of examinations, scholarly writings and a final oral examination before a panel of ayatollahs who are recognized as proven experts. The title of ayatollah in Islamic world is comparable to a Ph.D. degree in the other institutions of higher education, but much more difficult to attain. The student is well into his 40s and 50s when he finally becomes qualified for the title.

Among some 80 millions Iranians, the number of ayatollahs may be around a hundred.

They are residents in large communities except the City of Gum which is the center of Islamic education and many resident Ayatollahs are full time teachers like professors at the universities. Each ayatollah is free to choose his place of residence. Individuals in their area of residence are free to refer to one of them if they encounter certain religious problems, But the majority of Iranians never refer to an ayatollah or follow them. This is a good evidence of the individual nature of the Islamic religion. Islam is the religion that each individual believe in it on his own and not what the ayatollahs prescribe. Millions of Iranians do not follow the principle of official daily prayer or fasting in the month of Ramadan yet they consider themselves a devote Muslim. Mullahs and other lesser scholars select one or more ayatollah to refer to them in resolving their religious questions. They are free in their choice and can change them at will or may refer to more than one.

Ayatollahs pursue, usually, a modest way of life and easily accessible. In general, they are supported by religious donations or by income from properties donated to the local mosques. They are totally independent from one another though some may be considered by others as more knowledgeable. Scholarly reputation of some may extend far beyond their area of residence even into other countries. These are very few and are called grand ayatollah, such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq and Shariatmadari and Montezeri in Iran.

Now, if we transfer this social and religious structure to a republican political system, we get a particular and unique form of government which is socialistic and democratic in its own merit. This fundamental democratic nature of the Iranian Islamic society is the main reason that Ayatollah Khomeini when drafting the new Iranian constitution created a supreme leader with absolute political power controlling all powers of the government including the military and judicial. At the political level we have the system ruled by so-called experts in Islamic religion who are loyal to the supreme leader who also sustain their previous modest way of life while holding high political positions.

The weekly Friday prayer all over the nation is one traditional way of Islamic government keeping in contact with the people. In Tehran, for example, the Friday prayer is held at the University of Tehran grounds where several hundred thousands of people participate and nearly all important government officials, top officials in particular, are present. A top leader, designated by the Supreme Leader, leads the prayer. Historically speaking, Friday prayer has been the foundation of the Islamic governmental structure. It was one of the early steps in the formation of the Islamic state, somehow similar to town meetings in the United States.

It consist of two sermons which must be delivered, The first is religious, glorifying and praising the Lord Allah; the second is political, presenting social, economic and political issues affecting people and daily life. Thus, at least once a week, people have direct contact with their leaders and are made aware of governmental policies and have opportunity to question and communicate with the leadership.

Excluding the office the Supreme Leader, Iran has already developed a two-party system generally known as Moderates and Radicals. Though they are not called political parties, both groups are well organized and quite effective in the electoral process. Iran has a parliamentary legislative body with a total of 290 seats. A positive aspect of this democratic process is that, unlike the U.S. Congress where incumbents have a good chance of getting reelected, in Iran, only around a half of the incumbents running for office are reelected. Democratic process is well alive in the Iranian parliament. Debates are quite open and often very lively. It is not infrequent for some members of one group to vote with another on certain issues of concern. This tendency has eliminated a single majority rule such as England. There have been times that only one-third of the bills proposed by the government has passed through the Majlis (parliament). It has also rejected a higher percentage of nominees for public positions than the United States Senate. These are just some aspects of democracy under the Islamic Republic.

The Concept of Government and the Extent of Limitations on Its Powers

What separates the radicals from the moderates is a deeply routed dispute concerning the role of government in the Islamic society. According to Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, the government is an institution ordained by the Almighty and founded with absolute authority entrusted to the Prophet. It is an entity supplanting secondary statutes of the canonical law in Islam. “The government is a primary rule in Islam taking precedence over praying, fasting, and performing the hajj pilgrimage.” “However, it was wrong to assume that nobody should protest whatever we say or do. Instead, criticism and finding faults are among divine gifts for the promotion of human beings,” But he stopped short of giving an exact definition to Islamic government stating that “under the present sensitive situation,” referring to Iran-Iraq war, “he preferred to remain silent.”

Since then, the role of government in Islamic society has been the subject of hot debates between the two major groups of moderates and radicals. Radicals favor a highly socialistic agenda of large-scale public investment projects, raising taxes, controlling prices, state control over commerce and reforming land ownership. Moderates are against all of these, some claiming that these measures go beyond the strict limits on government action prescribed in the Koran. Presently, the two major groups are far apart from the theoretical viewpoint, The only area of agreement relates to foreign affairs where government policies are supported by both groups. They agree that Islamic governments should be promoted throughout the Islamic world; that Iran should remain free from the foreign ideological influence. Some moderates and most of the radicals consider Western

Ideas as more seductive and therefore more dangerous than communist style ideology.

Social and Economic Developments and General Welfare Programs

Unlike the late Shah’s period, though Iran has many wealthy individuals, it does not have an economic elite controlling the wealth, resources, and production. So far, the Islamic Republic has been quite socialistic oriented, as the Islamic religion itself, and the major resources and means production have been under public control. Accordingly, the direction of the operation of the government has been not only for political democracy but also for socio-economic democracy and well being of the society as a whole. Despite some important negative factors such as eight-year Iran-Iraq war, oil price fluctuations, economic embargo against Iran and more importantly the population growth, the socio-economic and technological developments since the revolution have been quite impressive.

Transformation of educational and cultural systems can be considered as the most important developments. Textbooks as well as subjects at all educational levels are changed or modified. Outdated materials were substituted by new materials relating to the latest scientific achievements as well as the Islamic culture. All foreign professors were replaced with Iranians. The educational budget was substantially increased particularly, by fifteen fold, in the area of vocational education, Over 140 million elementary and secondary level textbooks are published and distributed each year. Presently, there are some fourteen million students at pre-university level educational institutions, and around 500 thousand at the universities and other institutions of higher education. There are an impressive number of foreign students at the Iranian universities. And all these, except for a few dollars registration fee, are free. Demand for qualified teachers to feed this enormous educational program has caused the creation of many teacher education centers all over the country

For the purpose of self sufficiency, immediately after the end of Iran-Iraq war, 1987-1988, seven new colleges of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacology were established and

the number has been increasing since. Because of demand created by the national health care program, the number of students at these institutions has increased by eight fold. According to projections, by 2020, the goal is to reach the level of one physician for every 300 of the total population.

In the areas of general welfare and social development programs, despite the economic consequences of eight years war, fluctuations in oil prices and economic sanctions, there has been impressive progress. Today, all aged Iranians who do not have adequate means of subsistence, are paid a monthly relief benefit. In addition to national health care program, a national insurance program covers all natural and otherwise damages sustained by every Iranian including unpredictable natural disasters affecting agricultural crops. It also covers those widows who are not able to sustain themselves. Family of prisoners are extensively protected by the law. Those who cannot earn enough to sustain themselves are provided with adequate means of subsistence during the whole prison term of the head of the family.

In the area of transportation, since the revolution, about 180,000 kilometers of roads have been constructed amounting to 128 percent of all reads constructed previous to the Revolution. Special attention has been given to rural areas by constructing over 55,000 kilometers of rural roads by the Reconstruction Crusade organizations.

A pisciculture project was carried out to meet protein requirements of the country and increase the peasants income. The project started in 1982 in the villages and cities with emphasis on fishery through creating artificial ponds. It produces tens of millions of fish each year.

In the area of communication, there has been substantial expansion of telephone network. From about 70 cities at the time of Revolution, it has expanded to all large and middle size cities and some 89 percent of villages. Presently, cell phones are also widely used.

In economic and technological areas, an enormous amount of money has been spent on a variety of development plans including irrigation systems, agricultural developments, and telecommunication services, and very impressive mining explorations. Besides gold and uranium substantial reserves of gas have been discovered. Expert estimates indicate that these resources of gas, if continued to be used at the present level, will last for 1,200 more years. The useful life of the Iranian oil reserves, under its present 2.5 million barrels per day quota of production, is estimated to extend for 60 years.

From a single product country, namely oil, Iran has been gradually transferred to an industrialized and agricultural nation. Since the Revolution, the value of the Iranian non-oil exports has been increasing by an average of 25 percent per year. Eight oil refineries, Arak Petrochemical Complex, Shahid Raja’I and Gharb power stations, Steel Complex of Mubarakeh, casting industry, which cast diesel engines and various parts of vehicles and machineries, are just among some major achievements.

The increase in agricultural products have been substantial particularly since 1986. Agricultural development have been of primary concern to the government. The Agricultural Bank was created for this purpose and has granted billions of dollars in affordable loans to farmers each year. The government has been keenly interested in mechanization of agriculture and the use of modern techniques, different sets of machinery, nearly all manufactured in Iran and sold to farmers with affordable terms. Improvement of seeds and the domestic development of more productive seeds relating to crops, such as wheat, rice, cotton, have caused remarkable increase in yield. Among some 300,000 university students with 68,000 at graduate level and 22,000 at the doctorate in applied sciences, a substantial number are in different fields of agriculture. Once graduated, they play a dominant role in the future of agriculture.

In the pharmaceutical field, for over 20 years Iran has been exporting some of the various medicines it produces. The Iran-Iraq war in addition to embargoes against the country, Pressured Iran, as a matter of survival, to find ways to produce needed supplies of goods and services domestically. This was a tremendous force behind most of developments in the county. From this view point, the war combined with economic embargo was some kind of blessing which caused the nation to advance in scientific, economic, technological and industrial areas. To attend to its tens of thousands wounded solders and civilians, by the end of war, 1987, Iran produced 86.6 percent of its pharmaceutical needs. Pharmaceutical factories were built one after another and continued after the war to the extent that today Iran is over 90 percent self-sufficient and produces substantially more to export.

The Iranian modern military industry is about 80 years old. However up to the Revolution, 1979, even one single type of ammunition was not produced in quantities to satisfy the demand under war conditions. Billions each year were spent in purchase of modern armament by the Shah. After the Revolution, all foreign advisors and experts connected with the military production were dismissed and substituted with Iranian experienced experts. Rapid developments caused about 80 percent of all kinds of ammunitions used in war be produced domestically. The total Iranian arm industry has developed many folds since then. Today, Iran produces its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, guided missiles, submarines, military ships and armored speed boats, helicopters, radar systems, grenades, various kinds of detonators, heavy bombs up to 4,400 pounds, rocket launchers, a variety of unmanned arial vehicles (drones), short and middle range surface to surface missiles, ballistic missiles, anti-tank TOW missiles, All kinds of weapons and ammunitions, and fighter-bomber planes.

There has been impressive advancement in the field of electronics. Simulators used with all kinds of weapons and various radar and communication devices, electronic devices deviating guided missiles, and missile guidance systems are just some examples. The Iran-Iraq war which obliged Iran to place primary emphasis on military industry, has raised Iran to rank eighth in the world among arm producing countries.

A few words need to be said about Iran’s military and military policies. During Iran-Iraq war the Iranian military strength at its peak was estimated at two million nearly all volunteers. Presently, there are two distinct military forces: the regular armed forces and the Revolutionary Guard forces. Together, they total 545,000 active troops and 350,000 reserve. In addition, Iran has well trained volunteer militia force called Basij including some 90,000 ful time, active duty uniformed members. About eleven million men and women are members of the Basij who could be called for service at any time if needed. It is estimated that Iran can mobilize up to one million men at the time of emergency which is considered among the kargest troop mobilization in the world. Iran has a sustained military policy historically proven. It has not invaded any country for over two centuries. Its military policy is based on deterrence. If it seeks atomic weapons, based on this long standing policy will also be for deterrence against countries which possess such weapons in the region. Considering strong nationalistic feelings of Iranians in the case of invasion by foreign forces, beside Basij members, millions of well trained Iranians will volunteer to join the military. This was evident during Iran-Iraq war where many volunteers were well over 60 years old. They volunteered to run over mine fields installed by Iraqi forces to clear the way for the advancing Iranian forces.

As all the facts presented here about the economic and social developments show the continuous efforts of the Islamic Republic from the date of its inception to advance the well being of its people and advancing the nation to stand on its own feet despite all adversities the government faced from the outside. It compels a great majority of Iranians to support the system. People are satisfied the way the system operates for their benefits and are not sure the situation will be the same if the system changes. There is also satisfaction with the term of Islamic Republic since some over 90 percent of Iranians are Muslim. However, this support of the system does not means that they are happy with the leadership. Definitely, the majority are not satisfied. Historically, for thousands of years Iranians have lived with democratic values in their local communities. They have never sustained a dictatorial regime in power for long, The story of late Shah is a good example, After American government overthrow the democratic regime of Prime Minister Dr. Musaddegh and brought the Shah back, it took near 18 years of opposition that finally people got rid of him. But they again were betrayed by Ayatollah Khomeini who methodically eliminated the democratic minded leaders, including the first elected president Bakhtiar, and formulized a theocratic dictatorship, through drafting a constitution and forcing its approval upon the people that Iran suffers again under such a regime. Majority of Iranians want to get rid of these dictatorial elements at the top. These include the abolition of the office the Supreme Leader who has absolute power over every action of government: political, economic or social; abolition of the Council of Guardians which has veto power over the acts of parliament and has to approve candidates running for political offices. But the problem is not so easy. The constitution must be modified. Iranians want to keep the Islamic Republic but don’t want to be ruled by the clergy with absolute dictatorial powers. If we know Iranians and history of Iran we can assume that they will succeed this time as well regardless how much time it may take.

One more point. No government Iranians detest more than the American while they like American people and many aspects of American life and ideals. Iran with its very important strategic position in the Middle East, 80 million educated and conscious population, scientifically, technologically and industrially far advanced than any other country in the region, except perhaps Israel, commanding position in the Persian Gulf, a source of aspiration for many Muslim nations in the region and beyond, and close association with Russia and China, is of vital importance to the Western powers all of which desire stability in the region and free flow of its petroleum and its derivatives to their countries. Iran is the most valuable geostrategic country in the region. Whoever becomes ally with Iran would have first call on its vast oil and gas resources and a strong voice in the future of the Middle East, The United States may in the long run establish normal relationship with Iran, but it will not be easy to turn it into a friendly relationship.

Anti-Americanism has become a part of national feeling which will live on for quite a long period of time. It goes back for four generations, starting with the overthrow of a democratic government which Iranians had achieved after a long struggle, bringing back Mohammad Reza Shah, helping him to impose a brutal dictatorship during which thousands last their lives, many under torture in prisons until they were able to organize a general strike in 1978 which forced him to flee. The new government was formed by democratic minded leaders from 1950s but soon taken over by the clergy under command of Ayatollah Khomeini which established also a harsh dictatorship. When it was invaded by Iraq in 1980, the United States sided with Iraq, by which 500,000 Iranians lost their lives and twice as much were wounded and maimed, and because of the U. S. economic embargo Iran could not get vital supplies needed for continuation of war. Iranians cannot easily forget such devastation of human life and destruction of their cities and thousands of civilian casualties all aided by the United States. They also consider their present dictatorial regime the consequence of the previous U. S. mistaken and selfish policies.

Finally, the Islamic Republic, through its eight years of single handed struggle against Iraq which was supported and aided by the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, its persistent resistance, and ending the war without any territorial loss, emerged stronger than ever. This success gave the system prestige among Muslim people in many countries. Today, Iran’s resistance against the United States supported by other major nations, in exerting its right to do research and experimentation in the area of atomic energy is supported by Muslims in many countries though their government may not like it, and the Islamic Republic is admired because of its humanistic policies in regard to its people, such as health care, education, anti-poverty measures, and its enormous achievements in science, technology and industrialization.

Dr. Reza Rezazadeh

Discover Cornwall and the South West Coast

Cornwall has an array of wonderful sights and hands-on experiences for children attending primary school. Travel to the south coast of England and let your pupils explore one of the world’s largest conservatories and indulge themselves in this diverse Mediterranean landscape. The quaint towns that dot the coastline are typical examples of traditional fishing villages nestled comfortably in the stunning scenery.

A primary school travel group will have endless opportunity to discover the many interesting aspects of this county. The Innovative Eden Project stands out as a major attraction and the Tate Art Gallery in St Ives houses a marvellous display of fine contemporary art. There are also the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Gardens that are well worth a visit and free for students. St Ives is a beautiful town to spend a day exploring the cobbled streets and winding alleys that are typical of the Cornish towns.

The Eden Project

The Eden Project welcomes primary school travel groups and offers some very exciting opportunities for pupils to learn, engage in workshops and experience the innovative ideas that brought this project to life. There are thousands of different plant species grown here and these are intermingled with unusual and modern art and architectural sculptures. The purpose-built education centre stands out as a living classroom and makes The Eden Project an even more attractive destination. A specialised education team on site means you can bring your group to attend organised workshops that are packed full of new learning experiences for pupils of all ages.

Once an old china clay quarry, this site, which is as big as 30 football pitches, has been transformed into tropical, futuristic greenhouses housing a museum of nature that aims to teach visitors about the delicate relationship man has with his natural world.

There is more to Cornwall

Cornwall is not only famous for its flora, but is also home to Newquay Zoo, an award-winning zoo housing over one hundred species of animals. Go wild and visit the big cats at lunchtime, have fun and join an activity trail, or take notes and listen to one of the animated zookeeper talks. From creepy crawlies to penguins, wildebeest to red pandas, the animals here come from all over the world. In the tropical rainforest exhibit, pupils can learn about the world’s largest and most fragile ecosystem and interact with its different environments, and a visit to Toad Hall teaches about the threat to many of the world’s amphibians today.

A different and interesting excursion is to The National Lobster Hatchery, one of the very few research laboratories focusing on marine biology that opens its doors to visitors. Education at every level is catered for and primary school travel groups can gain a wealth of information from the group sessions given here. Pupils can begin to understand the need for conservation and sustainable fishing if the fisheries are going to survive their current situation. Stock enhancement programmes are developed here and sustainability issues are comprehensively researched.

Being a coastal county Cornwall has a rich maritime history. The National Maritime museum dedicated to the celebration of the sea is a fascinating place to spend an afternoon. The museum is now engaging in more research and exploring under the sea too.

A beautiful place to stay with easy access to some educational and enjoyable attractions, Cornwall is a great option for primary school travel.