• 10 January 2008
  • Posted By Sara Shokravi
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

Friendship on the Fault Lines

It is tragic when the only thing that is able to transcend bellicose rhetoric and confrontational policies is a catastrophe that flattens an entire city and consumes 50,000 lives in one night. In 2003 an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 destroyed the 2,000 year old citadel of Bam, entrapping and burying the inhabitants as the ancient city came crumbling down. Among those buried were Adele Freedman and Tobb Dell’Oro, two American tourists. Jahangir Golestan’s documentary, BAM 6.6, tells the intertwining stories of these two individuals along with the Iranians surrounding them.

The aim of the movie is to show how human empathy “transcends geopolitical differences with a simple message of love and hope amidst tragedy, unfolding through the story of two young American victims of this devastating earthquake.” Despite the uplifting feel good aura of the movie, what caught my attention was the international aid that poured into Bam particularly that from the United States.

The documentary included interviews by U.S. aid workers that were sent to Bam to take part in the humanitarian efforts. On December 30 an 81-member USAID/DART team arrived in Iran where they aided in search and rescue missions as well as maintaining sanitary and health conditions in the region. However, the team left shortly after on January 14, when sympathy once again turned into hostility as the two countries continued on their path of mutual bitterness.

Once again, missed opportunities. In fact, this could have been the perfect opportunity: no politics, only sympathy and human compassion to kick start things. Bam seemed to be the big finale to a series of missed opportunities. After the 2001 invasion in Afghanistan and Iranian intelligence/military support to U.S. forces, a year of progress in mending relations came to a startling halt in 2002 as Iran was condemned a member of the axis of evil. Again in 2003, the U.S. government completely ignored, and even denied the existence of a Grand Bargain Proposal sent via the Swiss embassy in Iran. As the USAID group left Iran, they seemed to take with them what seemed to be at that time the last remnants of hope.

Since then, there have been several other occasions to initiate talk between the U.S. and Iran, though none seem to be as significant as those rare opportunities that lingered on between 2001 and 2003. Regardless, BAM 6.6 is only a further testament to the fact that humanity has no boundaries and that perhaps people to people exchanges and track two diplomacy are the way to go. But then again, is the U.S. willing to put an end to its ridiculous sanctions on NGO to NGO exchanges? And is the Islamic Republic willing to end harassment of its own people to allow them to take part in such exchanges with the U.S.?

Posted By Sara Shokravi

    2 Responses to “Friendship on the Fault Lines”

  1. Sara Shokravi says:

    As events in the Persian Gulf are intensifying between Iran and the United States, Diplomacy seems to dwindle further away. Is this just rhetoric by both sides, or is it leading up to something more serious?

  2. Always the problem remains the same, governments that do not represent the will of their people. The US administration wants control of the Middle East to secure the energy future of the USA by reducing the countries rich in oil reserves to vassal states…and they can only do this militarily because while they created and lived with the sanctions, the rest of the world was busy cutting oil deals with Iran and Iraq. The IRI cannot stay in power without a perceived threat from the outside to keep everyone united in fear just like here with this unholy war on terrorism which is an war on dissidence. So the two governments serve each others’ ends like they are on each others payrolls while neither serves the needs of its people…I for one would like to see the neo -conservatives in the US and in Iran voted out of existence…what a tremendous leap backwards the two countries have taken at the hands of these reactionaries…it will take decades to undo all the harm theyhave both caused…

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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