Two Coasts One Voice

Over the last few weeks, I have been tasked with looking into ways to spread the word about NIAC’s electoral education outreach in the Persian-language media. During this experience, I was both astounded and impressed by the sheer volume of Iranian media outlets (both print and broadcast) based in the United States. It was very unexpected and reassuring to see the lengths of our community’s efforts at creating a media landscape beyond the standard American media outlets. Although the clear lack of professionalism in some of the outlets was discouraging, the vast majority of them were a very pleasant surprise.

As many of you undoubtedly know, there are dozens of publications, radio stations, and TV channels directed at Persian-speaking Iranians Americans, almost all in southern California and the west coast. While it is good to see such a high number of Iranian outlets, I found myself amazed at their concentration on the west coast. Though I expected the majority to be based out of the Iranian American population centers in southern California, it was truly shocking that so few existed here on the east coast or in other regions despite their sizable Iranian-American communities.

I remember how, as a child, I sat with my parents watching Rang-a-Rang without knowledge of the numerous other Iranian television networks in America. As I became more aware of the various other outlets (and their varying viewpoints) I was always struck by lack of east-coast based media outlets.

While helping NIAC reach out to Persian-language outlets in order to more widely disseminate information about the American election process; these memories and observations flooded back and again piqued my curiosity. I have my own theories as to why this huge gulf exists between the east and west coast Iranian American communities and I would love to hear the feedback of some of you with more experience in this arena.

My theory is that the notable cultural differences between the east and west coasts Iranian American communities are reflected in the media landscape as well. I think that Iranians on the east coast seem to have been in the United States longer (generally speaking) and tend to be more integrated and reliant on American media outlets. West coast Iranians on the other hand, tend to focus more on their Iranian identities and even Iranian politics because they seem to have been more directly affected by the upheavals of the Iranian revolution. Specific examples of the survey results include that west coast Iranian Americans tend to emphasize more on politics when educating their children compared to east coast Iranians Americans.

No matter the reasons, the main point is that while the affluent, highly educated, and widely dispersed IA community has many Persian-language media outlets, the vast majority of them are based out of the west coast. Would it not serve the entire community better for these numerous Iranian American media outlets to be as dispersed as the community itself instead of being isolated to the west coast? After all, Iranian-Americans live in every state in the union and have dense population in many major cities throughout the country (not just on the two coasts) and yet our media outlets remain concentrated in southern California. Due to this phenomenon, they tend to be reflective of and responsive to the identity and culture of that community without major consideration of the rest of the diaspora.

Though I remain impressed by the sheer volume of Persian-language outlets, I am unconvinced that they fully serve our communities needs. With such a widespread and varied population, we need a range of media outlets to match our own highly diversified society.

Posted By Arash Hadjialiloo

    2 Responses to “Two Coasts One Voice”

  1. Arash Hadjialiloo says:

    Does anyone else find this lack of East Coast based media unusual? What are your experiences when in comes to East Coast versus West Coast Iranians?

  2. There’s a saying in America (humor) that the country has tilted and many nuts have ended up in the west coast! But seriously, there’s a huge difference between the two as though there are two different civilizations with common root as Iranian have emerged.
    In East coast with much less dense population of Iranian Americans as compared to the Tehrangelis, we have for the first time a Persian Parade ( on its fifth year strong. The Tehrabgelis population have diverse background and not united despite many radio and television outlets with vast coverage. What they lack is the common sense to realize that by shouting, raising voices, disrupting pre-planned programs will not do any good to anyone including themselves. So why do they do these things? Perhaps their behavior are rooted in the 37 years under the Shah’s rule and they cannot cope with change in a free society, cannot and do not want to listen to logic and want to restore and return to what they were used to do without listening to other’s opinion. This mentality is doomed form its inception because of the dynamics of the young generation demanding change into the future.

    Just to add to the complexity of over five (5) million immigrated Iranians after the revolution, there’s a third civilization of Iranians in Canada where most of the leftist (communists) during the Shah ear have emerged.

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7,350 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.



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