• 6 March 2008
  • Posted By Arash Hadjialiloo
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran

Arresting the airwaves

The 13th revolutionary court of Iran has sentenced Parnaz Azima, an Iranian-American Radio Farda journalist based in Prague, Czech Republic to one year in prison for “spreading anti-state propaganda.” She was also charged with acting against Iran’s national interests, earning illegitimate income and owning a satellite receiver, charges that have since been dropped.

Azima, who traveled to Iran in March 2007, was visiting her 95 year old mother when she her passport was seized by airport officials. She remained in the country for over eight months, posting $550,000 bail and using her mother’s house as collateral. Azima is now faced with two choices: either returning to Iran to face her sentence, or forfeiting her mother’s house.

President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Jeffrey Gedmin has accused Iran of purposefully targeting members of Radio Farda; and the U.S. State Department has condemned the “baseless conviction and sentencing in absentia of Radio Farda correspondent Parnaz Azima” and Iran’s continued crackdown on independent media a “gross miscarriage of justice.”

Radio Farda is a joint product of Voice of America, a program started in 1942 to spread pro-democratic information and news throughout the Eastern bloc and other “closed and war-torn societies.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international communications service. Both organizations are funded primarily by the U.S. Congress through the Democracy fund. Presented in both English and Persian, the service includes news, entertainment and Persian and American popular music.

Several Washington-based scholars, including Senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Suzanne Maloney, have called non-political, independent, and objective news sources as are the most effective means of reaching the Iranian people, adding that Radio Farda needs work to regain its impartiality.

The service has been criticized by the Iranian government, who has called it an interruption of Iranian domestic affairs. Other critics of Radio Farda include Stephen Fairbanks, former Director of Radio Farda who, in March of 2005, called the service, “Zippy news headlines with swooshy sounds.” Fairbanks also called for Radio Farda to reorient its focus on political issues, rather than entertainment news. Various other critics have called the service overly biased, running counter to the general desire among Iranian youth for objective news from the West.

Posted By Arash Hadjialiloo

    3 Responses to “Arresting the airwaves”

  1. Arash Hadjialiloo says:

    Programs like VOA and Radio Farda seem to be sensitive topics in our community. Does anyone have a particular opinion on these programs? Are they effective? Are they justifiable?

  2. Behnam says:

    Having read a few books on Iran, I would say these radio programs have played an effective role in the past events.

  3. Mehdi says:

    I think any effort that could possibly be seen as antagonistic by the Iranian government is a bad effort. There are enough people, groups and governments that are antagonistic towards the Iranian regime. And it all backfires. All such efforts make the regime less flexible and more undemocratic. These efforts also pushes average uneducated Iranian into stronger support of their “beloved Islamic” regime. At this point in time I don’t think any antagonistic effort should be used. I think there are more than enough opportunities right now in Iran to have a friendly approach. We have to understand that the regime in general does not know how to get itself out of the mess. It isn’t that they don’t want to. But they don’t really know how to move towards progress without compromising their own principles. I think they could use some help instead of scolding.

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Sign the Petition


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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