• 12 March 2008
  • Posted By Ali Scotten
  • Diplomacy

Iranian Chemical Victims Remain Forgotten

As Iraq’s infamous Chemical Ali awaits execution, an article published on Friday by Anuj Chopra reminds us of the thousands of Iranian victims who still remain forgotten by the international community.

While the world knows a great deal about the Halabja massacres of Iraqi Kurds, for which Chemical Ali has been condemned to death, few realize that it was the Iranian Kurds across the border—attacked months earlier—that were the first civilian victims of chemical weapons. This was the first intentional use of chemical weapons against civilians in recorded history.

Out of the 500,000 Iranians killed during the Iran-Iraq war, around 1 in 5 died from exposure to chemical weapons. Today around 100,000 are still living with the effects, which include “long-term respiratory problems, eye and skin problems as well as immune system disorders, psychological disorders, genetic disorders, and probably cancers.” Genetic defects may have also been passed on to children. Many victims have taken decades to die, living in agony all the while.

Despite the fact that Saddam was in direct violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, the international community remained silent. Although UN inspectors did travel to Iran and noted the horrendous effects on civilians, only two weak UN resolutions were passed regarding chemical weapons that didn’t even directly mention Saddam’s use of them.

Western countries even continued to provide weapons to Iraq after these atrocities were committed. Ironically, it was companies from the very same country—Germany—that had first used chemical weapons in World War I that were selling Saddam the materials he needed for his mustard gas.

This has had an enormous effect on Iran’s stance toward the international community: Rafsanjani has said “the war taught us that international laws are nothing but ink on paper.” Yoost Hiltermann at the International Crisis Group has also linked Iran’s defiance on the nuclear issue to the United Nation’s failure to uphold international law during the Iran-Iraq war.

Is it any wonder that Iran considers U.N. Security Council concerns over their alleged WMD program to be illegitimate? Iranians were one of the few actual victims of chemical warfare, and the world watched silently. An understanding of this sense of grievance is essential for any negotiation with Iran to be successful.

Unfortunately sanctions on Iran have hindered even the few international efforts that were being made to help the chemical victims. Hopefully an increased awareness of the reasons behind Iranian mistrust of the West will allow for these types of humanitarian projects to resume, and the innocent victims will no longer remain forgotten.

To learn more about how you can help the Iranian victims of chemical weapons visit: http://www.scwvs.org/

Posted By Ali Scotten

    5 Responses to “Iranian Chemical Victims Remain Forgotten”

  1. Amir says:

    Even reputable charities such of Mercy Corps cant get into Iran because of American sanctions. These types of groups went in for Bam in 2003 and did wonders for the devastated people. Why stop US groups from doing this kind of work for victims of chemical weapons?

  2. Babak Talebi says:


    That is a very good point that we have used on the Hill to great effect. In fact, we invited Mercy corps to join us in a meeting with the State Dept. to talk about the effect of Sanctions on NGO work.

    another example we heard about was in Cali – where an retired Iranian went and built a Hospital in Iran (near Qazvin) to provide free healthcare to locals. guess what. OFAC is now trying to throw the guy in jail over this… its really just crazy.

    The only answer is to constantly contact Congress and let them know about the direct effect of these unsound sanctions policies.

  3. Ali Scotten says:

    The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (www.casmii.org) is working with Physicians for Social Responsibility to bring Iranian doctors with chemical victims patients to tour the US and give speeches. The specific date hasn’t been finalized but keep on the lookout for future events in your area.

  4. Ali Scotten says:

    The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran will be bringing Iranian chemical victims on tour through the US this month:


  5. Amin says:

    Infact am flowing iranians history since the war iran-iraq.Iranians are very brave , may God you Never and ever iran believe westhern countries and US it is very horroble to the people whose sufferi ng from the chemical gas. Am watching presstv program called Iran-today, everyday from Brazil we are praying for allour muslem brothers and sisters Iran never you take an inch backof your interest US AND allys are lufirans continou to increase your technology.

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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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