• 9 June 2008
  • Posted By Julia Murray
  • About, Iranian American activism, Legislative Agenda

First Day at NIAC

It is my first day interning at NIAC and I am very excited to be here. I am from Scotland and attend St Andrews University but I have been in America since last August on my junior year abroad. Studying in the U.S. has been a fantastic experience and one that has opened many doors for me, not least because of the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C.

From these introductory remarks it is obvious that I am not Iranian American. Nevertheless, I found a placement at NIAC extremely appealing for a number of reasons. First, my major is International Relations and consequently the issues that NIAC deals with are relevant for this area of study. I hope that interning here will better my understanding of U.S. foreign policy, as well as civil society and its influence over policy making. More specifically, the issues that NIAC deals with pertain to my major and are important from an international affairs point of view. For instance, its efforts to highlight human rights abuses in Iran; I wish I could have been around when NIAC held its conference on “Human Rights in Iran and U.S. Policy Options” since I am especially interested in this topic.

Second, while in the USA I have focused on the study of American politics. Therefore, being in D.C. – the heart of U.S. politics – is a great experience and I was eager to see how the concepts I learned about in the classroom are applied in reality. Prior to starting at NIAC I was on the Hill interning for Speaker Pelosi. This gave me the chance to see the political world from inside Congress; how the House and Senate interact, what their relationship with the Executive is like, and how the legislative branch works with special interest groups and civil society. After being having viewed the workings of the American political system from within a government institution, I was very keen to experience a different perspective. A grassroots organization such as NIAC provided the perfect opportunity. Consequently, I am looking forward to observing how this non-governmental organization works to achieve its goal of promoting Iranian-American participation in civic life, how it liaises with Congress and builds relations with the members in order to further its agenda.

Finally, and probably most significantly, I think the work that NIAC does is worthwhile and necessary. The issues that it targets are important for us all to take note of, whether we are Iranian-American or not. The promotion of the Iranian-American community’s involvement in civic life is a worthwhile pursuit since it helps integrate a minority group into the American way of life, culturally and politically, while not denying it its background. We all have something to offer to civil society and, given that America is a democracy, it’s important that people know how to make their voices heard so that the ordinary person can make a difference. Subsequently, NIAC’s efforts to energize the Iranian American community, to provide the resources for them to make informed decisions, involve themselves in civic life and become politically active, are of great value and I am looking forward to being part of this endeavor.

Posted By Julia Murray

    5 Responses to “First Day at NIAC”

  1. murrayj says:

    I look forward to updating you with what I learn at NIAC and I welcome any discussion on my first blog post!

  2. jasper III says:

    Well, Ahm so rightly gobsmacked to hear about all this that ah dearly hope that everyone concerned is so rightly ceevil when they’r in suuc-ieety. Ah bet this truuly reeenforces yoor pool-eecy.

  3. Babak Talebi says:

    Jasper III…

    to be honest – I really dont know what you meant to say ;P

    but yeah… being civil in society is a policy we do try to reinforce. In fact, it is the essence of responsibility and participation that will allow our community (and generations to come) to be fully integrated into this culture.

    I hope you agree with that … 😉

  4. Julia Murray says:

    Jasper III –
    Thanks for your comment – it’s always good to be reminded of some British lingo. It has been a while since I heard the word “gobsmacked”!

  5. Farid Zareie says:

    Julia, its really interesting to see what made you decide to come and intern at NIAC. Especially since you are, like me, not an Iranian American. It’s going to be fun working with a fellow European this summer.

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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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