• 11 June 2008
  • Posted By Farid Zareie
  • About, Iranian American activism

Move forward, not back

Being an Iranian, raised in Sweden and now living in the United States, I have had the pleasure to experience the Iranian community in these two countries as well as many others. What I have discovered is a common similarity among all Iranian regardless of where we live. Even though there are of course many similarities between us, there is one in particular that has really grabbed my attention; that is our lack of involvement in the political arena.

When looking at our past, it is not surprising to me that there is a conscious distancing from politics. Iranians have for many years been victims of political and social injustice and suffering. Most of us who now live outside of Iran most likely left the country because of our disagreement with the regime or to basically save ourselves from the tragic war with Iraq. Therefore, we now have a distilled fear of politics, and we constantly discourage our youth who wish to pursuit a career in politics. Again, being victims of our political past, it is not unexpected of us to feel this way about the political life.

Yet, even with our refusal to engage in politics, most Iranians seem to have many opinions about the politics in Iran and in the countries they now live in. These opinions are usually the inevitable topic of conversation in all social gatherings. At least from what I have experienced, and I believe that most Iranians would agree with me. However, we have not been willing to translate those opinions into action.

Iranians are one of the more well-educated minorities in countries all around the world. In the United States, the Iranian American community is also one of the wealthiest minority groups. Still, without political know-how, it is difficult to engage and get our voices heard. It is in my opinion, essential for us to have our voices heard in politics. Most of us now live in democratic countries, and we need to learn from our political experiences and instead of constantly looking back at them, utilize them to move forward. With a larger political engagement from the Iranian American community or any Iranian community in the world, we are able influence and translate our opinions and wishes into reality and actually achieve the changes we want to see.

Posted By Farid Zareie

    4 Responses to “Move forward, not back”

  1. Arsalan Barmand says:

    good point that those in our generation are strongly discouraged from taking part in politics; most of the older generations prefer to sit back and pass judgment without actively engaging. as we are a very well educated community with a history of strong political opinions, this is a problem.

  2. Julia Murray says:

    I think it is essential for people to become engaged and active within the political arena. It’s fascinating to hear about it specifically in relation to the Iranian American community. We live in a democracy and are lucky to be under such a regime. Therefore we should make the most of it, involve ourselves and make our voices heard. Hopefully NIAC can help this to happen.

  3. […] perception of the Iranian America community and the general American society was very interesting. Being born in Iran and raised in Sweden, it is relatively easy for me to act as an unbiased observer and objectively gauge the flaws of American society. Interestingly, even with our different life […]

  4. tim D, M.D., Ph.D. says:

    Why do you feel the need to segregate yourselves, and define yourselves as more Iranian, rather than simply American, like most Americans. If you want to be accepted, and integrate well, you need to become American. If you prefer your Iranian roots, heritage, rules, etc. over American ones, the answer is simply. You can always move back to Iran. If you want to stay in America, and be accepted here, you must become an American. There is no way around it.

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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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