Day 1 with NIAC

One of the great aspects of America is that we have many different cultures and identities living together in relative harmony. As a democracy, the American political institution functions best when citizens participate. The Iranian-American community may be small, but as an important minority it is our duty as US citizens to engage in American civic life. Unfortunately, the Iranian community is largely politically inactive, but non-partisan organizations like NIAC have sought to encourage the community to engage in American civic life to a greater extent.

Although I was born in California to Iranian parents, I was raised (surrounded by hundreds of Iranian friends and family from San Francisco to Los Angeles and across the US to Washington, DC) in Persian culture and language. Throughout my life, I have had to balance the dual-identity dynamic, as I maintained my Iranian roots at home but was exposed to American culture and English at school. As I grew, my personality took on more and more ‘American’ aspects but the post-Sept. 11 world has given me a renewed sense of loyalty to the Iranian culture within the framework of a man raised in America, a nation unlike any other; since then, I have learned to balance the two identities.

Since I grew up here, I’ve been a first-hand witness to the largely lacking Iranian participation in American civic life. I have found members of the community to be politically apathetic towards the American institution, quite possibly stemming from their mentality that the US, as their adopted nation, is not a permanent home. Larger Iranian communities (such as in the greater Washington, DC area, Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle) have effectively established themselves as a nation-within-a-nation. Many of these Iranians primarily socialize with other Iranians and do not participate in American civic life.

However, as the Iranian community expands to include Iranians born in America such as myself, there is greater interaction between the Iranians and the non-Iranians. My generation has, in a way, forced the older generations to interact with those outside of the community via school, sports and other extra-curricular activities, and the like. Thus our community in America has grown in size. Many say that today we are an important (albeit small) corner-stone of the American business community (in California especially).

Even so, our political clout in the US is fundamentally lacking due to the fact that there is an apathy among the Iranians with regards to the American political institution (as mentioned before). In light of this, NIAC has sought to rectify this issue. As an organization that actively promotes Iranian participation in American civic life, NIAC has sought to increase the levels of communique between the (at times) estranged Iranian community and the American political institution.

I consider it a great honor to be an intern at NIAC, where Iranians and Americans alike work towards the goal of a more integrated life for Iranians in the US. Getting Iranians engaged in American civic life is only possible with their help, and the community outreach aspect of NIAC aims at this precisely. My hope for this summer is that I can help reach out to the community in an effort to promote their participation.

Posted By Darioush Azizi

    One Response to “Day 1 with NIAC”

  1. Julia Murray says:

    It’s so interesting to hear about what motivated someone else to come and intern at NIAC, especially because I come from a non-Iranian American perspective. I look forward to working with you over the 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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