Guest Post: “Lost in Opposition”

Special guest post by Pedram Moallemian

This post first appeared at

One of the many problems with the primarily “in-exile” opposition to the Iranian government is their choice to detach themselves from the day-to-day lives of their compatriots back home. I say choice, as with the state of today’s technology, distance is an almost non-existing barrier and they could certainly connect to current issues and hot topics within Iran if they wanted to.

The latest example is a piece of legislation that has already passed primary screening procedures of the appropriate committee and is about to be presented to the Iranian parliament, Majles. Introduced and backed by both the judiciary as well as cabinet and under the title of “Family Assistance Bill” [layehe-hamayat-az-khanevadeh], it will become law if passed by the greater chamber and then ratified by the Guardian Council to ensure its compatibility with the constitution as well as Islamic law and traditions.

Some of the most troublesome sections of the new bill further restrict the rights of women, in particular as it relates to various areas under family law. Proposed changes have set the alarms off already for many activists inside Iran, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi who is threatening to stage a sit-in in front of the Majles if it is passed.

Section 48 of the new legislation, for example, provides for a father that has already lost custody but refuses to hand over the child to the mother to avoid current penalty of a prison sentence by replacing it with a cash fine.

Section 23 not only validates polygamy, it also lifts the current restriction that requires men to obtain permission of their first wife to be able to marry again, as long as they are able to financially support the new family.

There are a number of other examples but I haven’t been able to find any serious attempt by any group opposing the Iranian regime to organize a campaign abroad to contradict the bill, resist its passage and certainly reach out and educate those inside Iran with its closed system of government that may not even be aware of the its impending passage.

There is little doubt they could do it if they wanted to. Presently, there are at least 12 television stations broadcasting 24/7 programming in Farsi to Iran from Southern California alone. Not to mention other TV and radio stations, plus thousands of webcasts, blogs and websites. So, why don’t they? That is when I need to stress again, how they have chosen to remove themselves from the realities of today’s Iran and Iranians.

The very few people who still run these groups as they always have been for the last 28+ years, like to busy themselves with grand visions, real or imagined. These supposed visionaries are too preoccupied with images of an “overthrow” and the glorious rescue of the beloved country to welcome them to her bosoms to worry too much about the women that will be affected immediately after this bill passes.

By continually refusing to address the most immediate but smaller issues, their message and attitude towards the Iranians who have had to deal with this regime for every day of the last (close to) three decades is condescending if not audacious and disrespectful. And as long as they decline to demonstrate more reverence for their people, they will generally be ignored, the way they have been this far.

For further information on the proposed legislation in Farsi, please visit here.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    5 Responses to “Guest Post: “Lost in Opposition””

  1. Very true. Many Iranians are too busy “prettying up” their own image at the expense of their compatriots in Iran to say anything of substance. All they do is wholesale reject everything under the banner of IRI is illegitimate as they define it.

    There is also another piece of legislation about banning stoning which should be advocated too.

    On the other hand there are more Iranians than “busy” ones that do care about Iran and her prosperity. They are FAR more and they go and visit and see it by their own eyes.

  2. AnIranianinMontreal says:

    I wanted to know what the legislation is exactly. So far, I have read the analysis against it, especially from some controversial people, that I personally can’t trust their soundness in many cases. What this opposition say, somehow, sounds totally irrational. In many occasions, I found their arguments totally misleading and even an act of opportunism. It would be a nice idea if you could discuss every section of the legislation, regardless of any political direction. Some of these weblogs are talking against the legislation as if those who proposed it are not human at all or don’t have family including girls let alone their own wife. In today’s Iran, even in very religious families, the idea of having more than one wife for example is totally awkward. When I was in Iran two month ago, it’s been announced in the state’s TV that “DIE” is now the same for women and men. So, to me, it’s totally unacceptable to see another low in completely the opposite direction. Well, you might say there are different factions in the gov. with different worldviews.

    And above all, I don’t understand why you wrote this news in English. I mean, what were you looking for in announcing an internal affair, with such a negative effect on the world public opinion? To me, it’s fine to see discussion, analysis, opinion against the legislation in Farsi, what I don’t understand is why should this be publicized in English, specially now!

    Could you just put all the sections of the legislation? Of course in Farsi.

  3. Hashem says:

    I think the problem is that most Iranians who oppose the IRI are merely looking for an excuse to pack up and leave, or act irresponsibly while they are in Iran (and not feel bad about it).

    I seriously believe that if the Iranian opposition wanted to do something constructive, by now they could have forced the IRI into allowing more greater social freedom (e.g. removed the ridicules headscarves obligation), provide greater gender equality, ban stoning all together, and even reduced the role of the velayateh-fagheh to a symbolic/spiritual role.

    All these are achievable. Step-by-step roadmaps can drawn out, because there ARE loop-holes in the constitution.

    Sometimes I think the Iranian opposition is even more backwards than the ayatollahs. The opposition is more concerned about petty issues (such as the symbol in the middle of the flag, the names of roads and squares, or adjunction to the name of Iran) than they are about real issues that make a difference.

    It’s good to see someone talking about the real issues.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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.



Share this with your friends: