• 26 August 2008
  • Posted By Sara Shokravi
  • Election 2008

Yallah, Vote!

“I am Persian, like the cat, meow!”  And the crowd already rolling with laughter breaks out in an even louder burst of hilarity.  Just a few hours before, Michelle Obama delivered an inspirational speech formally kicking off the Democratic National Convention, speaking of “belief in America’s promise, [and] commitment to our children’s future.”  A harder act to follow, was that of an emotional Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), predicting a “new wave of change.”

Despite the challenge, Maz Jobrani and fellow comedians, Dean Obeidallah, Ahmad Ahmad, and Maysoon Zayid, did a stand up job in bringing in the crowd to two back to back shows and having them laughing their socks off at the Kabob Comedy show.  Jokes aside, all four comedians spoke passionately about the importance of voting and being an active Iranian/Arab/Muslim/female American (or any combination of) in today’s political climate.  Each having faced their own challenges, from the extreme of being detained post September 11 to racial slurs, they saw hope and change with the 2008 presidential election.

The event was put on by the Arab American Institute, who did an excellent job in bringing in the crowd.  What stood out most to me was despite being sponsored by a non-Iranian organization and with three-fourths of the show being presented by Arab Americans, the crowd was easily populated by half if not more Iranian Americans.  While it is always amusing to poke fun of politicians, and some claiming all politics one giant joke, what will not be funny is when the Iranian-American voice is left out of the debates in the next week and again during the week of the Republican National Convention.

The great debate has persisted for the last 30 years on why Iranians are reluctant to partake in political activities.  We all know them by heart and have even probably used them as an excuse for our own lack of activity.  We need to put our excuses aside because we can no longer afford not to speak up and be engaged.  Speaking to some of the Iranians at the show, it is evident that there is even a sense of frustration from our community about ourselves.

Very few minority groups are actually sought after by politicians, and in no other time in history is the opinion and voice of the Iranian American population more important than now.  Sen. McCain has already appointed a special coordinator for Iranian American outreach and Sen. Obama is also reaching out to the community through a committee for small ethnic minority groups.  While they have seen some positive response, there is still a sense of urgency by both camps who keep popping up at events with Iranian presence, such as last night,  in the hopes of getting the community somewhat engaged and hearing what they have to say.

So for those who are frustrated and for those who keep wondering what they can do despite leading a busy life, I say to you, lend them your mind for they have lent you their ears!  Speak out and let them hear your voice. It is obvious that both sides are trying very hard to appease the community and win our vote.  Believe it or not, we do matter and what is more important, they want us on their side.  What side you pick and what the next administration does with your vote is your choice.  But it is obvious that they want us to speak up, so as Ahmad Ahmad put it, “yallah, vote!

Posted By Sara Shokravi

    2 Responses to “Yallah, Vote!”

  1. Patrick Disney says:

    Right on, Sara. There hasn’t been an election in which the issue of Iran and Iranian-Americans played such a powerful role for decades. Both candidates have held entire events focusing only on Iran-related concerns, and you even pointed out, there are whole staff positions within the campaigns designed specifically to reach out to our community. So, you’re absolutely right–it’s never been so important to become engaged. Now is the time to get involved, whether it’s by attending the conventions, volunteering for a campaign, or just putting up a yard sign and voting on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 4, by the way). Keep it up!

  2. While it is good that Iran is the main topic of debates and conversations, it is not good to hear such misinformation.

    Bush administration and the media has already portrayed a bad image, a public enemy number 1 or 2. As soon as you get into a conversation journalists like George Stephanapolous who is supposed to be mainstream and on ABC suddenly asks this stupid question “What will you do if Iran attacks Israel?”

    That question is so loaded and with so many wrong assumptions. Or other similar questions that start by assuming Iran is the devil so go from there. The only hope I see is Biden who in his primary debates had some good arguments and not swayed by the hype and negativity about Iran. Obama was good but soon after has decided to go with the flow as far as Iran is concerened, maybe a little better but still wishy washy.

    McCain is totally for an attack so the difference is clear. Lets vote and make sure at least we exercise this one option that we have. Lets hope for the best by voting and vote for Obama!

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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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