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

Yes, We Can!

Guest post by Negin Sobhani

NIAC is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 c(3), and therefore does not endorse candidates for political office.  The following article should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any candidate for any office, and reflects solely the personal opinion of the author.

I understand Michelle Obama now more than ever. On Thursday, August 28, 2008, for the first time in my 26 years, I was truly proud of America and to be an American citizen. It went a little deeper than that though, because for the first time in my life, I cried during the singing of the national anthem. Usually, I have not been moved by emotions of the Olympian, soldier, astronaut, veteran, politician, or baseball player who stands up and pays homage to a flag and country that has not instilled in me that level of nationalism that it has for those who have more roots or owe their achievements solely to this country. I’m not sure if it was the way Jennifer Hudson sang the most beautiful and heartfelt rendition of the anthem I’ve ever heard or if it was the cumulative exhaustion from a 5-day whirlwind of events, activities, and sleeplessness or perhaps the sheer historic importance of the opening to a night I will remember for the rest of my life. Whatever it was, I know I wasn’t alone.


In my immediate surroundings was three African-American women from Tennessee, Rwanda, and Ghana; a sole Latino young man; an older lesbian couple; three high-school aged students-Black and Latino; older White women; older Black men; and individuals I may have assumed to be “rednecks” or republicans had I met them elsewhere. That night, all of us shared not only our support for an Obama presidency, but in the American promise which enabled all of us to sit in the stadium, take witness to the night, wave flags when we cheered, and shed tears when we cried.


I know Iranians and African Americans are not exactly two peas in a pod. I understand there are obvious cultural differences between these two groups as there are with others, nevertheless I have always been disturbed by the prejudice towards Blacks in America who have, in my opinion, inexcusably suffered from the post-slavery institutionalized racism embedded in this country long before the first Iranian ever arrived at Lady Liberty’s shore. Iranians, like other minorities before and after us, have had to endure difficulties in this country, but Iranian immigrants have traditionally been more educated and in a relatively comfortable socio-economic class upon their arrival or soon thereafter. However, it is precisely because of the shared history of injustice, prejudice, and ignorance that made me prouder than ever to call myself an American who was able to participate as a county and district delegate who caucused, donated, phoned, and registered for Obama. By simply participating in the democratic process available to every American citizen I am able to claim a small but important piece of ownership in the victory and acceptance of Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for President.


Overall this was an amazing week where I was personally able to intellectually benefit from the events focused on my passions surrounding women’s issues at the Unconventional Women’s Symposium and The White House Project’s 10th Anniversary Celebration; Middle Eastern politics and US foreign policy with The New America Foundation’s event “Can the Next President Make the Middle East Irrelevant”, J Street’s coming out reception, and a local gathering on NIAC; and a discussion on the many problems plaguing Africa at the 2008 Rocky Mountain Roundtable on Global Poverty. Equally exciting was the energy in Denver as the Democratic Party, Americans, and the world zeroed-in on our mile-high western city for an historic week in the outcome and potential of civic engagement.


“At defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.”




Posted By Sara Shokravi

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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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