• 24 October 2008
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian American activism

Updated: Iranian American student imprisoned in Tehran

A graduate student from California State University-Northridge has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a week, with calls for her release going unheeded by Iranian authorities, according to rights groups and media reports.

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More information here, here, and here.

Personal blog calling for Esha’s release: http://for-esha.blogspot.com/

update: See NIAC’s article, Iranian-American student arrested in Iran, groups call for release.

Iranian-American student arrested in Iran, groups call for release

Oct 24, 2008

Washington DC – A graduate student from California State University-Northridge has been imprisoned in Iran for more than a week, with calls for her release going unheeded by Iranian authorities, according to rights groups and media reports.

Esha Momeni, who was born in Los Angeles and holds dual US-Iranian citizenship, was working on her master’s thesis on Iranian women’s rights groups when she was reportedly pulled over for a routine traffic violation.  According to media accounts, the police officer then escorted Esha to her home where authorities confiscated her computer as well as video footage of interviews she had conducted as part of her research into the women’s activist group “Change for Equality.”

She was then detained and is said to be imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison, though officials have not announced any charges.

According to her thesis advisor, communications professor Melissa Wall, Momeni was not participating in anti-government actions, nor was she in Iran to agitate for political or religious reform.  “She is not some crazed, radical person,” Wall said.  “She is a lovely young woman who wanted to document these Iranian women’s lives. She did not have some big agenda.”

Iranian officials had offered to release Miss Momeni on the condition that news of her arrest was kept secret, according to some reports.  Momeni’s parents decided to publicize their daughter’s case after they attempted to submit an inquiry with the Iranian Revolutionary Court five days after her arrest, only to be told not to return until the investigation has been completed.

University President Jolene Koester issued a statement yesterday, calling Momeni “a student invested in learning and understanding current conditions in the country of her family’s origin.”  “Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be concerned” by her arrest, Koester said.

“I’m aware that such things happen in Iran,” Wall said, “but I’m confident that they have nothing to fear from Esha’s research project.  It is simply an academic exercise, not meant for publication outside of academic circles. I cannot image why she should be held in detention.”

Amnesty International issued an urgent plea on Tuesday, expressing concern that she might be tortured or otherwise mistreated while in custody, and urging Iranian officials “to release her immediately and unconditionally.”

A blog has been set up by friends and relatives of Miss Momeni, where visitors are encouraged to sign a petition for her immediate release.  University officials are also currently in the process of contacting California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer for assistance, as well as Rep. Brad Sherman, the Department of State, and Iranian Ambassador to the UN Mohammad Khazaee.

News of Momeni’s arrest was particularly disturbing for Cal State-Northridge, said Provost Harold Hellenbrand, since the campus “values intercultural communications a great deal.”  Momeni, he said, “occupies two worlds and was trying to make those two worlds understand each other.”

Posted By Patrick Disney

    One Response to “Updated: Iranian American student imprisoned in Tehran”

  1. It is not acceptable for a country to be part of the civilised world if this is how it treats people. Miss Momeni is being held illegally. This is totally unacceptable. I shudder to think what is happening to her in that hell-hole Evin. The women of Iran should rise up en masse in protest to her imprisonment and their treatment; we are not in the middle ages. If enough of them protest surely they can’t arrest everyone?

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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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