• 21 January 2009
  • Posted By Sahar Jooshani
  • Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Persian Gulf

Brothers Arash and Kamyar Alaie were imprisoned by the Iranian government in June of 2008 and faced trial on December 31st 2008 in a private hearing in Tehran. The two Iranian doctors were doing AIDS/HIV research in Iran.

The Iranian government claimed that the two doctors and two other unnamed individuals were working with the CIA, in a $32 million plan to overthrow the Iranian government. The government claimed that the doctors were working to stir up a social revolution.

Arash was given six years and his brother three. There is no evidence to explain the difference in their sentencing. Their charges are based on Article 508 of Iran’s Penal Code which allows up to ten years’ imprisonment for “cooperation with an enemy government,” though the Penal Code is silent as to what constitutes “cooperation” or what is meant by an “enemy government.”

Human Rights activists claim that the convictions are based on empty accusations and that the brothers are being dealt with in a harsh and inhuman manner. Hadi Ghaemi, Iran researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa stated, “Unfortunately Iran’s government, instead of trying to minimize these kind of condemnations, has given full power to radicals so that they can make more moves than before.”

The Iranian government has for some time had doubts about Iranian Americans spreading US propaganda in Iran. The imprisonment of two AIDS/HIV doctors is a perfect example of how far the Iranian government will go to display their standing as a power to be taken seriously. This is not an isolated case. In 2008 Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University-Northridge, was arrested on ambiguous charges. These are only two of many examples of the prejudice that Iranian Americans face from the hard-line government of Ahmadinejad.

But, what does this mean for the Iranian-American community? Well, for any Iranian American wanting to travel back to Iran this could mean a lot. The Iranian government has repeatedly taken every measure to prove that they have no respect or regard for international regulations of human rights. So, if you’re looking to go back to Iran to get in touch with your roots or visit family then enter with caution. This is the sad truth.

The two doctors’ arrest further demonstrates the enormous problem of Iran’s abysmal human rights record. The human rights issue has breached the borders of Iran. This issue is at our doorsteps. It affects us and our freedoms as Iranians living in America.

There is, however, a positive role to be played by Iranian Americans by calling for human rights reform in Iran. Iranian Americans should take advantage of the newly inaugurated Obama administration by pushing for constructive engagement with Iran which places human rights issues on the forefront of negotiations.

Click on the links below to read more about this story.

Daily Gazette

Boston Globe

Los Angeles Times

Posted By Sahar Jooshani

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7,349 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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