• 27 January 2009
  • Posted By Sahar Jooshani
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Tehran’s hypocrisy on women’s rights; soccer edition

On Monday January 20th for the first time since the 1979 revolution, a soccer match involving men vs. women took place in Iran. Unfortunately, government officials were none too pleased at the watershed match.

Esteghlal, one of Iran’s top soccer clubs, said it suspended two officials for a year and a third for six months. A fourth official was fined 50 million rial ($5000).

Though the coaches of either team denied the accusations of a co-ed competition, videos, taped by cell phones, were used as evidence to the contrary.

Since 1979 Iranian soccer teams have not only been segregated by sex, but women have been forbidden to attend male games, even if a loved one is playing. In 2006, Supreme leader Ali Khamenei stated that this prohibition was put in place to protect women from the offensive language that breaks out in heated competitions.

Prohibitions like these are turning back the clock on Iran’s attempts at progressivism, feminism, and liberalism. The more Iran attempts to control every aspect of their citizens’ lives, the more they are proving human rights accusations that are brought against them.

After taking every type of public transportation, shopping in crowded bazaars, and eating at local Iranian restaurants, I can say without any doubt in my mind that the language I heard in the streets of Iran was just as offensive–if not more so–than the language I’ve heard at soccer tournaments.

As a child, the Farsi words I learned–specifically the ones that got me sent to my room–were words I learned from walking around the streets. Because of this, I was bewildered by the justification the Supreme leader gave for restricting a woman’s ability to watch a male soccer game.

Regardless of whether Khamenei’s reasons for this prohibition are fact or fictional; it is ridiculous all the same.

Soccer is a treasured sport in Iran. Female citizens in Iran are as proud of their national sport as any other citizen. A 20 year old soccer fan, Mina Tehrani stated, “We’re out here like beggars in our own country trying to support our own nation’s team. Are we not Iranians? Are our cheers less important?”

To deny them this basic joy is no different than denying them their ability to have pride in their nation.

Posted By Sahar Jooshani

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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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