• 24 February 2009
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Culture, persepolis artifacts

Takht-e Jamshid in trouble


It’s possible you’re familiar with this story from some of NIAC’s previous reports, (background, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), but nearly 12,000 priceless artifacts from Takht-e Jamshid (Persepolis) are in danger of being auctioned off as punishment for Iran’s support for terrorist groups.

The University of Chicago is the current home for the only existing collection of tablets providing a first-hand account of daily life in the Persian Empire.  Every other depiction of the great civilization that stretched across most of the known world 2500 years ago comes from Roman, Greek, Arab, or Biblical histories; the Persepolis artifacts represent the only inside glimpse into the society of Darius the Great.  And it’s all currently in danger.

Families of the victims of terrorist attacks sued Iran in federal court because of Iran’s material support for Hamas and Hezboallah, and were awarded damages of more than $400 million.  Not surprisingly, Iran has refused to pay, claiming a well-established international norm known as “sovereign immunity.”  That’s where an enterprising lawyer comes in.

David Strachman of Rhode Island has made it his mission to seize the priceless artifacts to be sold to the highest bidder as remuneration for the victims’ families.   According to Strachman, “All Iran has to do is pay the judgment. If they came to terms with us, we wouldn’t be here.”

But here we are.

Interestingly enough, the Department of Justice under President George W Bush repeatedly argued for the protection of the tablets.  According to Matt Stolper, the chief caretaker of the tablets at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, “Here I am in this odd position of responsibility for something that could be destroyed on my watch.  If it’s taken away or broken up, it’s completely irreplaceable.”

NIAC has worked since 2006 to preserve the integrity of this piece of ancient Persian heritage, and in the coming days we will be asking President Obama and the Justice Department to intervene in this case.  The President has the power to prevent these tablets from being auctioned; President Clinton took similar action in 1998.  You can help by writing President Obama and asking him to step in and protect this priceless bit of history.

Please take a moment and write to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.  Thank you.

-the NIAC team

Posted By Patrick Disney

    One Response to “Takht-e Jamshid in trouble”

  1. Chuck Jones says:

    Readers can learn more abut the lawsuit and about the work of the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project team at the PFA Project blog:

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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.



Share this with your friends: