• 3 June 2009
  • Posted By Nikta Hathaway
  • 0 Comments
  • Culture, Diplomacy, persepolis artifacts

Museum diplomacy

SacklerI recently went to visit the Sackler Gallery’s exhibit: The Tsars and the East: Gifts from Turkey and Iran in the Moscow Kremlin. When I walked through the Iranian portion of the artifacts on display, I was blown away by the immaculate and masterfully crafted golden maces, gem inlaid swords, ceremonial horse trappings, and silk tapestries gifted to the Russian Empire in exchange for coveted trade routes or trading compacts. I was impressed to see that these exquisite indicators of my heritage have been held in the Kremlin Treasury since the 16th and 17th centuries are still in such pristine condition!

I also came to realize that the ancient art of diplomacy might be the way of the future. In the times of the Sefavid Shahs and Ottoman Sultans, customized gifts were part of the diplomatic conversation. Valuable treasures were presented to political authorities in order to ensure economic and political agendas. The Russian government, in an attempt to improve relations with the US, has made the simple yet powerful gesture of sharing these historic artifacts with the Smithsonian here in DC. As I kept walking around, I was gradually reminded of the Persepolis artifacts on loan at the University of Chicago. In 1933 these tablets were provided to the University to be translated and preserved. Now they are the point of much controversy, gradually making their way through the courts of the United States. (You can read the details about the case on NIAC’s main site, with our extensive coverage here). These tablets are in danger of being seized and sold to the highest bidder in order to compensate victims of a 1997 terrorist attack in Jerusalem.

It must be considered that the tablets are not only central to the Persian community, but that the destruction of any of these artifacts would be a loss to the historic community of the world. In 1933, Iran trusted the University of Chicago to preserve and protect the rich heritage contained in the tablets. Similar to the artifacts presented in the Sackler Gallery, the tablets are symbols of cultural trust and valuable tools of international cooperation and understanding.

I might be far off point, but does anyone else see the potential in all of this? I think there is an important role for “museum diplomacy” in our outreach to Iran. A victory–through protecting these tablets in the US judicial system–would be a show of progress and respect towards an ancient heritage and a newly emerging global partner.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well–allowing these priceless artifacts to be seized just as President Obama is beginning to reach out to Iran would be disastrous for any chance of a diplomatic breakthrough.  But you can help!  Fill out our action alert today and help protect our ancient culture and ensure successful diplomacy at the same time. Tell President Obama to prevent the auction of priceless Persepolis artifacts!

Posted By Nikta Hathaway

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Sign the Petition

 

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.

Sincerely,

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