• 20 July 2009
  • Posted By Trita Parsi
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

cross posted from HuffingtonPost:

Bijan Khajehpour

Bijan Khajehpour

As Iran’s election crisis continues, hundreds if not thousands of prisoners remain in Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Few of them have faces known to the outside world. Some of them may have protested in the streets. Others were in Mir Hussein Moussavi’s inner circle. Still others had nothing to do with either the protests or the opposition. We know very little about all of these prisoners. We may not even know their names.

Let me introduce you to one of them. His name is Bijan Khajehpour.

Bijan is one of the many prisoners who neither participated in the protests nor had any involvement with the opposition. In fact, he wasn’t involved in party politics in any way. He is a self-made man, who built a solid reputation as one of the country’s leading economic and political analysts as the founder and CEO of Iran’s leading business consultancy, Atieh Bahar Consulting.

While the outside world knows Bijan best as a top-notch consultant drawing the attention of multinational and local firms to investment opportunities in the country, his many friends and closest colleagues will tell you about his humanitarian side. They will tell you that Bijan is the person they would go to whenever they need something and that he listens to problems patiently and offers the optimistic, uplifting outlook that has become his trademark, even if he has dozens of deadlines and other obligations to meet. Whatever the problem — from low-income workers needing money to arrange a dowry for their daughters’ wedding to reputable Iranian expat scholars looking to set up a free course on management in Tehran — Bijan is the person everyone turns to. He plays a key role in enhancing the quality of education among school children in Iran as the executive director of a non-profit humanitarian organization that provides these youth with educational opportunities, particularly in information and Internet technology.

Bijan was also a dedicated environmentalist. Years ago, when I noticed that Bijan was a vegetarian, I asked him about it. He explained to me that during his university years he had once roughly calculated the amount of energy it would take if everyone in the world consumed meat, and had quickly realized that the global environment simply could not handle it, so he stopped eating meat.

A few days after the contentious presidential elections in Iran, Bijan took a short business trip to Austria and the U.K., where he spoke at chambers of commerce, advising companies to continue seeking business In Iran.

For some, such actions were apparently a crime so heinous that Bijan was arrested when he arrived at Tehran’s airport on June 27. He was taken away by unidentified men to an undisclosed location without notice. To this day, his family does not know where he is, or on what grounds he was arrested. He wasn’t even in the country when the post-election turmoil started.

A diabetic in dire need of his medicine and a strict diet, Bijan’s health is now in danger. Undoubtedly, his wife and two school-age daughters fear for him more and more with every passing day.

With his German education and work experience as a management consultant in Europe, Bijan could have chosen a very comfortable life in the West. He chose instead to return to his country of birth to help improve it through his work in the private and not-for-profit sectors. An incurable optimist, he refused to believe that change could not come to Iran. But rather than seeking change through political means, Bijan stayed above politics and sought to improve the economic quality of life of ordinary Iranians through business opportunities and innovative management solutions.

For some, Bijan’s choice of working in Iran made him suspect. His hopeful outlook on Iran’s future didn’t always mesh with political correctness in the West. But neither did it, evidently, win him any friends within the Iranian government.

As he lingers on in jail, not knowing his crime or whether he ever will be given an opportunity to defend himself, his wife and children in Tehran are anxiously waiting, hoping that news of their beloved Bijan will reach them.

They fear that Bijan won’t get access to the medicine he needs, that he won’t come be coming home any time soon. And they fear the world will forget about him because they never knew his face and never heard his story.

Posted By Trita Parsi

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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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