• 31 August 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran, “neither Islamic nor a Republic”

Iran’s senior clergy are deeply divided about what an Islamic government means and how it should treat its citizens. Brtain’s The Guardian published an article by Massoumeh Torfeh, an Iranian author, in this regard:

As the second act of the post-electoral drama unfolds in Iran, internal weaknesses are exposed more clearly than ever before. Behind the facade of victory lie deep divisions among the top clergy about what an Islamic government should be composed of and how it should treat its citizens.

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri – who is not a state official but has great religious authority in Iran – addressed “top officials” directly when he wrote: “At least have the courage to admit this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic.”

The former head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, addresses the head of the powerful expediency council: “Mr Rafsanjani, you did not perform your Islamic or revolutionary duties.” Ayatollah Mojtahed Shabestary, an influential conservative cleric, says in the Friday prayers in the north-western city of Tabriz: “People are awaiting the trials of the leaders of the riots and if they do not repent they must receive the harshest punishment.” Clearly the Islamic daggers are no longer hidden. Behind the long black cloak the second act shows the clergy in full fighting spirit, and thus reveals a regime falling apart from within.

It is seen as a regime that is happy to lie and deceive, to detain and torture, to threaten to kill to get false confessions, and to do all that in the name of Islam. Ayatollah Mehdi Karoubi, who was a presidential candidate, speaks directly of show trials, torture and rape of the detainees in prisons. He demands an investigation and threatens to bring witnesses to give evidence, but his accusations have been rejected. Former president Khatami rejects all accusations, saying they had made a mockery of Islamic justice. Rafsanjani calls for “rational” thinking.

But most symbolically, the regime’s weakness was revealed in its treatment of Saeed Hajarian – the main strategist of the reform movement. Hajarian who survived an assassination attempt in 2000, is partially paralysed, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. Despite that the regime fears him. He was made to confess that he was the mastermind of the post-electoral rallies. Someone else read out his statement in court because he is unable to speak.

Montazeri is right to say this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic. But then it was Ayatollah Montazeri who designed the Islamic Republic’s political structure that called for the full power of the supreme leader, thereby automatically contradicting the idea of a republic. Those contradictions ignored 30 years ago will increasingly reveal themselves in the months ahead.

Posted By Matthew Negreanu

    One Response to “Iran, “neither Islamic nor a Republic””

  1. Guest says:

    The article wrote: “Ayatollah Mehdi Karoubi”.

    What an embarrassing journalistic mistake. An almost sure sign that the author of the article is not as informed about the situation in Iran as he/she tries to come across as being.

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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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