• 12 September 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

What’s going on at the UN?

NIAC recently obtained an advance copy of an upcoming speech by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighting human rights concerns around the world. Understanding that her past statements on Iran have been inadequate, we were very concerned to see what she was planning to say:

The recent elections in Iran and the subsequent protests over the result were a reminder of both the vitality of Iran’s civil society and political life, but also of the towering constraints that peaceful activism faces. I call on the government to release those detained for peaceful protest, to investigate reports of their ill-treatment, and to ensure respect for human rights.

That’s it. Two sentences in a nine page speech.

Our President, Dr. Trita Parsi, corresponded with the L.A. Times’ Borzou Daragahi about the issue, pointing out how there is “no mention of government-sponsored violence, repression, show trials, [or] who is responsible for those ‘towering constraints.'”

Furthermore, he said, “When [the High Commissioner for Human Rights] discusses oppression in other countries, she mentions the names of specific victims, yet she doesn’t mention the names of any Iranians. The entire world knows the name of Neda Agha Soltan, but she and the many human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists in jail and on trial go unnamed.”

The people of Iran who have demonstrated at great risk for their rights have made one simple demand over and over: bear witness to our struggle. Their bravery must not be ignored.

As Dr. Parsi told the L.A. Times:

“In an isolated country like Iran, where there are limited human rights protections and no human rights mechanisms or human rights [organization] networks at the national or regional level to address or bring attention to the plight of victims, the U.N. high commissioner’s role in spotlighting abuses becomes even more critical,” he said.

“She has failed to recognize this need,” he added.

We can only hope that by pointing out the inadequacy of her words, the High Commissioner for Human Rights will realize that she needs to take a stronger stand on the human rights abuses occurring in Iran. The world is watching.

Posted By David Elliott

David Elliott is the Assistant Policy Director at the National Iranian American Council.

    2 Responses to “What’s going on at the UN?”

  1. Don Cox says:

    The UN Human Rights body is notoriously biased, like HRW.

    It is only necessary for a regime to be against the USA and Israel, and they get an easy ride. The Israelis, OTOH, are constantly criticised.

    Anti-Semitism is a kind of force field which distorts people’s whole picture of the world.

    (Not that Moussavi is likely to be much less anti-Semitic than Ahmadinejad. But a secular (or Zoroastrian) republic might be.)

  2. Mahasti says:

    Thanks to Trita Parsi for his vigilance and his convictions.

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: