• 30 September 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Kahrizak Arrests and Tomorrow’s Negotiations

KahrizakFars News reported today that seven to ten policemen involved in the Kahrizak prison abuse cases have been arrested. Police Chief Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam announced the arrests, but also argued that the magnitude of human rights violations were “exaggerated and magnified in the media.” The timing of the arrests and General Moqaddam’s statement seem to be timed to take the sting out of any accusations of human rights abuses during the upcoming negotiations.

General Moqaddam’s statement contains a disturbing implication: can human rights violations such as rape, torture and murder actually be exaggerated? How would a person go about exaggerating them? The general, however, may have been referring to the number of abuse cases which were reported by various news outlets. Arguing that fewer people were tortured than was originally reported is never a valid defense (as many Americans have become familiar with of late). The number of people who are subjected to government torture simply isn’t an excuse.

A recent New York Times article highlighted the treatment of one prisoner, who later fled to Turkey. Ibrahim Sharifi was arrested on June 22nd, and taken to the bloody Kahrizak prison facility. Mr. Sharifi says he was repeatedly beaten over the course of four days. On the fourth day, Mr. Sharifi told a prison guard that,

“he should go ahead and just kill me if he wanted to,” he said, breaking into tears. “Then he called another guard and said ‘Take this bastard and impregnate him.’ ”They took him out of the cell to another room where they pushed him against a wall that had handcuffs and two metal hooks to keep his legs open. The guard pulled down his underwear, he said, and began raping him.

“He laughed mockingly as he was doing it and said that I could not even defend myself so how did I think that I could stage a revolution.

“They wanted to horrify and intimidate me,” he said, weeping.

Human Rights Watch has vouched for the story’s veracity, and says Mr. Sharifi’s statements are consistent with other reports coming out of Iran. The absolute horror of this account suggests that the number of people who have been subjected to this type of treatment is meaningless. People who debate the issue based on amounts are either missing the point or trying to obscure it by playing a blame game.

Iran seems to be attempting to use these arrests to take the sting out of any accusations made by opposing parties during the upcoming negotiations. It should not be allowed to blunt a confrontation over its human rights abuses by arresting low-level participants in the post-election government abuse scandal.

Posted By Matt Sugrue

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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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