• 20 October 2009
  • Posted By Matt Sugrue
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran Convicts Kian Tajbakhsh

The United States has asked Iran to release Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, who was sentenced Tuesday to “more than 12 years” in prison. Tajbakhsh was convicted, among other charges, of spying and acting against the government. Houshang Azhari, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s lawyer, has said that he will appeal the conviction. Mr. Tajbaksh was arrested following Iran’s disputed June election.

Before his arrest, Mr. Tajbakhsh was scheduled to begin a position as a visiting professor of urban planning at Columbia University. The New York Times has reported that Mr. Tajbakhsh’s connection to the Open Society Institute was a key cause of Tehran’s interest. The Iranian government has accused OSI founder George Soros of “plotting to overthrow Iran’s Islamic system of government in what the authorities call a “velvet revolution.”

It will be interesting to see what, if any, effect this development will have on the talks currently underway in Vienna between Iran, Russia, France and the United States. Hopefully, Mr. Tajbakhsh’s conviction will galvanize U.S. negotiators to assume a much more forceful position on the subject of the on-going show trials, and the prevalence of human rights abuses by Iran’s government.

The United States cannot shrink away from addressing the murder of seventy protesters and the violence perpetrated against prisoners that occurred in the aftermath of the June elections.  The protests in Iran have not stopped, and neither have governmental efforts at repression. In response, the U.S. government must make it clear that it stands with the Iranian people, and roundly condemns the conviction of any Iranians (and Iranian Americans) based on falsified evidence and forced confessions.

Posted By Matt Sugrue

    2 Responses to “Iran Convicts Kian Tajbakhsh”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Honestly, Matt, do you really wish to further complicate the already delicate US-Iran talks in Vienna with human rights issues? Sure, seventy Iranian protestors may have lost their lives in post-election demonstrations. But what about the hundreds and hundreds of civilian victims to US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Based on that fact alone, how can the moral high ground in any way be credibly asserted? Answer me that. Not to mention Guantanimo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, the tens of thousands of ordinary Iraqis that were incarcerated without trial for months on end without due process by the US military.

    Go tell Trita enough is enough already.

  2. Mike says:

    Since Iran gave up the Newsweek reporter, Kian has become their new bargaining chip. With him and the hikers, Iran now has a lot more leverage in Vienna than they would have had otherwise. Remember Iranian influence in Lebanon where hostages were released just to take more hostages. Kind of what Israel does with the Palestinians. They arrest 9 to 10 every night throughout the West Bank and then have a big 100 prisoner release as a show of good will. Democracies don’t use their Judicial systems as a political/negotiating tool.

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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.



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