• 10 November 2009
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Congress

NIAC rejects Rep. Kirk’s accusation

Cross-posted from www.niacouncil.org

The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement today, in response to Rep. Mark Kirk’s (R-IL) slanderous allegation last week that NIAC is a “regime sympathizer.”

Representative Kirk spoke last week before the US Institute of Peace, and issued his allegation against NIAC saying: “Regime-sympathizers like the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) came to Capitol Hill urging members of Congress to cut off U.S. funding for democracy programs in Iran. Democracy funding ‘taints’ Iranian dissidents, they claimed, and only invites harsher crackdowns on the Iranian people.”  He provided no explanation backing up his statement, nor did he acknowledge that the foremost leaders of Iran’s pro-democracy movement have denounced the very same Congressional “regime change fund” that Kirk has championed.

NIAC communicated with Representative Kirk’s office immediately after his statement, requesting a retraction. His office refused to respond.

The $75 million fund, a brainchild of the Bush administration’s disastrous Middle East policy, was put into place in 2006 with the aim of funding Iranian NGOs to overthrow the government of Iran. The immediate effect of the fund, however, was that the Ahmadinejad government began targeting all Iranian NGOs, accusing them of participating in a US-sponsored color revolution.

NGO leaders in Iran, who had not requested this counterproductive assistance from the US, responded by pleading with the US Congress to dissolve the fund.  Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and human rights leader Shirin Ebadi unequivocally denounced Congressional efforts–oftentimes led by Rep. Kirk–to channel funds to dissidents inside Iran, saying “Washington’s policy of ‘helping’ the cause of democracy in Iran has backfired….No truly nationalist and democratic group will accept” State Department funds, she said, because “Iranian reformists believe that democracy can’t be imported. It must be indigenous.”

Similarly, Akbar Ganji, Iran’s most famous political dissident, said “The US democracy fund was severely counterproductive. None of the human rights activists and members of opposition in Iran had any interest in using such funds, but we were all accused by Iran’s government of being American spies because a few groups in America used these funds.”

And Mehrangiz Kar, a leader of the women’s rights movement in Iran, said that the fund to help human rights organizations in Iran “will destroy these newly developed organizations like a storm.  It will transform the issue of continuation and expansion of human rights activities into one of safeguarding the security of these activists.”

NIAC has echoed the complaints of Iran’s pro-democracy leaders and sought to make US lawmakers sensitive to the demands of the foot soldiers of Iran’s pro-democracy movement. Unfortunately, Rep. Kirk has disregarded the needs and viewpoints of Iran’s pro-democracy leaders.

For someone who claims to support the Iranian people’s fight to have their voices heard, Representative Kirk has callously ignored the public statements of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement in Iran and has unfortunately chosen to pursue policies that directly endanger the pro-democracy activists he claims to support.

By accusing NIAC of sympathizing with the Iranian regime simply by opposing a program that is clearly counterproductive, the Illinois congressman is in essence labeling Akbar Ganji, Shirin Ebadi and Mehrangiz Kar – some of the Iranian government’s most ardent critics – of being sympathizers with the regime in Tehran as well.

This accusation is false, offensive and profoundly non-sensical. It reveals the disconnect between Rep. Kirk’s worldview and the viewpoints of the real pro-democracy activists on the ground in Iran.

Instead of misrepresenting and passing blame on those who actually stand with the Iranian people, Representative Kirk should issue an apology and start to listen to the people of Iran.

Similarly, NIAC has not opposed funding for Voice of America or Radio Farda. NIAC has however called for stricter quality control over their newscasts since the quality of these public funded channels had plummeted during the Bush administration.

NIAC has consistently and vehemently condemned the government of Iran’s flagrant human rights violations.  We support the Iranian people as they struggle for their most basic rights and freedoms, and we remain committed to doing so in a way that is sensitive to the actual views of the leaders of Iran’s democracy movement.

NIAC is proud to represent the majority view of the Iranian-American community, as well as the millions of Americans who wish to repair the tattered relationship that for years has threatened to ignite a disastrous war between the US and Iran.

Posted By David Elliott

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

    One Response to “NIAC rejects Rep. Kirk’s accusation”

  1. Pirouz says:

    If Rep. Kirk were disregarding the realities of the Jewish people in this way, he would rightly be termed anti-Semitic. But since it is only we Iranians, well, we are considered fair game to these anti-Iranian politically empowered bigots.

    Obviously his intention is to keep us divided, here as well as in the Meehan (motherland), in order to further goals and an agenda meant to weaken us as a people.

    This man is a physical embodiment of “the world arrogance”.

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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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