Both the “Stand with the Iranian People Act” and the “Iranian Digital Empowerment Act” Introduced Today

Contact: Phil Elwood

For Immediate Release 

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes today’s introduction of the Stand with the Iranian People Act in the House of Representatives, and applauds the bill’s sponsors Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN) and William Delahunt (D-MA). As policy makers evaluate how best to resolve the nuclear issue and change the Iranian government’s behavior, it is imperative that the Iranian people not get lost in the debate.

Also introduced today was H.R. 4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act, by Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and Bob Inglis (R-SC). This vital legislation will ensure that the Iranian people are not denied access to necessary tools for bypassing government spying efforts and communicating with each other and the outside world as they continue to make their voices heard.


(Click here for a summary of SWIPA – English Version, Persian Version)

(Click here for a summary of IDEA – English Version, Persian Version)

“The Stand with the Iranian People Act” (SWIPA)

Due to current sanctions, most forms of people-to-people exchanges between the US and Iran are prohibited without a special license.  This means that US policy actually blocks Americans and Iranians from working together on projects like building hospitals or schools in Iran or promoting human rights.  The Stand with the Iranian People Act (SWIPA) enables US Non-Governmental Organizations to work directly with the Iranian people and eliminates barriers that only serve to cut Iranians off from the world community.

SWIPA also targets companies that provide the Iranian government with software and technology used to censor the Internet and spy on the Iranian people.  These companies currently receive US government contracts in spite of their aid of Iranian repression-SWIPA eliminates this funding.  SWIPA also targets human rights abusers within the Iranian government by imposing travel restrictions against them and encouraging other governments to do the same.

NIAC President Trita Parsi explained the significance of SWIPA: “Standing with the Iranian people does not mean speaking loudly about solidarity with Iranians while continuing to push for sanctions that punish the very people we claim to support.  It doesn’t mean imposing democracy on Iran from the outside in a manner that undermines the people in Iran who are already fighting for it.  Standing with the Iranian people means-as a first step-rethinking decades of unhelpful US policies on Iran that unintentionally have served to strengthen Iran’s hardliners.”

“Iranian Digital Empowerment” Act (IDEA)

NIAC President Trita Parsi welcomed the new proposal, calling it a “long overdue correction of one of the most glaringly self-defeating aspects” of US sanctions on Iran.  Due to ambiguities in current US sanctions law, companies and private citizens in the US are barred from sending software to the people of Iran, including important communication and anti-censorship tools that ensure the free flow of information.  The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act clarifies that US sanctions do not apply to software that enables the people of Iran to circumvent government monitors and censors as well as communications software and services.

“Sanctions alone are not going to alter the Iranian government’s behavior,” Parsi said, “but the last thing US laws should do is hinder the Iranian people’s ability to access information and communication tools online.” Recently, Microsoft and Google suspended certain instant messaging services in Iran, citing their obligations under US sanctions.  Facebook also considered cutting its service to Iran prior to the election, though ultimately decided against such a move, which would have deprived the Iranian people of a critical outlet for communicating post-election events to the outside world.  Still, current regulations are ambiguous about the legality of offering online services to Iran.

Posted By NIAC

    7 Responses to “NIAC Applauds House Members for Introducing 2 Pieces of Landmark Legislation”

  1. Pirouz says:

    If only the Stand with the Iranian People act encompassed the pro-establishment as well as the anti-establishment, for to ignore the people that make up the
    pro-establishment is to view Iran in a most unrealistic manner.

    And if only the Digital Empowerment Act provided ordinary Iranians with fully supported, legally imported operating system software with which to utilize these comparatively minor add-ons.

    If only.

  2. Iranian-American says:

    From the description above, this act allows US Non-Governmental Organizations to work directly with the Iranian people on projects like building hospitals or schools in Iran or promoting human rights. Thus, the act encompass all Iranians. It has nothing to do with pro-establishment or anti-establishment.

    What does it mean to “encompass the pro-establishment” to you? Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if the act allowed American organizations to work directly with the establishment to assist in rape, arrest and killing of the anti-establishment.

  3. Eric says:

    This is good legislation, but I doubt anything will really have any impact as long as the dictator and his henchman ahmadi are in power.

  4. Pirouz says:

    By my comment, I was referring to the language used in the act. The language portrays a monolithic populace solely in anti-establishment terms, when in fact the pro-establishment element of this populace could be as high as 60% or more (according to the WPO poll).

    And I-O, there’s no need to resort to a reduction-to-the-absurd.

  5. Iranian-American says:

    I would suggest looking more at concrete projects this legislation refers to rather than trying to read too much into the “language used in the act”.

    And I-O, there was no reduction-to-the-absurd. It was an honest question. When the legislation is referring to building hospitals and schools, I was (and still am) confused as what this has to do with pro-establishment vs. anti-establishment.

  6. Pirouz says:

    Well, I-O, let’s reverse your reductio ad absurdum:

    Perhaps you’d feel more comfortable if the act allowed organizations to work directly with the American establishment to assist in sexual abuse (Abu Ghraib), arrest (Bagram), torture (Guantanimo) and killing (drone attacks) of ordinary Iraqi and Afghan citizens.

    It works both ways.

    Still, I didn’t say I was against the acts, or against NIAC’s applause. All I did was point out that Iran’s political dynamics are not monolithic, and I also addressed the hypocrisy of allowing comparatively minor add-ons to operating system software which they are forced by sanctions to acquire by extralegal means.

  7. Iranian-American says:

    Pirouz, I have found in disagreements many times absurdity is in the eye of the beholder. I have often found many (though not all) of your comparisons of repression in Iran to repression in US absurd (as many others have). I find it absurd to take issue with this act because of the language, where the bill is clearly talking about building hospitals and schools and promoting human rights. The notion that such projects are anti-establishment, I find completely absurd.

    Perhaps you have found some of my comments absurd. That is sometimes the nature of disagreement. Asking for more clarification sometimes helps, and other times just leaves one more confused.

    If, for the sake of argument, I am able to put aside the absurdity of the claim that this act ignores the pro-establishment, the natural question is if schools and hospitals are “anti-establishment”, then what type of projects would be “pro-establishment”. As projects to assist in the rape, arrest and torture of the anti-establishment are the only things I could think of, they are both the least and most absurd guess I could come up with. I agree it is absurd, but from my perspective, we entered absurdity with your claim that this act “ignores the pro-establishment”.

    And this is one of those cases where I’m left more confused, still unsure as to what non-absurd things such a bill should include to “encompass the pro-establishment”. And sometimes, this is the nature of disagreement.

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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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