• 16 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

For Immediate Release

Contact: Phil Elwood

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes the decision by the Obama Administration to waive provisions of US sanctions that have kept important tools for online communication out of the hands of the Iranian people.  NIAC has worked extensively with members of Congress and Executive Branch officials, both before and after the Iranian presidential election in June, to ensure that US sanctions do not infringe upon the Iranian people’s basic rights to access information and communications tools.

NIAC President Trita Parsi called the decision “an important step in making sure the policies of the US government don’t unintentionally aid the Iranian government’s efforts to silence its people.” “Iranians are standing up to make their voices heard, using the Internet and social media as a powerful tool,” Parsi said, “unfortunately past efforts by the US to sanction Iran have unintentionally put up barriers to Iranians’ access to information on the Internet.  We are pleased that the Obama administration has taken steps to correct that fact.”

In a letter sent to members of Congress yesterday, the State Department explained that it has requested the Office of Foreign Assets Control to authorize the export to Iran of software necessary for the exchange of personal communications or for sharing of information over the internet, such as instant messaging and social networking. “Personal internet-based communications are a vital tool for change in Iran as recent events have demonstrated,” the letter said. “However, U.S. sanctions on Iran are having an unintended chilling effect on the ability of companies such as Microsoft and Google to continue providing essential communications tools to ordinary Iranians.”

Under US sanctions laws, the export to Iran of goods and services is prohibited, including free mass-market software that can be downloaded over the Internet.  Following this decision, companies such as Microsoft and Google who have previously shut down instant messaging services in Iran will be authorized to reopen their programs to Iranian users.

This idea was also raised in HR 4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act, and the State Department’s decision comes two days after that bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA). Last May, NIAC reported on Microsoft’s decision to shut down its instant messenger service in Iran, and sent a letter to Microsoft’s corporate offices requesting they reconsider their decision.

In the results of a survey conducted by NIAC this July, 95% of NIAC members support “the lifting of sanctions prohibiting exchanges, communication and interaction between ordinary Iranians and Americans.”

Posted By NIAC

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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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