• 31 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009
Contact: Phil Elwood

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) strongly condemns the campaign of intimidation being carried out by the Iranian government against its citizens through the Basij paramilitary.  NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij immediately and to end the violent repression of the Iranian people.

In the months following the disputed Iranian presidential elections, the Basij has been responsible for a brutal, escalating campaign of violence, both targeted and indiscriminate, aimed at silencing and intimidating Iranians attempting to express themselves freely and assemble peacefully.

The Basij is a volunteer paramilitary force that has evolved from a decentralized morality police into a full scale armed militia that receives orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government.

“To permit an armed, above-the-law, para-military group to roam the streets in the name of security is a contradiction in terms,” said Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council. “Security, free expression, free assembly and the full enjoyment of universal rights cannot occur as long as the Iranian government permits armed groups to suppress the Iranian people.”

Extensive documentation assembled by human rights organizations and the United Nations demonstrate that the Iranian government has utilized the Basij to terrorize its population through intentional physical harm, leading to scores of injuries and deaths.  During the most recent events on the holiday of Ashura, witnesses described Basijis bloodying protestors with batons, wooden sticks and metal pipes, firing live rounds into crowds, and running vehicles over innocent demonstrators.  Basijis on motorcycles use truncheons, tear-gas, pepper-spray, water cannons, chains, plastic bullets, and live ammunition to intimidate, injure, and kill peaceful demonstrators.  In one instance, a protester was tied to the back of a van and dragged through the street.  In other instances, students were thrown out of dormitory windows and off bridges.

The Basij’s repression is not limited to the acts of violence committed in public areas against demonstrators and bystanders, but also is carried out through violent nighttime raids in which they seek to suppress protesters chanting from their rooftops.  Reportedly, Basijis break into homes, ruthlessly beat residents, destroy property and even shoot live rounds to silence people at their own residences.

It is apparent that the Basijis receive orders from the highest levels of the Iranian government and have significant access to arms, yet there has been no accountability for the violence they have inflicted upon innocent Iranians.

The United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 64/176 on December 18, detailing the “use of violence and intimidation by Government-directed militias” that have resulted in “numerous deaths and injuries.” The resolution expresses concern regarding the Iranian government’s “ongoing, systemic and serious restrictions of freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of opinion and expression,” and calls on Iran to allow entry to and cooperate fully with UN human rights rapporteurs.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, expressed shock following the upsurge in state supported violence during Ashura events and called on the government to restrain its security forces.  “People have a right to express their feelings, and to hold peaceful protests, without being beaten, clubbed and thrown into jail,” Pillay stated.

Human rights organizations have submitted extensive documentation as part of Iran’s upcoming Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in February detailing the Iranian government and the Basij’s appalling abuses.  These organizations have called on the UN Human Rights Council to address violations by Iran of several covenants to which the government is party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights (ICESR), and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that security forces must utilize nonviolent means before resorting to force, and such force must be proportionate and be subjected to an effective reporting and review process.  The code also provides that firearms must not be used unless there is an imminent threat to life and only when strictly avoidable to protect life.

“Not only does the Basij paramilitary not abide by these international regulations, it is clear the force is being used in violation of international law as an armed pressure group to inflict fear, injury and death on those who disagree with the government,” said Dokhi Fassihian, of NIAC’s Board of Directors.

NIAC calls on the Iranian government to disarm the Basij, to instruct all security forces to refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and to immediately halt state-sanctioned violence against the Iranian people

Posted By NIAC

    4 Responses to “NIAC calls for Disarmament of Basij Paramilitary to Ensure Security for Iranian Citizens”

  1. Pirouz says:

    I don’t disagree with the thrust of this call by the NIAC.

    However, it’s misleading to state that the Basij evolved from a “decentralized morality police”. It fails to recognize the large contribution made by the Basij in defending Iran during the Imposed War. Even after the war, the Basij were more than a mere morality police, constituting an emergency management service while still retaining the basic rudiments of a reserve paramilitary force.

    I think it’s safe to assume that there is some truth to rumors that elements of the IRIPF have a grudging relationship with this “amateur”, less widely trained security force. There must be inherent difficulties coordinating the two during street policing operations.

    I haven’t seen any evidence of Basij (or IRIPF) use of water cannon during the post-election unrest. Can you point to the evidence?

    Also, I haven’t seen evidence of Basij running over demonstrators. (The recent video clip actually depicts two IRIPF vehicles.)

    And I haven’t seen evidence of Basij usage of less-lethal rounds (only the IRIPF).

  2. Iranian-American says:

    Way to go NIAC. As broke as the holidays have left me, I’m going to donate money. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

  3. Eric says:

    But who is going to make sure “law and order” are maintained in Iran if there aren’t untrained people with weapons and no rules patrolling the streets? (sarcasm)

  4. Publicola says:



    • Question:
    What does it really mean, if/when an election result of at least 35% [probably decisively more] of the voters is not only completely ignored but is at the same time being discredited, harassed and persecuted continuously in a pogromsimilar way by the government ?

    • Answer:
    Instead of one clear-cut-looking, logically seeming, one-dimensional and succinct answer some figures and various question marks referring to this complex question.

    Before the alleged „influence by foreign countries” an official election result of the Iranian opposition of approx. 36% [ – probably substantially more in reality ! – ] was published by the official organs.

    Iran is probably the most modern society in the middle East. In Iran more than two thirds of the population are living in cities, in proportion a somewhat higher figure than in Japan. On the streets mainly the urban youth are demonstrating, the most numerous section of the population of the country.

    In the last national elections (2009) the comparably modest election results of the German ecological „Green“-Party was 10,7%. This percentage of approx. 10% has been an average result in regional and national elections of the last 20 years. These 10 % – a relatively small figure in comparison to the Iranian opposition election results of officially 35% – have forced all parties in Germany to adopt party programmes over the years with environmental protection as one of their main items on the agenda. No party in Germany (and probably in the whole of Western Europe) would be eligible so to speak without an ecological party program.

    a) During the 2009 Iranian election protests [in the summer] 72 humans were killed (figures published by the opposition); officially the government has admitted a figure of 36 people having been killed.

    b) How many people have been killed during all demonstrations and rallies taken together in the sixty-four years after 1945 until today in the following countries added up and all in all: in Switzerland plus (West-)Germany plus Austria plus Belgium plus the Netherlands plus Luxembourg?
    [An informal but highly likely and reliable GUESS:
    possibly NOT MORE THAN THREE TO SIX PEOPLE, if that ! ]

    c) How many people have been killed during the abyssal regime change in East Germany (GDR) in 1989?
    [»In the summer of 1989 East German communists praised the Chinese Communist Party decision to use violence against Tiananmen Square protesters. […] The demonstrations began on Monday, September 4, 1989 at the Church of Saint Nicholas, in Leipzig with parson Christian Führer.
    After the October 2 demonstration, Socialist Unity Party (SED) leader Eric Honecker issued a ‘shoot and kill’ order to the military. Communists prepared a huge police, militia, Stasi, and work-combat troop presence and there were rumors of a Tiananmen Square-style massacre.
    On October 9, Leipzig’s [protesters] took to the streets under the banner “We are the people!”
    Military surrounded the demonstrators, but did not take action. The Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, unsuccesfully attempted to spark violence by planting violent demonstrators in the middle of crowds.
    Honecker had to resign on October 18.
    The non-violent demonstrations were a key component in the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9 and ultimately led to the fall of the East German regime.
    The German reunification happened within a year, on October 3, 1990. The complete process of change in East Germany is known as ‘Die Wende’.«]

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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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