• 6 January 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran just came out with a statement examining how the Iranian government is systematically attempting to dismantle human rights organizations in Iran:

Iran: Authorities Attempt to Crush Remaining Active Human Rights NGOs

Human Rights Community in the Iran has been decimated

(6 January 2009) Islamic Republic authorities are attempting to shut down the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, one of the few human rights organizations still active in the country, and to stop the human rights activities of the student alumni group ADVAR, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today. Some members of the groups are being arrested, and others are under intense pressure to halt their work.

“In illegally shutting down independent, domestic human rights reporting, the authorities are attempting to preserve their own impunity before Iranian and international law,” said Campaign spokesperson Hadi Ghaemi.

On 2 January 2010, Parisa Kakaie and Mehrdad Rahimi, members of the Committee who had been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry and threatened by telephone, were arrested when they appeared at the Intelligence Office. Activists Shiva Nazarahari, Kouhyar Goudarzi and Saeed Hayeri, also members of the Committee, have been arrested as reported by the Campaign.

Previously, on 1 December 2009, Committee members Saeed Kalanaki and Saeed Jalalifar were arrested. Kalanaki was arrested at his office, and his house was later searched and his personal belongs confiscated. Jalalifar was arrested in front of his house by Intelligence Officers who were waiting for him. Both are being held in the public ward in Evin prison. Kalanaki was visited by his family once, but Jalalifar has been denied any visits. Previously, Kalanaki was arrested and convicted by the Revolutionary Court to a three-year suspended prison term. Jalalifar was expelled from Zanjan University during the student protests against the alleged sexual abuse of a female student by the University Deputy.

Two other members of the Committee, Saeed Habibi and Hesam Misaghi, have been summoned and threatened by phone, but they refused to appear at the Intelligence Ministry because according to the law, a written summons is required. Previously, Habibi was arrested in November 2007 and released after 70 days on bail of 1,500 million Rials ($150,000) and tried and convicted to a three-year prison term, which has been appealed.

In the week of 28 December 2009, Kalanaki and Jalalifar contacted two other members of the Committee by telephone from prison and requested them to stop running the Committee’s website. After they had spoken to their colleagues, their interrogators took the phone and threatened the members, and said that if they did not stop posting information, they would be treated “either within prison or out of the prison.”

According to the Committee, the arrested members are being forced to confess that they have relationship with the Mojahedin Khalq Organization, which has been an opposition group operating abroad.

The student alumni group ADVAR, which has a unit devoted to human rights violations, still monitors human rights issues from an independent perspective, but the government has arrested key personnel including members who have studied and worked in human rights. On 2 January, ADVAR members Rouzbeh Karimi, a trained human rights defender and  journalist, and Forouq Mirzaie, who is educated in human rights and law, and works in the office of human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani, were arrested. Rashid Esmaieli, a human rights student who was expelled from studying and a member of the Central Council of ADVAR, was arrested in Isfahan on 24 December 2009 while suffering from serious health problems.

The Committee of Human Rights Reporters and ADVAR are among the few independent human rights monitoring groups still operating in the Islamic Republic, while numerous leading human rights defenders have been jailed or driven into exile. The Defenders of Human Rights Center, headed by Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, was closed by the authorities in December 2008. The director of the Human Rights Organization in Kurdistan, Mohammad Sadiq Kaboudvand has been in prison since 2007 and is serving a 10 year and 6 month prison term, having been sentenced for his human rights activities.  The founder of the Association of Prisoners’ Rights, Emad Baghi, was arrested on 28 December 2009, and no further information about his status has been provided.

Posted By David Elliott

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

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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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