• 10 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • Iran Election 2009

Homafaran 2.0

“The nation will stun the world on the 22nd of Bahman.” Those were the exact words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei giving a speech to the commanders, fighter-pilots, and personnel of the Air Force division of the Iranian Army on Sunday. What was more stunning to some was the ambiguity of support the Leader received from the Army, with parallels to the events of the last anti-authoritarian challenge in Iran.   

Exactly 31 years ago, a fairly large number of the Imperial Iranian Air Force, Homafaran, defected and lent their support to Ayatollah Khomeini in the revolutionary days of Iran. That was a significant build up to the movement that toppled the Pahlavi Dynasty only three days later on February 11, 1979; a day which many believe changed the political dynamics of the Middle-East forever.

The Iranian Army has a history of neutrality when it comes to internal disputes, and has repeatedly refused to pick up arms against its own citizens. That culture and attitude is still alive today. The Iranian Army, which includes its own ground, air, and naval forces, is the only military wing of the armed forces of Iran that has stayed out of the post-election battle for power. Every other armed group including the police, commanded by the notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has contributed support to the brutal post-election crack down inside Iran. Taking into account the sensitivity of the political arena in Iran today, a lack of clear support for Ayatollah Khamenei, the “Supreme Commander of Armed Forces” of Iran, is an audacious move by all accounts.

Contrary to the photographs printed in the hard-line media that suggest nothing but obedience to the Supreme Leader, the content of the report presented by the commander of the Air Force had no reference to the current political affairs of the Islamic Republic. According to the pro-government newspapers, the report only had a summary of military advancements in recent military exercises. Ayatollah Khamenei would have appreciated a more concrete support, especially during the symbolic period leading up to Feb. 11.

The Army has a reputation among Iranians for being a “sanctuary for the people” in difficult times. In an anonymous recent statement that circulated in the internet, many high ranking Army officers from across the country expressed outrage at the brutality of the IRGC and all the forces under its wing during the recent crackdowns. The statement specifically mentioned that even though the Army has taken an oath to stay away from politics, it will not be quiet against violence toward its own countrymen.

Posted By Layla Armeen

    2 Responses to “Homafaran 2.0”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Layla, there are problems with your post.

    First, your use of the term “Army” is misapplied. A more appropriate term would be “Military.” For example, Iran’s Army (IRIA) has its own aviation element (the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Aviation: IRIAA), while the Air Force is a distinct service (the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force: IRIAF).

    You state: “the Iranian Army has a history of neutrality when it comes to internal disputes, and has repeatedly refused to pick up arms against its own citizens.” This is wrong.

    For many months, the Shah’s army was actively deployed against street protesters during the late 1970’s. It was hardly neutral. That there were many defections, especially towards the end is true. But the fact is for a period of time it was not neutral, and it did inflict significant bloodshed during the revolutionary period. Live fire use of lethal force was policy, until the point in time where defections began to turn the tide.

    In today’s situation, it should be pointed out that many conscript soldiers are attached to the Iranian National Police (NAJA) and they are certainly not neutral during the protests. They are distinguishable by their olive drab fatigues (field jackets in winter), and are very much active during antiriot operations. So to state that the military wing has stayed out of the post-election “battle” is not really accurate.

    That said, Iran’s police forces (Persian acronym: NAJA)- while incorporating elements of the army- technically they fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior which is itself an element of the Executive Branch of government. Moreover, there are overlapping jurisdictions that apply to this force. But you are incorrect when you state that the police (NAJA) are commanded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). This error is widespread in the Western media, and too many times NAJA police and antiriot forces (such as the guard-e vijeh or “Special Guards”) are labelled as “IRGC”.

    It was in no way significant that IRIAF Brig. Gen. Hassan Shah-Safi (Commander of the Air Force) had no reference to the current political affairs of the IRI in his report to the SL. In fact, had there been references, that would have been shocking.

    And Layla, nearly all serious analysts and Iran military observers have concluded that the written statement allegedly put forth by anonymous members of the Artesh (conventional military), as a warning to the IRGC, is a fake.

  2. good dream says:

    today’s struggle in Iran is mostly a class struggle.the oppositions lack a coherent ideologue unlike 1979, and are mostly from the higher strata of the society. the national army, in contrast, is composed of people from low income families. most of the oppositions’ youth are either abroad!, so very active in the internet, or universities, but not in the army (these are the scape goats in Iran not to go to army). the fact of the matter is: as much as the Iranian bourgeois hates the proletariat, the opposite is also the case. the current army would never take side with the greens in the way the Shah’s army did, at least for the foreseeable future. after all, Shah’s army was composed of mostly devote Muslim unwilling to stand against a grand Ayyatollah, something that is absent from today’s reality. in any case, this is an unlikely scenario written by people from an organization that know Iranians exiles well, but surely not the ones living there in Iran.

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
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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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