• 22 March 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • Culture

Cross posted from the Huffington Post

Last week, Congress took the unprecedented step to recognize the Iranian New Year, Norooz. The House passed resolution H.Res.267, sponsored by Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) and wished the Iranian-American community, as well as the Iranian people, a happy New Year. The resolution was as uncontroversial as could be – just a sign of America’s humanity. Oddly enough though, two lawmakers from Florida, Congressmen Jeff Miller (R-FL) and Bill Posey (R-FL), chose to vote against it, effectively stating that they don’t wish 300 million Norooz celebrators worldwide a happy new year.

At the National Iranian American Council, we were very dismayed by this decision and decided to reach out to the Florida lawmakers in the hopes that they wouldn’t punish the Iranian people for the errors of the Iranian government. The text of the letter is below.

Dear Representatives Miller and Posey,

On Saturday, March 20, Iranian-Americans joined with their friends and family to celebrate Norooz, the Iranian New Year, a joyous occasion in which we put the trials and tribulations of the passing year behind us and looked forward with our friends and family to a year full of new beginnings.

This year, we took special pride knowing that for the first time in history, we have achieved recognition for Norooz in the House of Representatives. H.Res.267, wishing the people of Iran and Iranian-Americans a happy new year, passed the House last Monday by an overwhelming 384-2 vote. It is not often that American politics provides opportunities for Iranian-Americans to celebrate their heritage, as often the conflicts and tensions between the U.S. and Iran’s current government overshadow our rich culture and history.

We are grateful to the 384 Members of Congress who, in the spirit of Norooz, honored our treasured Iranian traditions and heritage with grace and appreciation. But we are also concerned that two Members of Congress decided to vote against wishing Iranians and Iranian-Americans a happy new year.

When NIAC reached out to your offices to inquire why you voted this way, Mr. Posey provided the following explanation:

“The resolution does not make the distinction between peace-loving Iranians, including many Americans of Iranian descent and, Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad has no respect for the basic humans (sic) rights of Iranians or anyone else and I do not wish him a prosperous new year.”

Mr. Posey also said that “We shouldn’t pretend that everything with Iran is smooth and happy.” Rep. Miller explained his opposition similarly, stating that “the language fails to exclude terrorists and dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”

Norooz is a time when we momentarily put aside our troubles–and this past year has been especially difficult as many of us have watched with heavy hearts the suffering of our friends and family in Iran. With your votes and with your explanations, you have once again permitted rulers like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to impose themselves on our lives, even at our most cherished moment of respite.

Your reason for opposing this measure is that it did not distinguish between “peace-loving Iranians” and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But in voting against wishing Iranians and Iranian-Americans a happy New Year, you have reduced 70 million Iranians down to one man who is not even their rightfully elected representative. Perhaps some think only of Ahmadinejad when they hear the word “Iran”, but for us, there is far more to our heritage than Iran’s disputed president.

3,000 years of history cannot be obscured by one small man’s shadow.

You seem to imply that the President, the Secretary of State, the House of Representatives, and possibly soon the Senate, are playing into the hands of Ahmadinejad by wishing the people of Iran and Iranian-Americans a happy new year. But it is actions like yours that confer upon Ahmadinejad an authority that he could never attain on his own. Your refusal to vote in favor of the Norooz resolution elevates this man’s status at the expense of all people of Iranian descent and three millennia of one of the world’s great cultures. You have placed one temporal ruler–who is still struggling to regain order after falsely claiming 25 million supporters last June–equal to the timeless tradition of Norooz that has been celebrated by millions of people for ages.

Congressmen, our culture and history does not belong to the politicians that rule Iran by force, it belongs to the Iranian people. And this is the distinction–this inherent distinction–that allows Iranians and Iranian-Americans to celebrate our heritage and our traditions without regard for Iran’s current rulers.

I ask you to reconsider your position. Norooz transcends politics, nations, religions, ethnicity, and ideology. Zoroastrians, Muslims, Baha’is, Jews, Christians, atheists and agnostics all celebrate Norooz. People across national and ethnic boundaries celebrate Norooz, not only in Iran, but also in countries and regions including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kashmir, Kyrgzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. Even Republicans and Democrats were brought together to recognize this special tradition.

In the spirit of Norooz, we are sending flowers to your office, a symbol of new beginnings and goodwill, as well as a copy of Funny in Farsi, by noted Iranian-American author Firoozeh Dumas, to serve as an introduction for you to the Iranian-American community.

We are eager to hear back from both of you regarding your decision to vote against the Norooz Resolution and I look forward to your response. I thank you for your time and wish you a pleasant spring and a prosperous and happy Norooz.


Trita Parsi

President, National Iranian American Council

Posted By Jamal Abdi

    One Response to “Open Letter to Congressmen Miller and Posey on their refusal to wish the Iranian people a Happy Norooz”

  1. Well done.Thank you Trita for not taking NO as an answer and fighting for our rights.

    Firuze’ Hariri

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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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