• 5 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Hypocrisy Abounds

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that the future of three American hikers detained in Iran since July 31 is up to the courts to decide.

While equating the case of the hikers with those of seven Iranian citizens currently incarcerated in US jails, Ahmadinejad said yesterday that the three will be dealt with according to the judicial system set up under Iran’s laws and constitution.

But the three hikers have been held without charge for over 9 months, in direct violation of Article 32 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which guarantees that:

No person may be arrested except according to and in the manner laid down in the law. If someone is detained, the subject matter of the charge, with reasons (for bringing it), must immediately be communicated and explained in writing to the accused. Within at most 24 hours the file on the case and preliminary documentation must be referred to the competent legal authority. Legal procedures must be initiated as early as possible. Anyone infringing this principle will be punished in accordance with the law.

And Article 35, which says:

In all courts, both parties to the claim are entitled to select a lawyer for themselves. If they do not have the capacity to do this, the means of a lawyer being appointed to act for them must be made available to them.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Ahmadinejad in an interview yesterday if the hikers will be allowed access to the outside world and legal representation.  Ahmadinejad, whose answers grew increasingly defensive, responded in typical fashion by turning the issue back toward the United States.  “If anyone illegally entered U.S. borders, do you think the U.S. Government will let them go freely?” he said.

These three individuals entered our borders illegally. They have confessed to that. They crossed our border. Now, they’re being handled by our judicial system and the judicial system will review their crimes according to the law. We have laws. There’s a due process of law that is being observed.

But the reality simply does not fit with the picture Ahmadinejad is painting.  Nine months of incarceration without formal charge.  The three have not been allowed access to their lawyer.  International observers have had limited access, and questions remain about the health of the three Americans in detention.

Stephanopoulos confronted Ahmadinejad over his claims about due process:

STEPHANOPOULOS: …Will you allow them access to the outside world?

AHMADINEJAD: — …It’s the judge in Iran that will decide. They have to provide proof and evidence to the judge in Iran that shows that they lost their way or made a mistake

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there’s no lawyer.

AHMADINEJAD: No, allow me, when the time comes they will have a lawyer.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They’ve been in prison since July 31.

For a politician as skilled at circumlocution as Ahmadinejad is, this was a rare acknowledgment of the reality of his government’s illegal repression.  There is no legal basis for the way these three hikers are currently being treated.  Nor is there any legal basis for the treatment of Kian Tajbakhsh (jailed since July 9), Reza Taghavi (jailed in secret for 2 years), or Robert Levinson (missing since 2007).

Finally, Ahmadinejad seemed to repeat his previous suggestion of a possible prisoner exchange — the Americans in exchange for a handful of Iranian nationals currently in jail in the US.  (Laura Rozen has covered this extensively, particularly the case of Amir Hossein Ardebili.)

But the fact is that the Iranians currently in prison in the United States have all been

  1. formally charged in a court of law
  2. provided access to legal counsel and due process of law
  3. accused (with evidence to support the charges) of violating US laws relating to arms trafficking, or other sensitive exports

So even though I have no personal or emotional connection to any of the Americans being detained in Iran, I am offended that Ahmadinejad would draw such an absurd equivalence.

If the roles were reversed, and the US Government held Iranians in Guantanamo Bay without charge and without due process, I would criticize that as vehemently as I do the Iranians’ treatment of Americans.  But in this case, there simply is no comparison.

Update: At the risk of taking the bait, there’s one more thing about Ahmadinejad’s comparison to the US:

In the US, when people enter the country illegally, law enforcement officials usually deport them back to their country of origin.  It’s rare that the crime of illegal immigration carries a prison term of nearly a year in the United States.

So yes, Mr. Ahmadinejad, sometimes when people enter the US borders illegally, the government will let them go freely.  Just saying.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    5 Responses to “Hypocrisy Abounds”

  1. Iranian-American says:

    Thank you for the article, and thank you for pointing out the (seemingly obvious) differences with the case of the Iranians currently in US prisons.

    While one would hope that pointing out such obvious differences would not be necessary, we have all witnessed many absurd and desperate attempts at equating the Iranian government’s illegal and immoral actions to the actions of the American government.

  2. Another Iranian-American says:

    Agreed, Iranian-American.

    As much as the current Iranian Constitution needs to be edited – among a lot of other things, stripped of many undemocratic aspects – I like the idea of using it to call them out on their many, many hypocritical statements and acts.

  3. Pirouz says:

    Well, Patrick, why can’t we make the connection to Guantanimo just because none of the nationalities happen to be Iranian nationals? If some kind of relation of this nature is required (I don’t know why, exactly), make the connection based on the fact that their origins are from an Islamic Middle East country.

    However, you’re smart enough to see that the common denominator in this comparison is “national security.” The US kept (keeps) those persons (some of whom they knew were innocent) based on national security concerns. In the case of the 3 “hikers,” we have a border breach by 3 nationals from an adversarial country, that spends hundreds of millions of dollars on subversion and even terrorist activities. President Ahmadinejad is right to point out the comparison- what would the US do if the roles were reversed? Based on recent history, Iranian infiltrators could be locked up without due process and subjected to torture in Guantanimo.

    And the idea of a prisoner exchange is not extraordinary, by Cold War standards. You’ll recall there were a number of such exchanges in the past, some even initiated by the West. Such things, generally, contribute to a barest sense of cooperation- something really needed in this adverse environment. Seen in this light, Ahmadinejad’s “opening” should be better appreciated. However, instead of realpolitik, the real intention is demonization, sanctions and ultimately war. So, of course, all of this will be continued to be painted in the darkest of terms.

    President Ahmadinejad gave an excellent speech earlier this week at the UN, with s number of positive recommendations for nuclear disarmament, and the promotion of nuclear energy for countries of the developing world. Instead, you’re focusing on three infiltrators? It’s as if the Iranian press or an Iranian organization focused on its abducted nationals (by the US), instead of focusing on the NPT review. Oh, my mistake, the Iranian press corps wasn’t even provided visas to cover the NPT review conference!

  4. Pirouz says:

    You know, Patrick, a comparison between the US and Iran, in terms of how they each approach national security threats, is most unfavorable for the Americans.

    Have you been reading Spencer Ackerman’s coverage of the recent Gitmo legal proceedings?


    Take a look at it. No offense, young man, but It really makes a mockery out of this post you’ve written. Hypocrisy- yes! In a big way!

  5. Iranian-American says:

    Defending the Iranian government’s illegal (even by the Iranian government’s laws) of three young American hikers is indefensible. Pretending that this situation is anything other than 3 young people, with families that care for from them, who made a mistake in crossing the border, being held as hostages by a corrupt government is nothing short of propaganda. The situation is clear to anyone who is impartial.

    It really is no one’s fault but the Iranian government’s that the civilized world views them so negatively. After all, the Iranian government is what the civilized world thinks it is: fundamentalist, violent, undemocratic, backwards, etc. The Iranian people deserve better.

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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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