• 11 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Protests took place in Tehran and major cities around the world including Frankfurt, London, Vienna, Toronto, Koln, and Paris, among many others, on May 9 and May 10, 2010 after the execution of five political prisoners in Iran’s Evin Prison.  The Tehran protests included chants of “Freedom,” and “Basiji get out of here,” and “Students would rather die than surrender to oppression,” while elsewhere chants also included “Death to the Islamic Republic.”

Convicted of “moharebeh” (enmity against God)  Farzad Kamangar, Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Holi, and Mehdi Eslamian were all hanged on Sunday, May 9, 2010 in the prison. Of the five prisoners, four were Kurds, sparking outrage at Iran’s continued poor treatment of the large minority in the state.

Amnesty International has condemned the act and is calling on Iranian authorities to halt all executions, or at the very least adhere to their own laws regarding their implementation.

The five were accused of “enmity against God” for carrying out “terrorist acts” and convicted of this vaguely worded charge which can carry the death penalty and is usually applied to those who take up arms against the state.

“We condemn these executions which were carried out without any prior warning. Despite the serious accusations against them, the five were denied fair trials. Three of the defendants were tortured and two forced to ‘confess’ under duress,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Citing “security” concerns, the government has in the past often accused activists, journalists, and writers of “stirring trouble and ethnic and racial conflict” and of “working with opposition groups,” including the murder of Shivan Qaderi and the subsequent arrest of several Kurdish activists in July 2005 and the murder of Mohammad Islamian in December 2009.

While this recent act may have simply been a continuation of Kurdish oppression in the country, it is more likely that it was to serve as a warning for upcoming protests on the anniversary of the June elections. Regardless, one thing does remain clear. This was a blatant violation of human rights.

It is quite ironic that while the purpose of these executions was likely meant to deter Iranians from future protests, it in actuality served as a reason for other protests to take place.

Everyone knows that the Iranian people have continued to be upset at the actions of their government — whether they have come out into the streets to protest or not.  These smoldering demonstrations, though small, seem to represent a welling up of indignation and outrage as the anniversary of the June 2009 election approaches.

It will be interesting to follow this new trend, as protests of Iranians inside and outside the country are becoming more frequent and can now be expected without warning.

Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie

    2 Responses to “Executions Meant to Be a “Warning,” Spark Protests Instead”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Setareh, as you’ll recall, the last time capital punishment sentencing was executed in the Islamic Republic of Iran, there were protests, so I don’t think these were necessarily unexpected this time around (as your post suggests).

    Bear in mind, every time capital punishments are executed here as a result of the criminal justice system here in the United States, there are also protests.

  2. Eric says:

    The difference is that in America, defendants will go through decades of appeals before actually being executed. It is far more expensive to be on death row than be put in prison for life because we have such an exhaustive appeal process for prisoners on death row. The dictator murdered protesters for speaking out against their government. Justify that…

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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
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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