The Bastions of the Paramilitary

Hossein Sajedi, Tehran’s police chief, said yesterday that despite the fact that “some media” (read: Mousavi and Karroubi) have called for rallies on June 12, Iranian security forces will confront any “illegal” demonstrations. “Police will confront any illegal gatherings … police are vigilant and in charge of public order and security,” he said.

My question to Mr. Sajedi is: what is the definition of an illegal demonstration? Is it one that involves students staging a sit-in at their university? Is that illegal? Are singing and holding up peace signs also a threat to national security?

On Saturday and Sunday, students at Tehran’s Islamic Azad University staged a sit-in as protest against the fraudulent June 2009 presidential elections and calling for the release of their classmates who had been imprisoned in the months after the election.

Apparently, this was deemed illegal, as security forces broke up the protests. According to Daneshjoo News, at least four students who were critically injured by Basij forces, rather than receiving medical attention, have been arrested.

I fear for a government which violates its own constitution in arresting those partaking in peaceful protests. Of even bigger concern though, is the way the government has transformed the country’s bastions of knowledge into bastions of the paramilitary. As a result of the sit-in and the attacking security forces, afternoon classes were canceled, reminiscent of the way classes were often canceled for the same reason shortly after the 1979 revolution. In addition, security forces threatened students with harsh sentences from the university’s disciplinary committee, a clear violation of university rules.

When the university officials become involved in oppressing their own students, the very nature of the university as a free and safe atmosphere is threatened. Not only is the canceling of classes obviously detrimental to the students’ learning, but this oppression will undoubtedly negatively affect many students’ forms of thinking at an age when they are most receptive to new ideas. While this may be the aim of the regime, this generation is the very future of the country. And to attack one’s future generation and their chance of flourishing is not only stupid, it is also self-destructive.

Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie

    3 Responses to “The Bastions of the Paramilitary”

  1. Pirouz says:

    In certain respects, this situation at some of Tehran’s universities is reminiscent of the situation that took place at San Francisco State University during the late 1960s and early 70s. At that time, during America’s own anti-establishment movement, the SFSU President S. I. Hayakawa confronted and cracked down on student protesters. Hayakawa became a popular figure for his pro-establishment efforts, and as a result was propelled to the US Senate in 1976.

    It’s a curious thing, Setareh. During America’s anti-establishment driven campus disorders, President Hayakawa argued successfully that “the right to free speech is balanced against the rights of others to pursue their lives and studies without disruption”. Thus he branded the conduct of his protesting members of the student body as disobedient and illegal, and the police were often called in to forcibly restore order.

    Of course, the protesting students at San Francisco State University stated the same objections that you are offering: “What is an illegal demonstration? Police brutality. Harsh disciplinary action by the University, etc. etc.” But keep in mind, Hayakawa’s actions were seen by many in the establishment as legitimate, and he became a popular pro-establishment elected official.

    Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? (I personally recall these events here in America as if they took place yesterday.)

    BTW, I’ve asked this before: Does NIAC have an official position in regards to the legitimacy of the 2009 presidential election? I ask, because this post declares the election was “fraudulent”. Setareh, I suggest you study this and this and this. Perhaps “controversial” would be a better description?

  2. Setareh Tabatabaie says:

    Pirouz, thank you for telling me about the protests at SFSU, which I had not heard about before. Nonetheless, my opinion remains the same, as I do not believe one bad example should serve as a precedent for others.
    As to the 2009 presidential elections, NIAC’s official position is that the elections were very controversial, as you said. My personal view is that they were fraudulent, and I do not believe my vote was counted, as I heard the results a mere hour after I cast my vote. And while I appreciate the links you have suggested I read, I maintain my position. I am sure you have read the many more articles documenting the great irregularities in the election.
    Finally, I do not believe that a poll is a reliable method of understanding the Iranian public opinion, especially one in regards to politics, when people fear of repercussions from the government. Phones and internet are both monitored by the Iranian government, making polls in the country quite unreliable.

  3. Iranian-American says:


    I agree your belief that one bad example should not serve as a precedent for others, and appreciate your knack for not getting involved in discussions irrelevant to the current oppression taking place in Iran.

    While I realize you most probably do not need this advice, I would advise everyone to seek out their own information regarding the SFSU protests, rather than take Pirouz’s word for it. I am confident you will find the protests hardly comparable, when one considers the accounts of arrests, torture, forced confessions, rape and killings performed by the Iranian government.

    While I’m in the business of giving advice :-), I would advise non-Iranians to completely disregard Pirouz’s accounts of what life is like in Iran. His ideas regarding life in Iran are completely imaginary (e.g. regarding education, healthcare, etc.). Just talk to any Iranian, preferably one who has recently come from 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
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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