• 3 June 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pardoned 81 of some 530 political prisoners jailed in the wake of the 2009 presidential election. The fate of the other 450 who remain incarcerated is unknown and new arrests continue to be made.

The government has not released the names of those pardoned or confirmed their wrongful prosecution. According to ILNA news agency, the Leader noted in a letter to Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, that the pardons were made on the Prophet Mohammad’s daughter’s birthday.

Speculation still surrounds today’s pardons with the Associated Press writing that “the pardons were seen as a gesture of good will by Iran’s leaders just days before the anniversary of the June 12 election.” However, some remain skeptical finding it hard to believe that Khamenei would have been motivated by a sudden change of heart to express good will towards a group of people he has spent the last year repressing. A far more likely explanation would be that the pardons are part of an effort to shift domestic and international attention away from the regime’s many human rights violations in the days nearing the anniversary of the 2009 election.

Aaron Rhodes, spokesperson for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has come to this conclusion. He notes that the Leader’s pardons speak to the innocence of those imprisoned. It would then follow that those imprisoned under similar circumstances, i.e. the other 450 political prisoners, should be pardoned as well. If the Leader does not extend the pardon to those individuals, then today’s pardons are essentially meaningless and arbitrary.

Further undermining the legitimacy of the pardons are reports made to the Campaign of prisoners being forced to ask for pardons. One example is director and film maker Mohammad Nourizad who was ruthlessly beaten when he refused to seek a pardon for a crime he had not committed.

Moreover, pardoned sentences do not even ensure the detainees freedom. In the past, interrogators have kept close watch on former political prisoners and threatened them in order to keep them in the country and out of the public eye. Long after their release, these former detainees find themselves still in a cell, a larger and more comfortable one certainly, but a cell nonetheless.

Posted By Sherry Safavi

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 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.

Sincerely,

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