• 18 March 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran, MEK, Neo-Con Agenda, US-Iran War

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnDkGJNcqyo]

One exchange of note at NIAC’s Answering the Iranian People’s Call for Human Rights conference on Capitol Hill centered on the terror group Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK.

The MEK is currently ramping up its lobbying efforts in Congress to be taken off the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which would enable it to raise money in the US and even receive US government assistance.  Some have called the MEK an Ahmad Chalabi/Iraqi National Congress-esque group that will similarly be utilized by pro-war interests to push for an Iran war.  [Time: Why Are Some U.S. Politicians Trying to Remove an Iranian ‘Cult’ From the Terror List?]

“The Mujahedin-e Khalq are not a serious organization,” said Nader Hashemi of the University of Denver, when asked by a staffer from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to assess the consequences of removing the group from the terror list.

The staffer highlighted “increasingly louder calls in Washington that the MEKs designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization be lifted,” on the basis that some policymakers consider the group a potential US ally because it is the “enemy of our enemy.”  But, the staffer said, “reports suggest that their human rights record is not so spotless and they are immensely disliked in Iran.”

Questioning whether to take the group off the terror list, Hashemi responded, “represents the disconnect that exists in the US Congress with the domestic reality in Iran.”

“The Mujahedin-e Khalq are viewed universally in Iran as an appendage of Saddam Hussein’s army.  They are a personality cult.  They have zero support except maybe a handful of followers who live abroad.”

Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson, who was also on the panel, warned strongly against the US working the group.  “It would open the US to ridicule to have any association with MEK, especially because of its utter irrelevancy and bizarreness,” she said.  “The fact that a number of former government officials were recently trotting around giving speeches on their behalf and earning money from the MEK is farcical.”

Whitson highlighted a Human Rights Watch’s report on the MEK:

“We did an investigation on MEK’s practices in Camp Ashraf…where the MEK was stationed with a fairly sizable milita for many years, protected by Saddam Hussein’s government.  And what we documented was extensive practices of torture, mock executions, a few cases of killings against Mujahedin-e Khalq members who wanted to leave the organization, which I think was correctly characterized as cult-like in its practices of requiring submission by their members…I think it has a real dubious record as possible saviors of the Iranian people.”

Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation recommended that policymakers read a 2009 RAND report on MEK.  The report, commissioned by the Defense Department, also finds that MEK is a cult in which rank and file members are abused by leadership Camp Ashraf.

According to Nader:

“[The MEK’s] objectives are not very clear, what it wants to do with Iran if it could take power.  It’s not a democratic movement by any means, even former members have described it as undemocratic.  So I don’t think that it would help US interests to remove the MEK from the [terrorist] list.  It could actually complicate our policies towards Iran.”

Several resolutions have been introduced in the House, including two this year, calling for the MEK to be removed from the terror list.  Some lawmakers have even referred to MEK as “Iran’s main opposition movement” in spite of Green Movement denunciations of the organization.

Posted By Jamal Abdi

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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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