• 23 June 2011
  • Posted By Ali Tayebi
  • Human Rights in Iran

Human Rights Monitor on Iran Faces Winding Path

The recent appointment of Ahmed Shaheed as the UN human rights monitor on Iran has triggered an assortment of reactions from the Iranian government regarding whether he will be allowed to visit the country for his investigation.

An international observer could interpret the varied responses as a sign of Tehran’s weakness in failing to put forward a united strategy.  Or, it could be viewed as a deliberate strategy on one of the most critical and vulnerable issues for Iran to not to have a single reaction, thus enabling Tehran to keep its options open.

The first reaction came from Iran’s parliament the day after Shaheed’s appointment. Tehran Times reported that Mohammad-Karim Abedi, Vice-Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, said Shaheed would not be allowed to travel to Iran, arguing that the UN Human Right Council should instead investigate “the United States, the UK and the Zionist regime” as “the greatest violators of the human rights in the world.”

One day later, Kaleme reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Akbar Salehi asserted that Iran has no fear or worry about human right investigators coming to Iran.  He claimed that Iran had already invited thematic UN investigators to visit Iran prior to the establishment of  the country-specific human rights monitor.

Finally, the most recent response came from Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, Iran’s Judiciary Chief.  He dismissed accusations of human rights violations in Iran and rejected the monitor’s appointment, saying, “On the issue of human rights, we will cooperate with the United Nations, but within a rational framework and not as an instrument against our country.”

Previously, in May, the head of Iran’s Human Rights Council, Javad Larijani, had stated that Iran would not object to allowing a UN human rights monitor to visit the country.

One thing is obvious in the various reactions: Tehran is in “lose-lose” situation on this issue.  Accepting or rejecting a human right investigator will prove different accusations regarding violations of human rights in Iran. Moreover, Iran’s government cannot stop Shaheed from doing his job by preventing him to travel to the country. As Bahman Keshavarz, the Head of National Union of Iranian Court Attorneys, told Radio Zamaneh:

“If Iran refuses to allow the appointed representative of the Human Rights Council to enter Iran, the representative will use off-field methods of investigation of inquiry and questioning the sources available to him — inside Iran as well as abroad — to prepare his report and present it to the council.”

But the U.S. Institute of Peace notes the difficulties faced by past rapporteurs:

“Shaheed will be the fourth special rapporteur to Iran, after Andres Aguilar, Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, and Maurice Copithorne. All past rapporteurs expressed concerns about human rights violations in Iran but received little cooperation from the Iranian government. Copithorne, for example, was allowed in Iran only once at the beginning of his term.”

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council voted in March to reestablish the independent human rights monitor on Iran.  The measure enjoyed the support of a diverse coalition of states and international human rights advocates.

Posted By Ali Tayebi

    One Response to “Human Rights Monitor on Iran Faces Winding Path”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Just as I predicted a year ago on this blog (from Reuters):

    “Iran plans to try in absentia 26 U.S. officials is believes violated human rights, the latest attempt to turn the tables on Western accusations about Tehran’s rights record.

    “Lawmaker Esmail Kosari told Monday’s newspapers the Americans would be tried in absentia and their files passed on to international tribunals.”

    “He did not identify the officials but it is likely they are the same people listed on a parliamentary bill to be subjected to Iranian sanctions. They include former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, and military commanders at U.S. detention centers Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.”


    More of the same tit for tat confrontation between the U.S. and Iran. And this is what we here at the NIAC are encouraging?

    Short of war, I can’t think of much that would be more counterproductive than the obvious double standards represented by HR policy; in terms of raising tensions, increasing measures intended to enhance national security and diminishing the chances of conflict resolution.

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7,350 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.



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