• 16 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

A recent report released by the Institute of International Education shows a 19% increase in the amount of Iranians coming to the US to study.  With over 5,600 students in the US, Iran had the 22nd highest amount of international students in the U.S. during 2010/2011.

This welcome trend is likely connected to the Obama administration’s smart decision last May to begin issuing Multi-Entry Visas to Iranian students attending universities in the US.  Previously, Iranian students could only get Single-Entry Visas, which prevented them from returning home for the duration of their studies, regardless of whether there was a funeral or a wedding for a loved one.  As such, the policy change was undoubtedly welcome news for potential students in Iran.

But whatever the reason for this increase in Iranian students coming to the US for their studies, it could prove to be an intelligent and effective policy for the US.

The U.S.’s image among ordinary Iranians may have taken a hit with crippling sanctions and threats of military action.  Taking steps to ease burdens on Iranian youths, some of whom are prevented from attending college in Iran because of associations with the democracy movement, helps mitigate some of that damage.  As such, accepting more Iranian students is a tangible step that could prove to Iranians that our problem is not with them but with the behavior of their government.

As the Acting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran said at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday, the U.S.’s interests are not served by keeping isolated the youth of Iran who “think very favorably of the United States.”  It is important to encourage rather than stifle the aspirations of Iranians who want to pursue opportunity through studying abroad in the U.S.

Moreover, establishing people to people connections helps humanize both sides, making it much harder for Iranian and U.S. politicians to escalate confrontation by portraying the other side with the false caricatures.

As sanctions seem unable to create the type of changes that the U.S. wants, and as military options are unrealistic and would prove to be a catastrophic, this increase in Iranian students may be the silver lining in an otherwise abysmal U.S. policy towards Iran.  By helping Iran’s youth receive a college education, we provide opportunities for a brighter future for not just ordinary Iranians, but also for ourselves.

Posted By Loren White

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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.



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