• 22 March 2012
  • Posted By Richard Abott
  • Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions, US-Iran War

Below is a compendium of public statements by notable Iranian human rights and democracy defenders regarding the impact that sanctions and threats of war have on Iran:

Iran sanctions strengthen Ahmadinejad regime – Karroubi, The Guardian, August 11, 2010:

  • “These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country,”
  • “Look at Cuba and North Korea,” he said. “Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.”
  • “On the one hand, the government’s mishandling of the economy has resulted in deep recession and rising inflation inside the country, which has crippled the people of Iran and resulted in the closure of numerous factories. On the other hand, we have sanctions which are strengthening the illegitimate government.”
  • In relation to how the current Iranian regime treats its opponents more harshly than the shah, who was sensitive to international criticism, did: “But because Iran is getting more isolated, more and more they [Ahmadinejad’s government] are becoming indifferent to what the world is thinking about them,” he said.
  • Mir Hossein Mousavi co-authored a public letter with Karroubi: “Sanctions have targeted the most vulnerable social classes of Iran including workers and farmers,” the letter said.

 Iranian Opposition Warns Against Stricter Sanctions, Washington Post, October 1, 2009

  • Mir Hossein Mousavi: Sanctions would not affect the government but would impose many hardships upon the people, who suffer enough as a result of the calamity of their insane rulers.”
  • Ali Shakouri-Rad: “The government will say that critics of their policies are doing the foreigners’ bidding” and will use sanctions as a pretext to silence opponents, said Ali Shakouri-Rad, a leading member of the opposition Islamic Iran Participation Front.

Iran’s defiant Green movement vows to fight on, The Guardian, June 11, 2010

  • Zahra Rahnavard: “Sanctions are only harmful for the people of Iran,” she warned. “The Iranian government is rich with oil money and the money is at its disposal. Sanctions would not affect such a government.”

Iranian Women Band Together, Caution Against Broad Sanctions, NIACinSight, March 8, 2010

  • Zahra Rahnavard issued a statement at a meeting with members of the women’s rights movement in Iran praising all the brave women of the Green Movement for their struggles: “Violence has many faces, and we identify economic-sanctions as a vivid face of violence. Sanctions are a silent war against any nation that has risen up for democracy. Sanctions will exacerbate violence and crackdowns. Women and children are always the first group suffering from sanctions.”

Shirin Ebadi warns against Iranian sanctions, BBC News, March 4, 2010

  • “We oppose military attack on Iran or economic sanctions because that’s to the detriment of the people,” she said.

Iranian Nobel laureate urges focus on rights, Financial Times, March 7, 2010

  • “A military attack or economic sanctions would be to the detriment of the people of Iran,” she said, adding that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had ways to circumvent further economic measures and their unintended impact might be to rally people behind the regime.

Iran’s Shirin Ebadi Calls on U.S. To Strengthen International Human Rights Law, Think Progress, April 22, 2011:  

  • “The worst solution is a military attack,” Ebadi said. “Democracy is not merchandise to be exported to a country, democracy cannot be purchased and sent to another country.”
  • “Dictators actually like to be attacked by foreigners,” Ebadi said yesterday, “so using excuse of national security, they can put away their opposition.”
  • Ebadi also opposed the use of economic sanctions, “because they will hurt the people.”  “Notwithstanding the ten years of economic sanctions against Iraq,” she said, “Saddam was still there, while many people died deprived of food and medication.”
  • The best tools against regimes like Iran’s, Ebadi said, are political sanctions, which she described as “measures taken against violators of human rights, [but] that do not hurt the people.”

NIAC Hosts Shirin Ebadi for Discussion on Human Rights, Engagement, and War, NIAC, April 28, 2011:

  • “Wars and military attacks in nondemocratic countries should be forgotten because dictators actually like to be attacked by foreigners so that, on the excuse of national security, they can put away their opposition.”
  • In support of sanctions focusing on human rights violators compared to economic sanctions: “These kind of sanctions are smart sanctions, meaning that it does not punish all of the people of one country, but only those who have committed the crimes.”
  • “There should not be a wall built around Iran isolating it from the rest of the world.”

Akbar Ganji Says Military Attack On Iran Would Destroy Opposition, Lobelog, May 12th, 2010

  • On democracy and human rights taking root in Iran: “A military attack (on Iran) would destroy all of that,” he declared. The Green Movement, which Ganji obviously supports, would “melt away” if such an attack took place.
  • Ganji noted that the Green Movement consists mostly of middle-class adherents and that “economic sanctions would destroy the middle class (and) … the Green Movement.” In any event, he went on, “the more economic sanctions are applied against Iran, the more the government will control the economy” due to the prevailing structures.

Open Letter from Akbar Ganji, Iran’s leading political dissident addresses the UN Secretary-General, Boston Review, November 9, 2011

  • “Even speaking about ‘the possibility’ of a military attack on Iran makes things extremely difficult for human rights and pro-democracy activists in Iran.”
  • “The people of Iran and Iranian advocates for freedom and democracy are experiencing difficult days… We categorically reject a military attack on Iran.”

Raising Their Voices: Iranian Civil Society Reflections on the Military Option, International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, July 25, 2011

  • The responses of these civil society leaders overwhelmingly reflect the opinion that an attack on Iran, no matter how limited in scope, would have ruinous consequences for Iranian society by entrenching the authoritarian regime, intensifying human rights abuses and likely thwarting the democratic aspirations of a large portion of the populace.
  • With a military attack, the United States risks provoking the ire and distrust of the segment of Iranian society most open, and least adverse, to the United States and its allies. The United States would lose much of its ability to influence human rights developments in Iran, while prolonging US-Iranian hostilities for another generation.
  • …they were largely united in their view that an attack would not diminish the repression, and would instead prove fatal to civil society and the pro-democracy movement.
Posted By Richard Abott

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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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