• 11 March 2016
  • Posted By Joe Molnar
  • 4 Comments
  • Sanctions

Why is Venmo Targeting Norooz?

Critics of the Iran nuclear deal have a lot of concerns. Some claim the Ayatollahs are now literally swimming in pools filled with sweet American cash. Others are distraught that Iranians may no longer be resigned to travel via flying coffins now that Airbus and Boeing are allowed upgrade the country’s civilian airliners.

But the real threat from Iran is far more nefarious: Norooz, the Iranian new year.

Who can protect the free world from the treacherous spread of holiday cheer and delicious food? One company, Venmo, is taking the threat seriously:

Thanks to ongoing financial sanctions and a U.S. trade embargo on Iran that remains in place even post-nuclear deal, companies like Venmo must navigate a myriad of due diligence requirements. And–perhaps given the billions that banks have been fined in the past under sanctions–Venmo is taking its responsibilities very, very seriously. How? By ensuring nobody sends transactions with such nefarious terms as “Iran” or “Persian”.

Do not be fooled, there is nothing harmless about the Iranian threat:

Venmo is on a very successful streak of identifying troublesome elements within the US who have attempted to use its services for other nefarious purposes. They caught one offender who had the gall to reference the name “Ahmed” in a transaction description:

Yesterday a tipster emailed us with a bizarre story: Venmo had frozen her friend’s account over a $40 transaction to her boyfriend. The reason? Her friend had mistakenly typed the name “Ahmed” in the memo—and “Ahmed,” Venmo claimed, was on a Treasury Department list of suspected terrorists, drug runners, and money launderers. “It’s nonsensical,” a lawyer who specializes in international trade regulations told us.

They have even decrypted coded symbols such as the so-called “fire emoji,” probably related to some violent intent:

https://twitter.com/lyssa_morales/status/701120875345477632
Venmo’s sensors even manage to stumble on actual violations of sanctions on occasion, including such harmful activities as supporting refugees from Syria.

These efforts, while novel in their scope, are nothing new. Over the past several years across corporate America, companies have been falling over themselves to ensure maximum enforcement of sanctions. Past acts of heroism include Apple refusing to sell products to Iranian Americans and Bank of America’s suspension of accounts owned by Iranian students. Sanctions even convinced University of Massachusetts Amherst and Virginia Commonwealth University to briefly refuse to admit Iranian students. Unfortunately their resolve would prove weak on this decision that was labeled “discrimination.”

Hopefully, Venmo will not falter like others before it. Venmo, knight of freedom, guardian of America, may children sing of your deeds for ages to come. As long as none of those children are named Ahmed.

Posted By Joe Molnar

    4 Responses to “Why is Venmo Targeting Norooz?”

  1. TonyS says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry!

  2. Kam Eftekhar says:

    I think the company’s name should be Venom.

  3. gloriana casey says:

    Wow, Venmo———–Norooz in the Spring time is a great idea. In fact, a new year in the ancient world was at this time, because it was a new growing season—SPRING! This brought new plants life and animal life after the cold time of winter. This is the season time when a NEW year makes sense.

    So, Venmo, I am not Iranian——-but with your mean spirited comment—– you got my IRISH up now! Maybe you should try the Norooz spirit and make a NEW WORLD of KINDNESS—-try it—it’s exactly what the world needs now! : )

  4. Armin A. says:

    I had the exact same issue using PayPal last month when I used ‘Persian’ in the subject line of a US domestic transfer. They held up the payment for a week and I had to submit justification for the transfer – simply because of the use of Persian. It eventually got cleared up – but it was a frustrating experience.

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Sign the Petition

 

7,348 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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