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  • 29 April 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Ex-Iranian diplomat in Norway: target sanctions, talk up human rights abuses interviewed Mohammad Reza Heidari, the Iranian diplomat in Norway who defected over the June 12, 2009 elections and the aftermath. The full interview can be found here but we’ve highlighted some of his comments below:

I have friends in the IRGC, the basij, the Ministry of Intelligence, Iran’s radio and television, and other places who are against the government. They have to cooperate with the government because if they do otherwise, they will face many severe challenges. This issue requires a national will. Strikes are on the way. Teachers, who went on strike, have started the right thing. Iranian laborers are on the same path.

They have gathered a bunch of commoners around them to protect themselves. They try to associate the Green Movement with the rich and then tie them to Western countries. They are terrified. I am from the lower classes and I worked for the government for many years. All my friends are the same. The government has to spend large sums of money to feed people and bus them into cities in order to generate crowds for pro-government demonstrations.

Sanctions must be smart and targeted and only go after the ruling elite. These sanctions should not affect the Iranian people. Countries should not issue visas for the leaders of Iran and their families. Companies should be banned from dealing with the IRGC. The last issue I would like to mention is human rights. Western countries must make human rights the priority. Iran has made such a big deal of the nuclear program to divert attention from its human rights abuse.

  • 27 February 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Events in DC

“The Bakhtiari Alphabet” to be screened at GW tonight

George Washington University and Georgetown University’s Iranian Cultural Societies will be screening “The Bakhtiari Alphabet” documentary at 7.30 PM in the Amphitheater at GW. The film follows the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe, located in southwestern Iran. The film is directed by filmmaker Reza Ghadiani and Professor Cima Sedigh. From the film’s press release:

“The Bakhtiari Alphabet” was created over the course of 7 years in the remote and mountainous regions of Iran, where the Bakhtiari live and migrate. Over that time, Dr. Sedigh lived with the nomadic tribe anywhere from a few weeks to a few months each year, studying their geography, history, economy, politics and culture. The film reveals both the struggle and humanity of this rapidly disappearing culture.

Admission is free. For more information on the event and to watch the trailer, please click here.

  • 19 January 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Events in Iran, Iranian Youth

Documentary on First Female Iranian Olympian to Premiere at Sundance

Munich, Germany – Fatima Geza Abdollahyan had just arrived back at her hotel in Amsterdam when she sat down to read her emails. After a long day at a documentary film festival, her tired eyes scanned the “Received From” column, finally coming to rest on “Sundance Festival 2010.” “Oh,” she thought to herself, “this must be the rejection letter.”

But Fate had a different plan in store for Fatima: “I read the first few lines, beginning with ‘We congratulate you…’ 3 times in a row – I could not believe that I was accepted!”

“Now, I need a drink,” she said.

Iranian 9/11 Hero: STEP Act a Mistake

Shahram's story became well known after Newsweek featured a photo of him.

New York – When Shahram Hashemi saw an airplane fly into the second World Trade Center building and smoke spewing from the first tower, he knew it wasn’t an accident. So Shahram, a young Iranian university student who had only been in the U.S. for three years, made a remarkable decision. As others fled the scene, Shahram found himself running toward the epicenter of the worst terrorist attack ever seen on American soil.

“A few minutes after the first tower collapsed, I found myself in a war zone,” Shahram said.  In the middle of the chaos, he began helping move shocked and confused people away from the towers to a safe place.

Seeing him in his business suit, a local fire chief threw his heavy coat over Shahram’s shoulders and handed him a mask. Just then, the second tower began to buckle and he sought refuge in the nearby AmEx Building. Emerging from the building, Shahram joined a group of civilian volunteers to extinguish fires and clear rubble for the search and rescue teams. All day he worked until the soot, dust and exhaustion took hold of him.

That day, Shahram helped save over a dozen lives – while here in America on a student visa.

  • 8 January 2010
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Events in DC

Freer and Sackler Galleries’ 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival Debuts

In conjunction with the Falnama: The Book of Omens exhibit, the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Galleries’ 14th Annual Iranian Film Festival features five new films and a special presentation by Abbas Kiarostami. The film festival runs all month from January 8 to February 21 and is organized by Carter Long of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts with the support of ILEX Foundation: Olga M. Davidson and Niloofar Fotouhi.

Films include, Payman Haghani’s A Man Who Ate His Cherries, Kiarostami’s Taziyeh (The Spectators) and Shirin, Samira Makhmalbaf’s Two-Legged Horse, Niloofar and Shalizeh Arefpour’s Heiran. Film topics range from a story of a wealthy child with no legs and 12-year old girl’s quest for an education and an Iranian girl who falls in love with an Afghan refugee.

All films are in Persian with English subtitles. The festival recommends viewers to arrive at least an hour early; as there is high demand for tickets, assigned seating is in effect and tickets are distributed one hour before show-time with a two-ticket-per-person limit. For information on the film festival, please click here.

  • 27 November 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Norway: Nobel Peace Prize Seized from Shirin Ebadi’s Bank Box

The Norwegian government said today that Shirin Ebadi’s 2003 Nobel Peace Prize medal and diploma have been removed from her bank box by Iranian authorities. More from CNN:

“The medal and the diploma have been removed from Dr. Ebadi’s bank box, together with other personal items. Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a written statement.

Norway did not explain how it had learned of the alleged confiscation, and there was no immediate reaction from Iran.

“Such an act leaves us feeling shock and disbelief,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a written statement.

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a written statement that it “has reacted strongly” and summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires on Wednesday afternoon to protest the move.

During the meeting with the Iranian charge d’affaires, State Secretary Gry Larsen also expressed “grave concern” about how Ebadi’s husband has allegedly been treated.

“Earlier this autumn, he [Ebadi’s husband] was arrested in Tehran and severely beaten. His pension has been stopped and his bank account has been frozen,” the statement from Norway said.

Store said in the statement that it marked the “first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities.”

Ebadi received the prize for her focus on human rights, especially on the struggle to improve the status of women and children.

The US & Iran: Between Human Rights, Diplomacy & Sanctions

The National Iranian American Council is pleased to announce we will be having a policy conference on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 in Dirksen Senate Office Building G-50.

The conference will run from 9 AM to 12.30 PM and will feature two panels; the first will assess the human rights and political situation in Iran and the second will assess President Obama’s diplomacy.

For more information, please visit To RSVP, please send an email with your name, title and organization (if any) to rsvp at

  • 2 November 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Events in Iran

Government shuts down business daily Sarmayeh

Citing “repeated violations of the press law,” the Iranian government’s press advisory board shut down Sarmayeh, one of the country’s leading business dailies, today. According to Reuters, further details were not given.

Sarmayeh editor Saeed Laylaz, an outspoken government critic, was arrested shortly after Iran’s disputed election in June.

In August, authorities shut down Etemad-e Melli newspaper of pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi, who came fourth in the poll. He had angered hardliners with his allegation that some detained opposition supporters were raped, a charge officials deny.

Sarmayeh is known for it’s criticism of the Ahmadinejad Administration’s economic policies.

  • 29 October 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Events in Iran

Jafari: Preserving Islamic Republic more crucial than prayers

Tehran Bureau’s Selected Headlines included a blurb from Sepah News (via Ayandeh News), the semi-official loudspeaker of the IRGC, describing Commander Ali Jafari’s comment yesterday that “Preserving the Islamic Republic establishment is more important than performing namaz [prayers].”

Speaking in Urumiyeh, Jafari also stated that “No one dares claim that the Islamic Republic regime must be destroyed, and no one must dare to challenge the principles of this establishment.”

TB notes that this is the first time an IRGC commander has “appeared” to issue a religious edict. This is certainly going to ruffle some feathers in Qom.

  • 7 October 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Ebadi: ‘Iran’s women are not afraid’

In a column published in the UK’s Guardian, human rights attorney and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi declares unequivocally that Iran’s women are strong in their convictions and unafraid of facing an oppressive government. Excerpts are below but the full column can be read here.

Iran today is a country where women are more educated than their male compatriots; more than 60% of university students are female, as are many university professors.

In governments, women have often held senior positions. Even the health minister in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet is a woman. All this is proof that women have managed to rise within the ranks of the fundamentalists.

And yet despite the cultural, social and historical heritage of Iranian women, the Islamic Republic has imposed discriminatory regulations against them.

She then proceeds to outline how the cards are stacked against women but states:

The laws imposed on Iranian women are incompatible with their status and, consequently, the equality movement is very strong. Although lacking a leader, headquarters, or branches, the movement is located in the home of any Iranian who believes in equal rights for men and women.

Ebadi also discusses the One Million Signatures Campaign for gender equality, a peaceful form of protest that the Iranian government has “refused to tolerate.” Many of the campaigners have been prosecuted and “deprived of basic social rights,” including being restricted from traveling freely and emigrating from the country. She concludes by stating equality will prevail only in a truly democratic system of government:

These convictions, however, have not dampened the women’s determination in their struggle for equality. Following the June presidential elections, women of all ages took part in demonstrations against the official results.

Women are at the forefront of this struggle, well aware that they will obtain equality only within a truly democratic political order.

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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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