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  • 20 October 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in DC, Events in Iran, Sanctions

Paying for the US-Iran Feud With Blood

In the summer of 2009, in the aftermath of the elections, there was obviously a lot going on in Iran. But one of the things that I remember made everyone hold their breaths in those months is probably not what you’re assuming right now.

On July 15 2009, an Iranian passenger jet – a Russian-made Tupolev – crashed, killing all 168 people on board. Nine days later, another plane – a Russian-made Ilyushin – crashed in a local airport, killing over 20 people. The close succession of crashes frightened us all, and made us realize how vulnerable Iranians really are to sanctions.

At the time, I, along with many other Iranian Americans, was in Iran, and to get between cities and provinces I had to fly. I remember praying that nothing would go wrong as I entered each plane, before takeoff, and before landing. And I remember holding on for dear life when I heard the plane rattle the slightest bit. And I’m not scared of flying.

I remember asking my family why the crashes had occurred. Were Iranian planes just not up to par to American ones? “Sanctions,” they responded, surprised at my ignorance.

  • 6 October 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Monolithic Myths

I could not help but laugh at the irony when I read successive articles in the New York Times on Monday in which, in the first article, Iran’s government was referred to monolithically as “the mullahs”, while in the second, the Times reported that senior clerics in Iran are actually being targeted for government censorship.

The divided and competing interests within Iran’s political scene is nothing new.  But following the 2009 election crisis, this reality was exposed even to those who do not closely follow events in Iran. And the un-Islamic nature of the Iranian government, despite official claims, has been revealed time and time again, especially in the past two years–including in the brutal crackdown on protesters and the government’s attacks on dissident clerics’ homes and offices.

Despite all these obvious divisions, the New York Times published a news analysis discussing Bob Woodward’s new book and what it may reveal about Obama’s policy towards Iran. Throughout the article, author John Vincour constantly refers to the Iranian government as “the mullahs.”

Yet as the Times reported the same day (“In Sign of Discord, Iran Blocks Web Sites of Some Clerics”), Iran’s government is  censoring the websites of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei and Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat-Zanjani. Those attempting to access the websites were instead redirected to the standard Iranian government filtering page.

The most likely reason? Both Sanei and Bayat-Zanjani openly condemned the violent crackdown on the street protests following the fraudulent presidential elections in 2009. Muhammad Sahimi, a UCLA professor and political columnist for Tehran Bureau, said of the censorship:

“Filtering their sites is precisely because of the public positions that they have taken… This is part of the ‘cyberspace war’ that the hardliners have publicly announced against the Green Movement and its supporters.”

As Grand Ayatollah Sanei said on his website in response to the censorship, “Let it not go unsaid that freedom of expression is emphasized under Islam.”

So why does John Vincour talk about Iran’s government in shorthand as “the mullahs”?  It doesn’t just happen once. Vincour continuously refers to the Iranian government as a group of mullahs, as if they are all united and of the like mind.

Now, I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m just talking about being correct. Vincour ignores all the rivalries and complexities in Iran’s leadership and unites them all under the same banner.

Many clerics refused to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his supposed election victory; Ayatollah Dastgheib called on the Assembly of Experts to review the performance of the Supreme Leader; the homes and offices of Montazeri, Karroubi, and Sanei have all been attacked; and recently, a dispute erupted over Azad University. These are but a few examples of the many rifts and complexities in Iran’s leadership.

To be perfectly honest, considering how often Iran is in the news today and how often it is the subject of policy discussions, I expect more from not only the New York Times, but also of those who are leading the debate on Iran. And I am not only bothered by Vincour’s ignorance, but also surprised.

Perhaps as we debate and formulate policies regarding Iran, it is time to do ourselves a favor and be mindful of the intricacies of Iranian politics before we talk about Iran as if it were a monolith.

  • 29 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • US-Iran War

Military Attack on Iran: A Combination of Ignorance and Naivety

As always, those who talk about what US policy towards Iran should look like, are already prepared for failure of current US policy.

Now Senator Joe Lieberman is preparing to “up the rhetorical ante” on Iran and endorse military actions if sanctions fail

In an excerpt of what his staff has labeled a “major policy address” to be delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations later today, Lieberman states:

It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. Our message to our friends and enemies in the region needs to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability — by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.

This comes after  Senator Lindsey Graham last week called for direct military intervention for the purpose of regime change in Iran.  “From my point of view,” Graham said, “if we engage in military operations as a last resort, the United States should have in mind the goal of changing the regime…not by invading (Iran), but by launching a military strike by air and sea.”

Obviously, many things come to mind at their proposal: the question of whether or not Iran is even developing nuclear weapons, the mess we have created and left behind in Iraq, and the chaos we find ourselves in in Afghanistan. Even leaving all this aside, however, I am still left confused and bewildered by the increasing call for military action against Iran by some of our nation’s so-called leaders and experts.

Perhaps most dangerous is the effect military strikes would have inside Iran on the prospects for change. Those who advocate a military attack argue that it will lead to a revolution and possible regime change. These idealistic hopes could not be farther from the truth. As Shawn Amoei wrote, “To believe this is to seriously misunderstand nationalism, the Iranian people, and Iranian history.” See the Iran-Iraq War as the perfect example of how the Iranian people will come together, even under an undesirable regime, in the face of foreign invasion.

A military attack will have a detrimental effect on those within the opposition and civil rights movements within Iran, who already fear being tainted by the US. As insideIran.org researcher Shayan Ghajar eloquently explained:

“Foreign attack on Iran would lead to further marginalization of internal opposition movements by the central government, or would cause a surge of nationalism that temporarily erases domestic disputes. O’Hanlon and Riedel agree, saying, “Nor is a strike by an outside power likely to help the cause of Iranian reformists.” … Mir Hossein Moussavi, the most prominent politician in the Green Movement, has repeatedly argued against… “foreign domination.” …Human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, too, opposes any form of military action. Politician Ataollah Mohajerani, who has ties to numerous opposition leaders, said that any attack on Iran would serve only to strengthen the Iranian military and distract the public from their internal divisions.

In other words, rather than fomenting change, a military attack on Iran would do just the opposite.

In the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential elections in Iran, Joe Lieberman said, “We have to do everything we can… to support the people of Iran.” Now, just a little over a year later, he is explicitly endorsing bombing Iran. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.  But  it sounds like Lieberman will be joining his friend Lindsey Graham and assert that they know what’s best for the Iranian people, that Iran’s opposition leaders and human rights defenders are wrong, and that the people of Iran will greet us as liberators.

  • 3 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

In the Spirit of Ramadan, Attack that Cleric

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFl-5hJ6_xM]

Since Sunday, pro-government militiamen have been gathered outside Mehdi Karroubi’s home, in effort to prevent him from attending the annual Qods Day rally that took place today. Usually a state-sponsored rally to demonstrate solidarity with the Palestinian people, last year Karroubi and other opposition leaders marked the day by gathering tens of thousands of their supporters into the streets, resulting in violent clashes with security forces. Last month, Karroubi announced that he would attend the Qods rally this year as well.

Consequently, for the last five days, the plainclothes militia have been pelting stones, breaking windows, shooting guns, and spraying the walls of Karroubi’s home with paint and slogans like “Death to Karroubi.” Chants among the crowd have included  “We congratulate the union of the United States and Karroubi,” “We are responding, O Khamenei,” and “If only Khamenei would give us the order to fight.” Today’s attack, however, was more intense than all others, with Fatemeh Karroubi, Karroubi’s wife, claiming that it seemed as if the crowd wanted to kill her husband.

All the while, policemen stood by watching.

Both Fatemeh and Karroubi’s son Hossein Karroubi are attributing the continuation of the attacks to the Supreme Leader. In an open letter to Ayatollah Khamenei on Wednesday, Fatemeh Karroubi wrote, “These obvious crimes are taking place in your support and in front of the security forces who do not dare to approach these attackers.” Hossein Karroubi questioned Ayatollah Khamenei as well, saying, “You think of yourself to be just like Imam Ali [Shia’s first Imam]. Is this the way of Imam Ali? Is this the way of Ali, that you want to confront someone, have attacked the home of a 73-year-old man and have blockaded his home and set it on fire?”

One of Karroubi’s bodyguards, “Mr. Yari,” was even assaulted and is now in the hospital.  In addition, aside from being vandalized, Karroubi’s home also no longer has phone service, electricity or running water, leading Hossein Karroubi to compare it to Palestine and its occupation.

The ironic part is that despite all this effort, the Qods Day rally today still did not turn out the way the government wanted. In fact, Fars News Agency attacked both BBC and al-Arabiya for minimizing the turnout in their articles. Moreover, it seems that the story on Mehdi Karroubi has overshadowed the story on the Qods Day rally, an unintentional backfiring of the attack.

It is quite sad to see the Iranian government’s reliance on intimidation and threats in order to try to silence its critics and would-be reformers. As the late Ayatollah Montazeri said, it seems Iran is neither Islamic nor a republic. What is especially ironic, though, is that this attack took place during the holiest month in the Islamic calendar: Ramadan. Instead of gathering with family and friends to break the fast, reflecting on the self, or giving back to the community, some people instead chose to attack a 73-year old man and his home, somehow believing it was more Islamic. So tonight, when I break my fast, I will pray for them, and all the people of Iran.

  • 1 September 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 7 Comments
  • discrimination

US Navy Sets an Example

With some in Congress openly advocating for the punishment of innocent Iranians and the drumbeat of war growing louder, it was especially refreshing to see the American sense of humanity still alive in a recent rescue operation by the US Navy.

On August 20, the US Navy rescued eight Iranian fishermen from a burning boat in the Arabian Sea.  The Iranians, who had abandoned their boat and were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea, were picked up by two SH-60 helicopters from the Antisubmarine Squadron of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. They were then attended to by doctors and given food, water, fresh clothing, and temporary sleeping quarters until the Iranian authorities picked them up.

The New York Times article which reported on the US Navy rescue didn’t fail to note that “The United States and Iran have not had formal diplomatic relations since 1980.” As if diplomatic relations mattered to the fishermen who were floating on a life raft in the middle of the sea.

Fortunately our lack of diplomatic relations with Iran did not prevent the Navy from rescuing the stranded fishermen.  But for one reason or another, many Americans often do forget about the Iranian people or associate them with a government they do not have control over.

This can be seen almost everywhere.  In response to news of the Iranian Kish Airliner air crash in the UAE in February 2004, MSNBC Don Imus remarked, “When I hear stories like that, I think who cares.” In November 2009, Fox sportscasters made racially discriminatory remarks against Iranian NBA player Hamed Haddadi. Reuel Marc Gerecht, Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, claimed that Iranians “have terrorism in their DNA.” Even YouTube, usually a nonpolitical world community, got involved in politics and excluded Iranians from its recent experimental documentary Life in a Day.

This attitude is extremely disconcerting. Just as I would not want to be judged by US foreign policy, such as our handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither should Americans, and in particular policymakers, be so quick to associate the Iranian people with their government’s foreign policies. It is as if the 2009 post-election protests and crackdown, and the continuing government repression in Iran have already been forgotten.

As Sandy Tolan wrote, “If national interest comes before our common humanity, then there is no hope for redemption, there is no hope for healing, there is no hope for transformation, there is no hope for anything.” I hope Americans who have forgotten about this common humanity take cue from the US Navy rescue, and keep Tolan’s words in mind.

  • 8 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Bad Hair Days Now Mandatory

In Iran, summer came with a severe crackdown on the Islamic dress code.

Said Tehran’s police chief Hossein Sajedinia on the recent crackdown:

The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehavior by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values… In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins.

The photo above, from Iran Focus, shows a fine of 22,500 Toman handed down by Iran’s morality police to a woman for wearing nail polish in public. The ticket also shows a list of other offenses and their respective fines:

Glasses over the hair: 18,000 Toman
Short manteau: 25,000 Toman
Bright manteau (green or red color): 25,000 Toman
Nail polish per finger: 5,000 Toman
Tan: 25,000 Toman
Light hair (depending on the color):  From 50,000 to 150,000 Toman

Like many others, when I first saw this photo, several questions came to mind. What if you are a natural blonde? Why is having a tan un-Islamic? Isn’t it only natural to put your sunglasses on top of your head when you’re not wearing them? How can they ban wearing a green manteau, when green is the color of Islam?

I thought it couldn’t get much more ridiculous.

Of course, I was proven wrong yet again. This week, Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance issued a series of photographs of approved Muslim hairstyles in effort to ban the country of “decadent Western cuts.”  According to the guide, ponytails, elaborate spikes, long hair, and mullets are now illegal.

“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival at which the guide will be promoted later this month.  Yet while Iranian complexion is quite diverse, the choice of hairstyles is not. With little sideburns and limited use of gel allowed, almost all models in the guide sport very similar 80s-like hairstyles.

With increased international isolation, it seems Iran has been increasingly turning within itself, and the Iranian people have been left to deal with the repercussions. And one of the many consequences will be that Iranian men will be having bad hair days more often.

  • 8 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Culture, Iranian American Life

Talented Iranian American Top Ranked in Film Competition

Ali Tabibnejad knew he was meant to be a film-maker since he was a child in Ahvaz. He would go into a room by himself and act out entire films. He imagined an entire film industry in his head: from different studios — different rooms in the house– to different theaters and directors. He would even imagine sales figures for the films and pick winners among them in imaginary film festivals.

Now, Tabibnejad is turning his favorite childhood game into reality. His film, “Untitled for James,” is currently ranked as one of the top six films in Openfilm’s Get It Made Competition. “Untitled for James” is about connecting to people and how technology affects that connection. It is the story of a son who has given up on his father because the father has been a technology-obsessed workaholic, working on advancing technology and its promise all his life. The son, an anti-technology musician, thinks he has figured it all out, but in actuality his life is in tatters. Through the events depicted in the film, his father succeeds in connecting with him.

The creation of the film was no small feat. Just days before production was to begin, Tabibnejad lost his lead actress. With challenging and frantic last minute rewriting, Tabibnejad did not stop rewriting until the very last edits in the post-production.

When asked about his interest in film-making, Tabibnejad stressed the social nature of art. “I hope to be a filmmaker in the tradition of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, not just because I have admired his films growing up, but also because he uses his status as an artist for social change,” he told NIAC. “I believe that the platform for expression that artists are afforded in society brings with it the responsibility to fight for the freedom of others.”

Asked whether he views himself as a role model for other Iranian-American involvement in the arts, Tabibnejad replied, “No, but I hope to be one. Iranians are a talented people, often intimidatingly so, and if my story inspires any Iranian to commit to the arts, I would count myself blessed.”

If Tabibnejad’s “Untitled for James” is still ranked as one of the top six films at the end of July, he will have the chance to turn it into a feature film. With this jumpstart to his career, Tabibnejad hopes to later revisit and explore his Iranian roots through cinema. “I don’t think any film has done justice to the richness of Iran’s recent history… and the breadth and depth of the personal stories that Iranians have been the heroes of in the last thirty to forty years.”

  • 1 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Half-Hearted Attempt at Accountability

A military court in Iran sentenced two men on Wednesday to death and nine others to jail for the torture of three protesters which resulted in their death last summer at the notorious Kahrizak detention center.  According to the report on Jahan News, an additional 33 others  were also accused of attacking a student dormitory in Tehran.  Despite this development, however, many human rights violations in Iran continue.

Following is a list of some of the many ongoing human rights abuses in Iran that should not be overlooked.  Unfortunately, this isn’t an exhaustive list.

-Currently, Zeinab Jalalian is on death row for moharebeh, or waging war against God, in a trial that has been roundly condemned as unfair and unjust by human rights defenders in Iran and around the world. Reports indicate that Jalalian’s trial lasted only minutes, she was denied access to a lawyer, and no evidence was presented against Jalalian during her trial.

-On June 26, approximately 50 houses owned by Baha’is were demolished in a village northeast of Tehran. According to an eyewitness, the houses were set on fire and then demolished by four bulldozers. “We informed the governor’s office that they were destroying our houses, but they did nothing to prevent it,” he said.

-According to Human Rights Watch, there are 16 Iranian-Kurds on death row in the notorious Evin prison. Their names are Rostam Arkia, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Mohammad Amin Abdolahi, Ghader Mohammadzadeh, Habibollah Latifi, Sherko Moarefi, Mostafa Salimi, Hassan Tali, Iraj Mohammadi, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Agoushi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, and Aziz Mohammadzadeh.

-Majid Tavakoli, a renowned Iranian student activist, is currently suffering from a rapidly deteriorating physical condition in Evin Prison. According to Human Rights House of Iran, Tavakoli is suffering from abdominal bleeding.

Despite the concerns raised by Tavakoli’s prison mates, prison officials have yet to transfer him to the infirmary at Evin.  Tavakoli’s physical condition has deteriorated to the extent that he is no longer able to speak on the phone.  After days of no news, although he contacted his mother briefly today, he was unfortunately unable to speak to her for long due to his incessant coughing.

-Isa Saharkhiz is an imprisoned journalist who has been in prison for a period of one year without due process. He is suffering from hypotension and low blood pressure and recently collapsed for the second time. Prison officials have refused to transfer him to the prison infirmary despite his deteriorating condition.

-There is no news of political activist Mehdi Ale-Ziarat who was originally detained on June 10, 2010. He is a member of “Tose’eye Melli” (National Development) student publication and has worked on a number of articles and photos which were to be used in the first issue of this journal.

These are but a few of the many human rights abuses still going on in Iran.  This list could be far longer.  While news of the Iranian government finally punishing some of those responsible for such abuses is welcome, continued human rights violations show that the government is half-hearted at best in its attempt to display some accountability here.

  • 29 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Majlis of the IRGC, by the IRGC, and for the IRGC



The recent battle over Azad University and its assets is not only a sign of a growing division in Iran’s hardliners. If one looks more closely, the growing importance of the IRGC in Iranian politics is also becoming clearer.

Originally created by Ayatollah Khomeini to be the Supreme Leader’s personal militia, the IRGC acts independently from the official armed forces. While it already controls a large segment of the Iranian economy, in the last decade the IRGC has also been increasingly acting like an independent branch in the government.

In recent decades, the IRGC has been used to suppress Iran’s rapidly developing civil society and student movement. Over the last two years, though, it has reached a boiling point: Hillary Clinton said Iran is becomming a “military dictatorship,” and the disputed electoral victory for Ahmadinejad last June was labeled a military coup.

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and co-author of an exhaustive study of the IRGC. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

Now, the IRGC’s ascendancy is playing out in a battle over Azad University, its board, its 1.5 million students, and its billions of dollars worth of assets.

On June 19, Azad University’s board secured a temporary injunction preventing the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) from enforcing its revision of the university’s charter. In support of Azad University, on June 20 a bill was rushed through the 270-member Majlis that allowed universities to endow their properties to the public, thus circumventing the government takeover of the University.

As all political moves in Iran are protested by one group or another, shortly thereafter Basijis and Ahmadinejad loyalists protested outside Majlis, claiming the bill was against Khamenei’s will. Protesters threatened to place the Majlis “under fire” unless it backed away from its bill.

What is interesting to note is that the Basij and Ahmadinejad loyalists were not actually acting in the name of the Supreme Leader as they claimed. In fact, Khamenei came out and called for unity, saying “I object to any comment, move, action, or written text that leads to division and rift…We need to promote consolidation.” It thus seems that the Basij have actually developed a position of their own, independent of the Supreme Leader.

As a result of the heated protests, 100 legislators voted for emergency discussion of legislation that would support the SCCR’s authority in the matter. In other words, this discussion could overturn the endowment bill passed earlier on June 20.

The fact that protest by the Basij led many Majlis members to change their mind is a sign of their growing power.  According to U.S.-based political analyst Reza Fani Yazdi:

“It seems that from now on any bill that is due to be ratified by the parliament [must] be approved by the security military forces, otherwise the same thing will happen and they will bring their pressure groups to the streets and force the parliament not to make any independent decisions— even the current parliament, which includes many former members of the [Revolutionary Guard] and close aides of Ahmadinejad’s government.

As NIAC Advisory Board Member Reza Aslan said shortly after the June elections, “There is a genuine fear… that Iran is beginning to resemble Egypt or Pakistan, countries in which the military controls the apparatus of government.” If the IRGC begins to control the Majlis as well, Aslan will have proven to be right.

It is important to note, of course, that the IRGC is far from a monolithic organization. Members voted for various political candidates in the elections and of course do not all support Ahmadinejad. In fact, many former members denounced the regime’s brutal crackdown following the June 2009 elections. The effects of this great diversity on the battle over Azad University remains to be seen.

For now,  if the Ahmadinejad camp wins this political battle, they will control the billions of dollars of assets belonging to the university. The university’s campuses will be controlled by the government’s security and military apparatus. But most important, and perhaps most frightening, their victory will also serve as a precedent for the IRGC to effectively control the Majlis in the future through intimidation and violence, thus permanently overshadowing the most representative branch of the Iranian government. And with such a diverse IRGC, who knows what will happen next?

Photo Credit: Radio Farda

  • 17 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 49 Comments
  • Culture, discrimination, Iranian American Life

Will the Real Iranians Please Stand Up?

In the past three decades, American perceptions of Iran have shifted dramatically.  The very people who once had an empire, who drafted the first human rights declaration, and who were one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East are now among the most misunderstood and discriminated-against populations in the country.

First, Iran was labeled as a member of the ‘axis of evil’. Then, in the movie 300, Persians were depicted as pillaging, deranged savages wearing rags. Public officials and famous politicians oftentimes make off-hand and flippant comments about killing or hating Iranians.

All of this has led much of the public to equate all Iranians in their minds with terrorists and suicide bombers.  (I actually had a World History teacher tell one of the Iranian-American kids in my class to be quiet because “All Iran exports is terrorism.”)

With Prince of Persia, we were finally portrayed in a good light. Our ancient world was being shown in romantic and mythological ways based on revered Persian literature, The Book of Kings and A Thousand and One Nights. For once, my dad said he’d actually sit through a movie without falling asleep. We were all excited.

We should have known that it wouldn’t last long…

Enter: Jersey Shore — The Persian Version.

“Two thousand years ago the Persian Empire ruled the ancient world…but they didn’t have your soundtrack, your style, or your swagger,” reads the casting call for the new reality show, seeking “anyone who uses exotic appeal to get anything or anyone [they] desire.”

For anyone who has not seen Jersey Shore, the show currently consists of a cast of young Italian Americans, whose “reality”-show lifestyle is little more than drinking and partying. They live on the beach, but refuse to tan anywhere but a tanning salon, and take an hour to get ready, with a lot of hair gel and a lot of hair spray involved. The characters either hook up, or attempt to hook up, with a sort of mad desperation.

And now they’re going to do the same thing with Iranian Americans.

A short while ago, the Iranian band Zed Bazi came out with a song called “Iranian of LA,” making fun of the very people who are chosen to represent our community in this show.  Now everyone knows that Iranians are the real origin of the hair “poof” and can party as much as anyone else. But honestly, no one wants to be represented by the type of people and lifestyles shown on Jersey Shore.

The sad thing is there are hundreds of amazing Iranian Americans who deserve some recognition: artists, fashion designers, film directors, actors, doctors, website founders, and more.  But the quiet dignity with which these people live their lives isn’t considered “good TV.”

For a moment, we thought our reputations might be saved with a last-minute addition to your nightly TV line-up: Funny in Farsi. But sadly, that show was nixed after the first episode.

Silly Iranians, we were told by Hollywood, you have three options only: terrorists, savages, or party animals. Take your pick.

Sign the Petition

 

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.

Sincerely,

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