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Iranian American Life

Green Movement and Iranian Government Clash Flares Up

While Iranian authorities continue their campaign against the growing opposition, the Green Movement does not appear to be letting up, even as some of its leaders’ efforts were thwarted from participating. Yesterday’s National Student Day protests were preempted by arrests of student activists from universities across Iran as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights. Nevertheless, tens of thousands protested in solidarity with the Green Movement against the current Iranian government in “the biggest anti-government rallies in months.” Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, widely regarded as the movement’s leaders, were feared to be under house arrest.

According to AP:

Plainclothes men on motorcycles — likely Basijis — also harassed the opposition’s leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, at his Tehran office on Tuesday. Up to 30 men on motorcycles, some in masks, blocked Mousavi as he tried to drive out of his office garage and chanted slogans against him, two opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses.

Mousavi got out of his car and shouted at them, ”You’re agents, you’ve been tasked with threatening me, beating me, killing me,” before his aides hustled him back inside, the Gooya News Web site reported. The men left several hours later and Mousavi was able to leave.

“When Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard arrived at Tehran University’s art faculty, where she is a professor, female Basij members tried to stop her and attacked her and her entourage with pepper spray, opposition Web sites reported, citing witnesses.

Protesters took some of the boldest actions yet in their demonstrations against the ruling clerics, breaking “the biggest taboo in Iran—burning pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and chanting slogans against him.”

The New York Times reports further symbolic breaks from the current government as protesters “carried an Iranian flag from which the signature emblem of ‘Allah’– added after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution— had been removed.” Iranian authorities stepped up their threats against demonstrators while attempting to barricade universities to contain protests. Iran’s top prosecutor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, warned on Tuesday that the judiciary will be harsher than in the past:

“So far, we have shown restraint. From today no leniency will be applied,” Ejehi said, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Azizullah Rajabzadeh, announced that 204 protesters, including 39 women, were arrested in the capital during Monday’s demonstrations. They were detained for ”violating public order,” including setting fire to vehicles and chanting slogans, he said, according to the state news agency IRNA.

Large demonstrations are expected to occur on December 12th, the 6-month anniversary of the disputed June 12th elections. Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is spreading the word about the Global Day of Arts in Support of Iran’s Civil Rights Movement on December 12th, when activists and artists will come together under the banner of ArtsUnited4Iran. Sponsors of associated worldwide events will include Reporters without Borders, Human Rights Watch, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, ARTICLE 19, and Front Line. More detailed information can be found at United4Iran:

Iran experts and activists speaking out in support of the civil rights movement in Iran include Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Professor and CNN commentator; Hadi Ghaemi, Director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran’s International Coordinator; Omid Memarian, Iran expert for Human Rights Watch; and Reza Moini, Iran expert for Reporters without Borders (RSF).

Following the UN General Assembly’s resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran on November 20, 2009, members of the international community are calling on the Iranian government to:

  • Respect Freedom of Assembly, Expression, and Press,
  • Free all Prisoners of Conscience,
  • End Rape and Torture in Prisons,
  • Hold Those Responsible for Committing Human Rights Crimes Accountable.
  • Iranian Government Targets Opposition Worldwide

    The Wall Street Journal reported today on an extremely troubling development in the Iranian government’s efforts to silence its critics in the continued aftermath of the disputed June elections–the regime is reportedly attempting to extend its crackdown beyond Iran’s borders to the Iranian diaspora abroad.

    “Interviews with roughly 90 ordinary Iranians abroad — college students, housewives, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople — in New York, London, Dubai, Sweden, Los Angeles and other places indicate that people who criticize Iran’s regime online or in public demonstrations are facing threats intended to silence them.”

    “Although it wasn’t possible to independently verify their claims, interviewees provided consistently similar descriptions of harassment techniques world-wide.”

    In one case, a young Iranian-American engineering student received an email threatening his family should he continue to criticize the Iranian government. He dismissed the threat as a joke until his father was arrested at his home in Tehran and told his son could “no longer safely return to Iran.

    Other interviewees said they were questioned at airports, scrutinized at passport control in Iran about their foreign ties, forced to log in to their Facebook accounts, and some had their passports confiscated for their criticisms of the Iranian government’s handling of this summer’s elections.

    This shameful campaign is further evidence that the Iranian government is mindful of lessons learned from the Shah’s upheaval:

    “During Iran’s historic 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians abroad played an instrumental role in transforming the movement from a fringe idea led by a frail cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, into a global force that eventually toppled the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iranians abroad flocked to Mr. Khomeini’s side, lending his movement language skills, money and, ultimately, global legitimacy.”

    “In the current crisis, Iran is eager to prevent a similar scenario.”

    • 20 October 2009
    • Posted By Matt Sugrue
    • Civil Rights Legislation, Congress, Iranian American Life

    Failure to Launch: The Terrorist Watchlist

    Erich Scherfen was an infantryman in the first Gulf War and then a National Guard helicopter pilot. In total, his career with the U.S. military covered thirteen years. After leaving the military with an honorable discharge, Scherfen became a pilot for the regional airline Colgan Air Inc. Despite his history of exemplary service, Scherfen discovered in 2008 that he was in danger of losing his job because his name appeared on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Terrorist Watchlist. Scherfen had no clue why his name was on the Watchlist, and discovered that there was no system for removing his name. As a result, Scherfen was forced to take the DHS to court in an ongoing bid to clear his name.

    Unfortunately, Erich Scherfen’s story is not an unfamiliar one, especially to persons of Middle Eastern descent. Far too many American citizens find themselves on the Watchlist after being incorrectly labeled as terrorists or even victims of mistaken identity. People who are misidentified as terrorists cannot check-in to flights online or use the automated check-in booths. Instead, they must take extra time and have an agent at the ticket counter confirm that they are an average person and not a terrorist, and are also subject to repeated security searches.

    On February 4th, 2009, the House of Representatives passed a bill allowing people wrongly placed on DHS’s Terrorist Watchlist to file an appeal to have their name removed. The bill, The Fair, Accurate, Secure and Timely (FAST) Redress Act of 2009, was introduced by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) on January 15, 2009. It passed through the House with a vote of 413 – 3. Since that time, the FAST Act has wallowed in legislative limbo.

    DC Iranians Americans Expand Frustration to Russians…then Chinese

    DC Iranian Americans are not tiring as they become reenergized by seeing their fellow Iranians continue to protest despite the violence. Yesterday, more than 200 hundred people gathered outside of the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, DC. Black and green colored the crowd that came together to mourn the loss of lives in Iran, and to show their solidarity with the Iranian people. Individuals held signs asking, “Where is My Vote?” and sang song such as “Ey Iran” and “Yar e Dabestani.” About an hour into the gathering the crowd marched in silence, following the example of their counterparts in Iran, towards the Russian Embassy. This act was conducted in defiance of Russia’s recognition of Ahmadinejad’s victory during his visit to the state on Tuesday. Further, participants held a candle light vigil and a moment of silence to honor the loss of innocent lives in the aftermath of recent protests in Iran.

    The next gathering will be on Thursday, June 18th at 6 PM in front of the Iranian Interest Section and they will walk probably walk to the Russian and Chinese Embassy. This gathering will be followed by another one on Saturday June 20th (Global Protest: Where is My Vote?) at 11 am in front of the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, DC.

    Iranian Americans have overwhelming come out in support of Moussvai, or at in support of free and fair elections. Most Iranian Americans have friends and families in the Tehran, who support Moussavi, and not the poorer provinces in Iran where Ahmadinejad does have real support- so naturally they are standing in solidarity with them. We have not seen any pro-Ahmadinejad protests to date, however, if there are any, please let us know as want people to have a complete picture of what Iranian-American reactions have been.

    More Protests in DC


    For a second day in a row, about 150 people gathered in front of the Iranian Interest Section in Washington, DC at 6pm on June 15 to denounce the alleged election fraud and to stand in solidarity with the Iranian people. The crowd supporting the “Where is My Vote?” campaign explicitly separated themselves from those with other agendas by standing on the opposite side of the street (facing Daftar).

    Towards the end of the gathering two individuals appeared on the opposing side of the street to support Ahmadinejad. Althoughblog2 some booed him, there were far less flags than yesterday. The gathering continued peacefully until 8 PM.

    The next gathering in Washington DC will be on Wednesday, June 17th at 6 PM in front of the Iranian Interest Section on Wisconsin Avenue.

    Iranian Americans Rally in DC

    “Moussavi! Moussavi! Give us back our votes!”  chanted Iranian Americans  as they marched from the Iranian Interest Section to the Washington Monument.


    Iranian Americans Hit the Streets


    Tired of sitting at their computers, refreshing their browsers for the latest news and of waiting by their phones for friends and relatives to call, Iranian Americans are showing their solidarity today by taking to the streets. In Washington DC , they will meet 11 am, and will march from the Iranian Interest Section on Wisconsin Ave to the Lincoln Memorial. In New York, they will be outside CNN building from 12-2 and the UN at 2pm. In fact, there are rallies all over the nation, to find one near you, please check Facebook.

    As a precursor to today’s rally, about 70 Iranians from the DC area came out for a “WHERE is MY VOTE” rally in front of the interest section. “My heart goes out to the Iranian people, because at the end of the day, we can go back to our normal lives. They are the ones who have to live there and have no other choices,” expressed one attendee. The Interest Section wasn’t actually open, so that’s why there’s another one today.

    One woman made it clear to note that, “We are not part of ANY organization,” to make sure that they were not confused with other groups such as the MEK or supporters of the Shah, who typically protest in opposition to the government of Iran throughout the year.

    This is a rare moment, when the Iranian Diaspora, who might not be very politically active or vocal has gone public with their support for the people of Iran.  What we can do here is modest and in the end, we can go to back to our comfortable lives, turning off the news and shutting down our computers, but it’s better than what we normally do- sitting in our homes, talking  and complaining amongst ourselves.

    Iranican asks you to support Obama’s remarks on Iran


    Last week, Obama became the first president to recognize the U.S. role in the 1953 coup against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadeq.  In response to the President’s historic speech, the Iranian-American community has shown its support for this gesture.  Iranican, a non-profit organization based in Silicon Valley which produces media reports to reach the younger Iranian community abroad, has asked Iranian Americans to take action and show their support for the President’s remarks by  contacting the White House and the State Department to leave their comments.

    As Iranican deftly points out,

    “Most of the time we don’t say thank you when we should. While we may not necessarily agree with each statement the president makes, thanking on good things increases our capacity [as Iranian Americans]  to criticize when bad things are happening.”

    Check it out over at Iranican today!

    • 4 March 2009
    • Posted By Sahar Jooshani
    • Civil Rights Legislation, Culture, Iranian American Life

    Civil rights in jeopardy in Oklahoma

    oklahoma-flag1Our founding fathers would roll over in their graves if they could only see the events taking place in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

    On March 2nd, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation (H.B. 1645) that would “strictly prohibit” individuals from wearing “head scarves” and “head garments” in driver’s license photographs. Members of the House voted 88-8 in favor of the measure.

    The Tulsa World, an Oklahoman media outlet, reported that the legislation was introduced by Oklahoma Republican Rep. Rex Duncan in light of the Norman Department of Motor Vehicles allowing Monique Barrett, a Muslim woman, to take her driver’s license photo while wearing a hijab.

    In the past Rep. Duncan has made headlines by refusing to accept a copy of the Quran as a gift from the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council. When asked for comment, Rep. Duncan was quoted as saying “Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology….I know that not all Muslims are terrorists, but I don’t know of another religion or ideology that employs terrorism and the threat of terrorism.’’

    Former NIAC intern dedicated summer to helping youth in West Bank

    Two Georgetown University Students spent their summer pursuing an idealistic plan hatched up during a night of red bull drinking. Rod Solaimani, an Iranian-American of Jewish heritage and Hammad Hammad, a Palestinian Muslim organized summer camps in the areas of Deheisheh, Jalazun and Al-Azzeh.

    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.



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