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Iran News Roundup 12/15

Broad Iran sanctions approved by the House

The House of Representatives approved central bank sanctions on Iran as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be sent to the President by the end of the week (Newsweek 12/15).

The House also approved two standalone Iran sanctions bills, H.R. 1905 and H.R.2105.  H.R.1905 eliminates the President’s humanitarian waiver to allow for parts and repairs of Iranian civilian airplanes, puts legal restrictions on contacts between U.S. and Iranian officials, and places sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. The bill must now go to the Senate for consideration, which is not expected until after the New Year (The Hill 12/14).

Reuters reports that Asian countries China, India, South Korea, and Japan are increasingly worried about oil in light of new Iran sanctions. (Reuters 12/15). China is looking to obtain discounted Iranian oil as the U.S. increases pressure on Iran. “Any restriction on oil supplies from Iran, the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter, could drive up already high oil prices and threaten economies already facing the impact of the euro zone debt crisis.”

“This is an issue that could have a big impact on the global economy in terms of crude prices, so our nation will pay close attention to this with grave concern,” said Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

Growing concern over the number of executions in iran

Amnesty International warned of “a new wave of drug offence executions”  in a report published yesterday. Public and secret hangings have increased in what has been called “a killing spree of staggering proportions” (Guardian 12/14).

War watch

On Tuesday former Vice-president Cheney advised the Obama administration to launch a “quick air strike” against Iran after it had captured the U.S. drone.  NIAC’s Trita Parsi says, “the Obama administration’s decision not to risk war by going in and destroying the drone reflects its desire to avoid catastrophic escalation” (Salon 12/12).

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman, speaking to CNN, said he’d commit to a ground invasion to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon (Think Progress 12/14).

Revolutionary Guards commander Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali said Iran would move the uranium enrichment centers to safer locations if Iran were attacked (Reuters 12/14).

Additional Notable News:

State department official Frederick Hof toldCongress that Syrian president Assad’s hold on power will be short-lived despite the repression of protestors.

Iran News Roundup 12/14

How covert operations can spiral out of control

Barry Lando writes on the dangers of increasing covert operations against Iran. “Predictably, aggressive acts will provoke retaliation from Iran — a situation, which, in the context of America’s superheated presidential primaries, could spiral dangerously out of control. Which is just what militants in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington may be out to provoke” (Lando Huffington Post 12/13).

Increased sanctions and higher oil prices

The Obama administration and European allies are seeking assurance that Saudi Arabia will boost oil output in order to prevent higher oil prices and damage to the global economy because of sanctions (Los Angeles Times 12/13). Yet Iran’s oil minister, at an OPEC meeting, said Saudi oil minister Ali Naimi has agreed not to increase oil output to replace Iranian oil (Boston Globe 12/14).

Human rights

The U.S. placed sanctions on two top Iranian military figures for human rights violations in the wake of the June 2009 election: Lieutenant Commander of IRGC Ground Force Abdollah Agragi and Chief of Staff of the Joint Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Firouzabadi (AFP 12/13).

Nokia Siemens Networks announced that it would stop doing business with Iran–gradually reduce its existing commitments starting next year (Wall Street Journal 12/13). Nokia Siemens Networks came under fire in 2009 after providing the Iranian government with surveillance equipment used against peaceful protestors.

Mitt Romney on the M.E.K.

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was asked whether he supported the removal of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq from the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations.

“I have not heard of the MEK, so I can’t possibly tell you whether I support the MEK. I’ll take a look at the issue,” said Romney. Romney’s special advisor on foreign policy, Mitchell Reiss, is an advocate for the group.

Notable opinion: 

In a Washington Post op-ed, Thomas Erdbrink discusses the growing fears and concern amongst ordinary Iranians regarding the possibility of war and the negative impact international sanctions are having on everyday lives.

Instead of sharing that sense of defiance, however, many ordinary Iranians are increasingly worried that war could be catastrophic.

As tension rises, many have started taking precautionary measures. Some are stocking up on basic goods. Others are changing their money into foreign currencies, or obtaining visas to move abroad.

Anxiety is also being fueled by the latest rounds of international sanctions against Iran. While Iranian officials continually say the country can cope with the growing limitations, average Iranians are faced with soaring prices and a plummeting exchange rate for their currency, the rial. It has lost 48 percent of its value against the dollar since 2008.

To read the full piece click here.

Additional Notable News:

Iran’s intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi met the Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel-Aziz Al Saud to refute U.S. claims that Tehran planned to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, according to a senior Iranian official.

  • 16 November 2011
  • Posted By Loren White
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth

Substantial increase in Iranian students studying at US universities

A recent report released by the Institute of International Education shows a 19% increase in the amount of Iranians coming to the US to study.  With over 5,600 students in the US, Iran had the 22nd highest amount of international students in the U.S. during 2010/2011.

This welcome trend is likely connected to the Obama administration’s smart decision last May to begin issuing Multi-Entry Visas to Iranian students attending universities in the US.  Previously, Iranian students could only get Single-Entry Visas, which prevented them from returning home for the duration of their studies, regardless of whether there was a funeral or a wedding for a loved one.  As such, the policy change was undoubtedly welcome news for potential students in Iran.

But whatever the reason for this increase in Iranian students coming to the US for their studies, it could prove to be an intelligent and effective policy for the US.

The U.S.’s image among ordinary Iranians may have taken a hit with crippling sanctions and threats of military action.  Taking steps to ease burdens on Iranian youths, some of whom are prevented from attending college in Iran because of associations with the democracy movement, helps mitigate some of that damage.  As such, accepting more Iranian students is a tangible step that could prove to Iranians that our problem is not with them but with the behavior of their government.

In Iran, It’s Fun To Be A Rebel

If one asks the majority of Iranian youths why they want democracy, their immediate answers are surprisingly not freedom of speech, free elections or even a better economy. “Fun” is what most of them desire the most. Having fun without being told their behavior is un-Islamic or an attempt to topple the regime.

Since the Islamic Revolution, and the rise and fall of various government figures, the definition of fun in Iran has changed drastically. Often mixed with Islamic ideologies, some of the most basic social activities in Iran are defined improper for the youth and met with crackdowns, criticism and even arrests.

An event that aroused attention and hype in Iran last month was the gathering of over 800 Tehrani girls and boys in Water and Fire Park playing with water guns and bottles just laughing and wetting one another. The so called “water war,” which was originally organized via Facebook, spread to other major cities and became a cool way to pass a hot summer afternoon.

But a few days later, national TV aired its infamous confessions of those arrested with blacked out faces, speaking about the social media scheme in which young people had been seduced into toppling the regime through a water game.

How to respond to such serious allegations?  A mocking, sarcastic confession video of a young man explaining his extensive water gun training in Israel and America quickly spread via the event’s Facebook page. Mass emails containing photos of happy faces and soaked-in-water youth in the park made the rounds through Iranian inboxes.  Further events were planned, such as a kite flying gathering in Isfahan that promised to bring the youth together for celebration of the end of summer.  On the kites, young people would scribble a dream before flying them in the air.

Yet perhaps the allegations are true.  What seems to most of us to be a joyful assembly of young men and women could at the same time very well be a protest against a system that constrains its youth’s most basic dreams.

Unfortunately, Iranians have witnessed or directly experienced the brutal clampdown of the regime not only after Presidential election, but also through the aid it’s believed to be giving to the neighboring country, Syria against protesters of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. In the wake of the Arab spring , when hope for the future of Iran could rise from the ashes of 2009 turmoil, it is news like that from Syria which creates fear and intimidation for Iranians, leaving them to come up with alternative ways to voice their opposition.  What could be better than “fun?”

And what could be better than mocking–and reapproptiating–what the government legitimizes as proper. For example, each year, the Ministry of Culture holds a Festival for Twins of all ages–a night of (government-sanctioned) celebration, with music, performance and laughter. So, young people organized a slightly less official Gathering of Curly Haired Ones in Tehran’s Melat Park and, my personal favorite, the Festival of Bad Fashion. It has been through these events that larger gatherings such as water war were born.

Not every one is happy to see the youth of a country, who make up 70 percent of the population, coming together. So, the authorities will do anything to stop them–either with intimidation beforehand or constant crackdowns, which are promoted as acts of “restoring order” and “enforcing Islamic values.”

For those who cannot attend these events for reasons varying from obligations to fear and suspicions, social media is a great way to rebel while having fun.

Facebook invite for the "Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces"

Last week, I received an invitation on Facebook for an event called Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces with more than fifteen hundred attending RSVPs. For the location, organizers say the event will be held in every villa, street, garden, home and even public space.

It’s a perfect example of how Iranian youth have used sarcasm and laughter against the pressure, disorder and insecurity surrounding their lives.

Even though I don’t believe the behaviors of these Iranian youth are entirely and purposefully acts of rebellion, I do believe when you live in a country where everything you do–from what you wear and who you are allowed to sit next to on the bus, to what music you can listen to–is controlled by a select few, every opportunity you take to have a little fun can be, consciously or unconsciously, a way to rebel.

Iranian Human Rights Defenders Reject War

Over the past 9 years, many different cases have been made by Iran hawks in support of a military strike against the country. Much of the focus is on Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and the possible threat that it would pose against U.S. allies in the region. But many war supporters also justify “the military option” by exploiting the worsening of human rights abuses in Iran and suggesting that the support of Iranian citizens can be gained through a war of regime change. In reality, neither group takes the voices and concerns of Iranians within Iran into consideration. These concerns include the disastrous effects war would have on the worsening human rights abuses within the Islamic Republic, and for Iran’s peaceful democratic opposition.

Last week, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran published “Raising Their Voices, Iranian Civil Society Reflections on the Military Option”. In an attempt to document the perspective of Iranians inside Iran in their report, the organization interviewed 35 of Iranian writers, human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, lawyers, student activists, cultural leaders, and journalists.

The report shows an overwhelming response rejecting a war against Iran: “military action against Iran by the United States or Israel would be futile, counterproductive and irrational. Accordingly, while achieving none of the goals used to justify such action, a strike would lead to further political regression and repression, deeper enmity between the Iranian people and the United States, and severe humanitarian problems.”

Even though many Iran hawks claim that military action is a threat to the Islamic Republic and could be helpful to the reformists or the opposition of the regime, the fact is that many extremists within the regime welcome the idea. Nationalism is and has always been a powerful factor within the Iranian society. “A war with Iran,” says the report, “would strengthen the current regime by stoking nationalism and dividing the opposition, and undercut the Iranian public’s goodwill toward the United States.”

Many Iranian citizens do want change and reform; they do not however, want a foreign imposition of such change for many reasons. “An attack would further militarize the state, exacerbate the human rights crisis in Iran, and undermine Iranian civil society and the pro-democracy movement,” says the report. War would put into the lives of political prisoners in Iran in further danger–Iranians remember well the many political prisoners who fell victim to mass executions during the Iran-Iraq war. A US military strike would also lead to more human rights violations, more extreme government crackdowns, economic, and environmental consequences.

Mohammad Seifzadeh, a leading human rights lawyer, who has served a prison sentence in Iran, has voiced his concern: “If a war were to take place right now, the atmosphere would definitely become more restricted and more limitations would be imposed upon intellectuals, human rights activist, social elites and students.”

The debates concerning a military strike against the Islamic Republic have not taken the voices of Iranian citizens, the people who will be affected the most by military action, into consideration. Iranians have essential insight to administer about the repercussions of a US military strike against Iran in regards to the future of US-Iran relations, regional and domestic stability, and protection of human rights.

  • 20 June 2011
  • Posted By Sahar Fahimi
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iranian Youth, Sanctions, UN

Akbar Ganji: “The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look” (Part 2 of 2)

On June 15, 2011, Akbar Ganji published an article,”The Worst Scenario for Iran: A Different Look,” on BBC Persian, examining the economy of Iran and the effects of the international sanctions on it. NIAC’s Ali Tayebi and Sahar Fahimi have translated this article from Ganji’s original pen, Persian, to English.  This is the second half of the article; the first half is here.

The worst possible situation

Ayatollah Khamenei will never accept to retreat in Iran nuclear project. His policy in the Middle East and North Africa to support the extremist activities and calling the ongoing changes across the region “Islamic Revolution” soured the anti-Iran atmosphere, and put Persian Gulf countries in an confrontational position with Iran.

In this situation, what option remains for the Western countries other than increasing political and economic sanctions?

Let us assume that the western countries succeed in sanctioning all Iranian banks. Let us assume that this sanction also includes Iran’s fuel, and Iran is put in a situation similar to Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s era. In this case, the unemployment rate in Iran will increase by millions, poverty will be expanded all over the country and the middle class will merge into the lower class. Tens of thousands of children and the elderly will lose their lives.

Would this situation lead to protests or cause a revolution? Thousands of different issues could lead to the collapse of the totalitarian religious regime, however, no one can predict that increasing unemployment and poverty will cause protests or spark a revolution. Consider Iraq, the toughest economic sanctions in ten years destroyed the Iraqi society, but did not hurt Saddam’s regime and at the end he stepped down only by military attack and invasion.

In the same situation, as long as the regime has power and intention to systemically crackdown any protests and critique, it will continue to survive. Decline in any of these two factors is a prerequisite for regime change.

A regime that can and yearns to remain in power by a broad crackdown, will sustain until these factors have changed.

  • 8 December 2010
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 4 Comments
  • Iranian Youth

Media Overlooks Iran Student’s Day Protest, 16 Azar

Yesterday was the 57th anniversary of Iran’s Student Day and the 2nd student’s day protest since the birth of the Green Movement in June 2009. Unfortunately this didn’t hit mainstream media. This could either be because of Iran’s constant censorship or the media being consumed with other Iran topics, i.e. Wikileaks and P5+1 talks.

Students from all kinds of universities poured out onto the streets of Iran mourning the loss of their colleagues during the June 2009 aftermath, demanding the release of political prisoners, and demanding their civil rights. Mir Hossien Mousavi’s Facebook page shows quite a few videos and pictures from yesterday of different universities protesting. Additionally, on Mousavi’s page, supporters of the Green movement, Khatami and Karroubi have released statements of their support.

It is unsure as to how many protestors were out on the streets and how many people were arrested. However, there are several reports and videos talking about yesterday’s events, including this video from BBC Persian.

Enduring America blogged about the media and government completely overlooking the protests in Iran.

Even those who are often accused by the Iranian Government of carrying out a US Government  of “regime change” have no words on the regime and the students. The Voice of America declined to cover the story. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is silent, apart from a pointer in its Press Review to a Los Angeles Times story.

Tehran Bureau reports on specific student protests around the country and first hand accounts.

The largest protests were reported at Tehran University’s Faculty of Medicine, where students and professors held a demonstration about a thousand people strong — they demanded political rights and the release of political detainees. A gathering of around a thousand students at Amir Kabir Polytechnic University sang patriotic songs and called for political prisoners to be freed.

Wall Street Journal reports on the Basiji forces surrounding student protests.

Riot police and security forces surrounded Tehran University, the epicenter of student activism, according to witnesses and online videos. Iranian law prohibits security forces from entering the campus, but students said as many as 400 plainclothes militia members had entered to intimidate students. Security forces built scaffolding around the entire campus and covered it with tents, in an apparent attempt to cut off communication between student protestors inside and passersby outside, according to videos and witness accounts.

Its hard to say what exactly happened yesterday, but it is evident that the Green Movement remains alive in  Iranian hearts and minds.

Rep. Sherman Wants to Help Ahmadinejad Punish Innocent Iranians

Iran’s rulers hardly need assistance to make the lives of Iranians miserable. Iranians are suffering mightily under their government’s flagrant human rights abuses, political repression, and economic mismanagement but, writing in the Hill last week, Representative Brad Sherman argued that punishing the Iranian people is exactly what the US should do.

“Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people,” Sherman writes. “Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

That Rep. Sherman so blithely asserts we must punish Iranians (a philosophy that has previously been offered by Republicans Mark Kirk and Dana Rohrabacher) underlies the futility and confusion in Congress’ sanctions addiction and it may explain why the Iranian pro-democracy activists are distancing themselves from the US. A foreign government that seeks to punish your innocent population is not what one would want to have on one’s side.

Mehdi Karoubi, a top figure in the Green Movement, explained in a recent interview with the Guardian that the sanctions are a gift to Ahmadinejad.

“These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country,” Karoubi told the paper. “Look at Cuba and North Korea. 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.”

Sherman pays little regard to such warnings, along with the long history of failed sanctions regimes against Cuba, Iraq, and even Iran. Instead, he (and many other Members of Congress) points to South Africa.

The South Africa sanctions were not “targeted”, Sherman says, but instead punished the entire economy and hurt “the very people we wanted to help.” “Ultimately,” Sherman explains, “Nelson Mandela thanked us for the sanctions.”

But Sherman is wrong. Nelson Mandela did not “ultimately” thank us—he and his supporters had been calling for sanctions for years in the face of opposition from Washington. It wasn’t until 1986, towards the very end of the struggle against apartheid, that Congress imposed sanctions on the apartheid government over President Reagan’s veto.

And in the South African case, the South African opposition supported sanctions.

But for Iran, the opposite is true. The leaders of Iran’s democratic opposition have unequivocally condemned sanctions as destructive to their movement and harmful to the most vulnerable Iranians.

But nobody is listening— lawmakers like Brad Sherman apparently know better than the Iranians on the front lines of the democratic struggle what is best for their movement.

Sherman neglects the Green Movement protests that were based not on economic grievances, but on the demands of Iranians for democracy and human rights. Delusions that sanctions can provide the pretext for a population to successfully demand democratic reforms fails to account for governments like Iran’s which have demonstrated themselves to be unresponsive to their populations and adept at exploiting sanctions to strengthen their grip on power. Iranians are still struggling for democracy and human rights, but the sanctions only impede that struggle.

There are other significant differences between the South Africa sanctions and the measures recently put into place against Iran. For South Africa, the US included scholarships for black students and support for human rights NGOs.

For Iran, US NGOs face so many obstacles imposed by US sanctions, not to mention obstacles posed by Tehran, that very few actually work there. And the first victims of the new sanctions were young Iranians—the vanguards of the democracy movement—hoping to study in the US who were denied the opportunity to take TOEFL tests.

Iran’s repressive rulers may not need help in punishing their own population. But if Brad Sherman is so intent on adding to the Iranian people’s suffering, I suspect that the Ahmadinejad government will be more than happy to accept his offer and will gladly give Washington more than its fair share of credit.

This post was originally published on the Hill’s Congress Blog

Can Obama Keep His Promise to Iran’s Youth?

The early verdict on the new Iran sanctions is that even the “smart” sanctions have proven to be, well, dumb. Instead of targeting Iranian government officials connected to the nuclear program or who are complicit in human rights abuses, the new sanctions are punishing young Iranians who have been the greatest allies of democracy, human rights, and accountability in Iran.

Late last week, it was revealed that young Iranians looking to attend college abroad are now facing serious impediments because of new sanctions. The Educational Testing Service–the US-based company that provides standardized tests necessary to apply for college, like the GRE and the TOEFL–announced that it was suspending tests for hopeful students in Iran in order to comply with recently passed UN sanctions.

Back in March, President Obama recorded a statement to Iran for Norooz–the Iranian New Year–in which he promised to “sustain our commitment to a more hopeful future for the Iranian people,” which he said would include “increasing opportunities for educational exchanges so that Iranian students can come to our colleges and universities…”

But with the announcement that standardized testing has been suspended in Iran due to sanctions, President Obama has failed to live up to that commitment.

This President claimed that he could walk and chew gum at the same time. But in placing “pressure” at the center of his Iran policy, every other element of the President’s Iran strategy is being subsumed by a singular focus on punitive actions, including the President’s “outstretched hand” promises to the critical demographic of Iranian youth.

For those keeping score, the UN passed multilateral sanctions against Iran on June 9, which were then followed by more stringent, unilateral sanctions passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on July 1.

In the weeks that have passed, Iranian civilian jets have been denied access to European airports and, because Congress’ sanctions specifically forbid companies from providing jet fuel to Iran, Iranian passenger planes are struggling to find ways to refuel, doubling the cost of travel for Iranians. Meanwhile, many of the same Iranians who were taking part in protests and fighting brutal government repression last year are now feeling the crunch of sanctions as the prices for most goods rise steeply.

And now, young Iranians who want to travel the world and study in universities in America and Europe are finding that US-led sanctions are denying them that opportunity.

President Obama seems to understand to the importance of connecting Iran’s youth to the world, given that he has placed an emphasis in his outreach efforts on student exchanges and opening up the Internet. Iran is a country of young people–60% of Iranians are under thirty. All of these youth were born after 1979, post-Islamic Revolution, post-hostage crisis, and many even post-Khomeini. They have only lived under the broken promises of the Revolution and yearn for greater rights, more opportunities to express themselves, and increased interaction with the outside world. They are not moved by the Iranian government’s propaganda and don’t find relevance in the anti-Americanism that many in Iran’s government claim as its raison d’être.

Young Iranians hold the greatest hope for a democratic Iran that has positive relations with the US and its neighbors. But by punishing these young Iranians and providing reasons to resent and distrust America, we play into the hands of those in Iran’s government who are more comfortable with isolated, dejected young population than with a vibrant youth that is connected to the outside world and adamant about their rights and aspirations.

President Obama isn’t the only one who understands the importance and power of Iran’s youth. Ahmadinejad’s government is increasingly exerting pressure on young Iranians, a continuation of the crackdowns at university campuses that has been central to Iran’s efforts to suppress dissent over the years. There are instances of increasing cultural repression–such the policing of haircuts and nail polish, and new restrictions on movies and music. There are also expanding attempts to infiltrate and influence young Iranians through schools and universities, including a recent announcement that the government would be dispatching clerics to schools this fall to counter Western influence in classrooms.

Clearly Iran’s government understands that Iran’s young people are the locus for change in Iran. But the US will only alienate these young people by telling them they can’t study in America or even take the GRE.

Obama Administration officials said for months that they only sought sanctions that would punish Iran’s government, not its people. But it’s unclear if any actions were actually taken in this regard. Sanctions are rife with unintended consequences–just look at how US sanctions last June blocked American communication software from being legally available in Iran, even as Iranians depended on Internet communication tools to broadcast their protests to the outside world. Those sanctions have thankfully been repealed, but not until the damage had already been done.

President Obama may not have intended to ban Iranian students from studying abroad. But until he reconciles his stated intentions towards the Iranian people with his Administration’s prioritization of pressure, a pattern of contradictions will continue to emerge between what the President promises on Iran and what policies are actually being pursued.

Urge President Obama to keep his promise to Iranian students

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

  • 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.

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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