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  • 27 October 2011
  • Posted By Lily Samimi
  • 0 Comments
  • Let's Talk Iran, Uncategorized

Implications of Tougher Sanctions

Discussion with renowned Iranian economist and business consultant, Bijan Khajehpour on the economic and political implications of tougher sanctions on Iran. Bijan discusses the winners and losers of tough sanctions and suggests key policy initiatives the U.S. and Iran can take to diffuse the current crises. Bijan Khajehpour was falsely accused of taking part in the protests directly following the June 2009 elections. He was imprisoned in Evin prison for 3 months, however, after much international pressure and protest he was released. Bijan is the chairman and co-founder of Atieh Group, a group of strategic consulting firms that works with leading multinational companies in Iran.

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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.

Why Do We Need to Stand Up to the MEK?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttVUXDF717U]

The push to remove the MEK from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations is intensifying in Congress and in pro-war circles in Washington.

A vote is coming before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week on whether to endorse removing the Iranian Mujahedin from the U.S. foreign terrorist organizations lists.  This would enable it to operate freely and even receive U.S. funding for renewed attacks in Iran.

And John Bolton and Daniel Pipes, who have openly called for the U.S. to bomb Iran, have recently ratcheted up their calls for the MEK to be taken off the terrorist list.

Supporters of the Mujahedin don’t care that the group has no support in Iran. They favor the Mujahedin because it uses violence and terror.

We are standing up to the Mujahedin for three reasons:

1) Delisting the Mujahedin and unleashing its violence would be a major blow to the non-violent, pro-democracy movement.

As Iranian-Americans, we more than anyone else should know from experience that violence can defeat a dictator, but it cannot give us democracy. We have to break the cycle of violence, not perpetuate it.

2) Delisting the Mujahedin would unleash a major force for war.

For years, the Mujahedin have lobbied for the US to attack Iran and to help install MEK leader Maryam Rajavi into power.  We’ve seen how effective they have lobbied for war even while they are a designated terrorist organization.  De-listing them will be a major boost to their lobbying campaign to start a US-Iran war.

3) Delisting the Mujahedin threatens the free, peaceful voices of the Iranian-American community

For years, the Mujahedin have smeared and defamed anyone and any group who differed with them, including Iranian-American organizations and even individuals like Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

As Iranian Americans, we have the ability and responsibility to help break the cycle of violence that has engulfed Iran.  NIAC is the only organization standing up to prevent this from happening.

But we need your help.

Join us in taking a stance for non-violence, democracy and human rights.

Donate $100 today for our efforts to prevent war, protect the pro-democracy movement and break the cycle of violence.

  • 12 July 2011
  • Posted By Ali Tayebi
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Sanctions, Uncategorized

Left Outside the Circle: Iranians and Google+

The newly launched Google social network service called Google+ has created a major buzz online, but has also sparked many questions (and some answers).  Why do we need another social network? What does it have to offer more than Twitter and Facebook?

But for Iranians, there is an even bigger question: will I even be allowed to use Google+?

That’s because the combination of the online filtering carried out by Iran’s government, paired with a U.S. sanctions regime that dissuades companies from offering services in Iran, often leaves Iranians stuck in limbo when it comes to access to social networking tools.

Sadly, with Google+ it looks like the supposedly contradictory forces of repression and sanctions are yet again working in tandem to leave ordinary Iranians outside of the social networking loop.

Over the past decade, despite the many obstacles, Iranians have been vanguards in utilizing social networks. Their journey started with Orkut, which created a huge amount of excitement around experiencing totally new online atmosphere.  Soon after, Orkut was blocked.

Then Yahoo 360 became popular and remained popular until Facebook emerged. Iranians settled into this social network like many other users around the world, and they gradually found their way to bypass the Iran government’s filtering by using VPN or anti-filter software. At the same time, some Iranians use Google Reader, which they called Gooder, as an underground sphere to distribute contents of blocked websites and news agencies in Iran.

Through Facebook, Iranian public figures for the first time started to publicly use social media to directly interact with their supporters. Eventually, Facebook was used in the 2009 election (and later in its aftermath), along with Twitter and YouTube–inspired in part by how Obama’s 2008 campaign utilized these tools. In so doing, Iran became the first Middle-Eastern country to use social media to mobilize people for political purposes. The phenomenon, sometimes referred to as a “twitter revolution” or Revolution 2.0, followed again with the Arab Spring.

Last week, when Google launched Google+ after two unsuccessful experiences in Google Buzz and Google Wave, Iranians started to look to the service and begin considering it next to Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. The initial impression of Google+ is that it has two main areas of potential for Iranians: 1) its integration with Google Reader can unveil the underground networks of Google Reader and easily provide broad access to censored information in Iran, 2) its integration with Google’s homepage, Gmail, and the new Google Toolbar can expand accessibility of Iranians to social networks because history shows that Google services have been the most challenging Internet services for Iran’s government to block.

But even before Google+ become publicly available, Iranians faced difficulties. First, Google banned this service for Iranian IPs and called Iran a “forbidden country.”  Then, a few days later, the Iranian government added Google Plus to their huge list of censored websites.

Now, VPN is the only option for Iranians to use Google+.  But not all the Iranians use VPN to bypass the governmental internet blockage because it is not free and it is not the most reliable or trustworthy option.

From an Iranian perspective, the government behavior is unacceptable, but expected. But for Google to block its new service for Iranians is shaemeful.  The U.S. government, which is talking about putting huge investment for providing free internet access for Iranians in projects like Internet in suitcase, should first take the easy steps and make sure that basic, widely used services like Google+ are not blocked by sanctions.

Two-year election anniversary marked by silent protests, death of Hoda Saber

On the second anniversary of Iran’s fraudulent presidential elections, brave Iranian men and women took to the streets once again in silent and peaceful protests. According to eyewitnesses, “demonstrators numbered in thousands” and were greeted by massive numbers of armed security and military forces at every corner. In a phone interview with the Guardian, one eye witness said, “their numbers were ten times more than an ordinary day in Vali-e-Asr street, I think around 30,000 people were out there in total.” The demonstrators walked the sidewalks of main streets in silence and refused to respond to the Revolutionary Guard’s roaring motorcycles and insulting comments.

Soon after the start of the protests, members of the guard, security and military forces attacked the protestors, beating many and arresting some. According to an eyewitness testimony on Kalameh, “anyone wearing or carrying anything green was arrested. A few young men, in green T-shirts, were quickly arrested. One of the undercover officers angrily smashed the head of one of the boys on the door of the vehicle, shouting ‘Mousavi and the color green are forever dead!’ before forcing the boy into a van filled with protestors.”

The election anniversary was also marked by the sudden death of imprisoned journalist and activist Reza Hoda Saber after an eight-day hunger strike, adding to the heartache and anger of many Iranians. Hoda Saber began his strike on June 2 as a protest to the treatment and death of Haleh Sahabi, who herself was killed when she was temporarily released from prison to pay respects at the funeral of her father, Ezatollah Sahabi.

Hoda Saber was reportedly taken to Modarres hospital due to complaints of chest pain, where the cause of his death was announced to be a heart attack. The sad irony is that it seems, according to the Iranian government at least, that the fate of imprisoned activists in Iran is all the same: death, caused by a heart attack.  According to Tehran Bureau, “doctors have said that if he had been brought to the hospital in a timely fashion, he would not have died.”  Meanwhile, Iranian authorities deny Hoda Saber was on a hunger strike in the first place.

Yesterday, however, sixty-four of his prison mates signed a witness testimony that was published on Kalameh by anonymous ‘green’ allies at the Evin prison. They testify that Hoda Saber was a healthy, active man who worked out everyday and did not have any illness in the year he had spent in the prison.

  • 17 November 2010
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 1 Comments
  • Uncategorized

Lieberman to Push for Iran War Resolution?

Senator Joe Lieberman on Tuesday signaled that the incoming Congress may consider endorsing war with Iran.

Speaking before the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative think tank formed by many of the chief architects of the Iraq war, Lieberman was questioned by accomplished war advocate Bill Kristol about how the new Congress will factor into Iran policy.

Lieberman said that Congress would focus on pressing the Administration on sanctions, but also suggested Congress may decide to formally endorse military options against Iran.  According to Lieberman, Congress’ role should include “that we express what I believe is actually there in the Congress and I think it’s there in the American people.  Nobody wants to use military force against Iran, but there is a base, a broad bipartisan base of support if the Commander in Chief comes to a point where he thinks that’s necessary.”

MR. KRISTOL: And so Congress could —

SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Could express that in some way, but I think that’s not tomorrow, but it may be down the road depending on — I mean, when you think about it, by January it will have been six months since the sanctions began to be applied to Iran, and it’s fair to say that there’s been no voluntary limitation of their nuclear weapons program.

While Lieberman was careful to say that such a Congressional action endorsing war would be in “support” of the President if he decides force is necessary, the pro-war crowd is clearly trying to turn up the pressure on Obama and is unlikely to be satisfied with compromise.  Republicans have already demonstrated a willingness to undermine the President on foreign policy, with incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s suggestion to Benjamin Netanyahu that Republicans would be a “check” on Obama as just the latest example.  Earlier this year, House Republicans introduced a resolution endorsing Israeli strikes against Iran, undercutting the authority of the President and his civilian and military leadership to prevent such an attack by sending a signal that Congress would stand with Israel instead of the President.

Lieberman, who recently joined his Senate colleague Lindsey Graham to “up the rhetorical ante” on Iran by endorsing the military option against Iran, buys into the argument offered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week  that escalating war rhetoric against Iran should be part of US policy.  This is the next step in paving the path to war—whether under Obama or, as was the case with Iraq in the 90’s, to tee up war for the next President.  Once the war threat is out there, it doesn’t go away.

Such advice defies pushback from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and dire warnings about the consequences of strikes from US military leaders.  It ignores a recent USIP-Stimson report that states, “Even veiled allusions to the ‘military option’ reinforce those Iranian hardliners who argue that Iran requires nuclear weapons to deter the US, and protect Tehran’s security and freedom of action.”  And it flies in the face of Iranian democracy activists and human rights defenders who say that war can only undercut their cause.

Lieberman argued yesterday in the Wall Street Journal that Obama can seize an opportunity to forge a “bipartisan foreign policy” by teaming up with new Republican leadership in Congress to thwart “anti-war Democrats and isolationist Republicans.”  But it is unclear how long Lieberman and the pro-war crowd will be willing to wait before pushing to further undercut the President by signaling that Congress is ready for war with Iran.

  • 12 August 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Vl
  • 3 Comments
  • Uncategorized

Iranian Students Face Hardships at Home, Obstacles in the U.S.

On Monday, the NY Times published an article discussing the rising number of Iranians seeking to study int he US and the hardships they encounter in the process of applying for U.S student visa’s.  The piece suggests that more Iranians are coming to the U.S. to study because of repression at home, where Iranian students who express their political views are blacklisted from universities and forced to continue their education abroad. But troubles for Iranian students continue once they have left, since  the U.S. only permits Iranian students to obtain single-entry visas, meaning students are unable to leave the U.S. at any point during their studies–which in some cases can be for up to a decade–even for academic conferences or to visit sick family members.

It is mind boggling that the White House has procrastinated so long to alter the single-entry student visa policy vis-à-vis Iran. I say mind boggling because Washington is allowing its political confrontation to impact academic and cultural exchanges with Tehran.  A common excuse cited by the State Department to justify its single-entry policy is predicated on the principle of “reciprocity” –which is supposed to replicate the student visa procedures of the country with which we have no diplomatic relations. But ironically, Iran’s student visa posture actually allows foreigners to study in Iran without the single-entry restrictions that Washington has imposed on Iranian students. It is regrettable that the White House, which has the authority to change this burdensome policy, is managing to perpetuate a bitter divide that only exasperates tensions and limits the possibility of cultural and academic dialogue between our two nations.

Iranian students already face serious obstacles from their government to study in the west. For example, Iran’s Minister of Health, Marzieh Dastjerdi has announced that the new restrictions will apply to students seeking to study in Britain and the United States. Dastjerdi’s announcement is in line with the Supreme Leader’s wish to discourage any study abroad program that exposes Iranian students to western educational institutions. One may ask why the Ayatollah would be so afraid if Iranian students studied in Europe or the U.S. And perhaps, the best answer is that those who travel abroad may better realize how their system of governance is so authoritarian and repressive that it will entice them to demand for change.

It is in our interest to open our doors to ambitious Iranian students who desire to receive the best education the world can offer. Such an opportunity can usher a new prosperous phase in citizen diplomacy, and more importantly, would create a bridge between our cultures that will overcome decades of animosities and misconceptions.

Therefore, it is very disconcerting to learn that Washington’s reciprocity principle is based on mirroring the Islamic Republic’s indignant policy toward Iranian students which is detrimental to the advancement of human rights and democracy in Iran.

Underground Music Eludes Government Efforts to Silence It

Music has become political as Iranians turn to alternative outlets to express their frustration at the leaders of their government. Avid fans of blocked music have found ways to maneuver around government censors to download the “resistance music” the Islamic regime has so doggedly tried to silence.

Rap, folk, and classical music artists have all come together to give rise to a varied and dynamic underground music scene which has grown rapidly in the wake of the 2009 election in Iran. The lyrics of dissent have caught the attention of a wide public audience, speaking to the young and old alike.  As street demonstrations and open rebellion have been repressed, music has become a subtle but powerful form of protest according to Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Standford University.

The lyrics to one such song by traditional artist Mohammad Reza Shajarian titled “Language of Fire,” are pointed and powerful, making it an overnight hit:

Lay down your gun/ As I hate this very abnormal shedding of blod/The gun in your hand speaks the language of fire and iron/But I, before this fiendish tool/Have nothing but, the language of the heart/ The heart full to the brim with love for you/Who are in love with the enemy.

Unsurprisingly, the music has come under the ever-watchful government eye in Iran. Some artists like Persian classical musician Shahram Nazeri have paid a steep price for artistic freedom. Nazeri was held in custody and threatened after his release of an anti government song, “We Are Not Dirt or Dust.” His song was a response to President Ahmadinejad’s dismissal of protesters as “dirt and dust” in the aftermath of the demonstrations following the disputed presidential election last year.

Artists like rapper Shahin Najafi and folk artist Mohsen Namjoo have found themselves homeless.  Najafi now lives in Cologne, Germany and faces three years in prison and one hundred lashes should he choose to return to his native country. As Namjoo, who now lives in Palo Alto, California, told New York times reporter Nazila Fathi, “you have to constantly live with fear.”

However, there have been victories. When broadcasters tried to play Shajarian’s music as part of a government propaganda campaign, he proclaimed himself the voice of dirt and dust. He stood up to the state-controlled media and threatened to sue broadcasters if they continued. In the end, the voice of dirt and dust triumphed and broadcasters backed off.

Why Rafsanjani is so important for the Greens

Six months ago in Mashad, Iran, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a speech to a group of Iranian student activists saying: “If people want us, we will govern; and if they don’t, we will have to go.”

This might have seemed like nothing new, but it wasn’t coming from just anyone — it was said by Hashemi Rafsanjani,  Iranian cleric and a two-term Iranian president.  Still to this day known as one of the most powerful individuals in Iranian politics, Rafsanjani leads the body that has the power to unseat the Supreme Leader.

This one statement, coming from Rafsanjani, cracked the entire foundation of Velayat- e- Faghih — the rule of God’s representative over man and country.

Just a few days ago, Rafsanjani reiterated his statement when delivering a speech at the anniversary of a religious ceremony in Tehran. After welcoming his guests, Rafsanjani started speaking about the will of the people and how people are in charge of their own destiny. He said God will not take anyone to Heaven by force who doesn’t want to go himself; each person has the right to choose for him or herself the path he/she will take.

“We have to find the path of God ourselves with our own will. Our own will and that is what is important.”

These subtle political messages are common among Iranian clergies, and they regularly communicate with each other through speeches at different sermons, which can be extremely frustrating to an outsider. Rafsanjani later said:

“The path of good vs. evil has existed since the beginning of time and will continue to be around until the end of time. Humans have been and must continue to be responsible and free to choose their own path in this world.”

No wonder the hard-line conservatives have been severely attacking Rafsanjani lately. He has been around even before the Iranian revolution and has actively been one of the main pillars of the Islamic Republic establishment since its inception. At this point in time, though, he is coming to realize the incompatibility of the current establishment with the new Iranian generation and the democratic world.

He is aware that significant reforms will be needed in order for modern Iran to survive, which is exactly what the Green Movement has been saying for the past year. If the system does not bend with the demands of its people, then it will be just like what Rafsanjani said, but perhaps much harsher.

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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