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  • 10 June 2010
  • Posted By Shawn Amoei
  • 0 Comments
  • Iranian American activism, Iranian Youth

The Iranian Diaspora’s New Political Awakening

There is change afoot in Iranian communities all across the globe.

The Iranian Diaspora is coming of age politically, and nothing has helped propel this change more than the disputed presidential elections of June 2009 and the young Iranians who led the post-election unrest. Whereas once the Diaspora communities were psychologically fractured and plagued with ideological differences, the events of last summer have managed to forge a degree of unity unseen in the past 30 years.

Rallies to raise awareness about the Green Movement are planned in cities as diverse and far apart as São Paulo, Tokyo and Johannesburg. With hundreds of rallies scheduled for the anniversary of the June 12th election, global attention will once again be focused on the Iranian struggle for democracy. One key group, United4Iran, is coordinating over 60 demonstrations on June 12th across six continents. They aim to show the world that the thirst for freedom and the desire to have a meaningful say in one’s own affairs is an Iranian struggle over a century old, dating back to the Tobacco Protest of the 1890s.

A significant development, though largely unnoticed, is the impact students of Iranian descent are having in leading these efforts. This young college population can best be described as pragmatic, with a keen understanding of how to appeal to non-Iranians and attract them to this cause.

Iranian-American author Reza Aslan explains the difference between the outlook of younger and older generation Iranians in the Diaspora. The younger generation does not

carry the baggage of their parents. The generation that was forced out of Iran and into exile…has quite understandably a very emotional resonance when it comes to the Islamic Republic, and unfortunately as a result is not always a rational voice for dealing with Iran as a problem.

Not having that baggage puts them in a much better position to deal with the reality of Iran.

This generation of socially active and politically conscious youth can be credited for much of the unity seen today. Although some older activists still remain entrenched in the ideologies they have held since even before the Islamic Revolution, many others are now finding common cause realizing that they all share the same end goal. This new Iranian pragmatism is cause for great hope. As Nietzsche once said, “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”

Young Iranians across the globe are making sure that that is no longer the case.

Maz Jobrani’s Message of Support

Iranian-American comedian (and member of NIAC’s advisory board) Maz Jobrani has a message of support for the Iranian people:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mO5S1g7J4E]

NJ Voter Registration Fiasco

Zary Mojtabai and her sister were both denied their vote in their preferred New Jersey Primary earlier this year. When they showed up at the polling station they were informed that they were tagged as Republicans, even though they had not officially affiliated themselves with either political party. Consequently, they were ineligible to vote in the Democratic Primary. The inability to exercise their right was further soured by the fact that their votes as Democrats were significant in their mostly Republican district; Mojtabai commented that “We were really looking forward to participate in this first major New Jersey primary election and it has been very frustrating to encounter such an ambiguous obstacle.”

For all the cynics, contacting your representative WORKS!

In an interview published last Monday, US Congressman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA30), whose district boasts a very large number of Iranian Americans, stated that he’s getting “mixed messages” from our community on how to deal with the Iran situation, but recent polling has shown that on the whole there is very minimal support for military action in the Iranian American community.

It is important for our community to recognize the power it does have in changing and influencing the opinions of their members of Congress. This interview is just the latest clear example that they are listening to us and making judgements, in part, based on our opinions.

Led by Youth, Future of Iranian-American Participation Grows Brighter

Iranian American participation in civic life is growing, and it is the younger generations that are leading this effort. As some of the other NIAC interns observed last week, Iranian Americans have often distanced themselves from politics in socially vibrant but politically dormant communities. From expert Iranian scholars to average Iranian American citizens, many label this lack of political engagement “understandable” and “unsurprising” given Iranians political past. And the trend is both those things.

What it is not, however, is here to stay.

Speak Out and Make a Difference

This week, as part of the Campaign for New American Policy on Iran’sNational Call-In Day,” over 6,000 calls came in from all over the country to members of Congress to advocate direct diplomacy with Iran.  As feedback comes in from NIAC members and Iranian Americans throughout the country, it is clear our Congressional representatives are listening to the voice of Iranian Americans calling for diplomacy with Iran.

With the constant drumbeat for war, this is as it should be.

“Time to Talk to Iran” event and press conference – 06/10

I attended my first event on behalf of NIAC the other day. It was set-up by the Campaign for a New American Policy on Iran (CNAPI) and the Enough Fear Campaign and was entitled “Time to Talk to Iran.” By setting up a line of attention-grabbing red 1960’s style “hotline” telephones the organizers were able to attract people to speak directly to Iranians. Apart from being fun and fresh, this initiative had a serious message behind it: America should use diplomacy rather than go to war with Iran.

  • 9 June 2008
  • Posted By Julia Murray
  • 5 Comments
  • About, Iranian American activism, Legislative Agenda

First Day at NIAC

It is my first day interning at NIAC and I am very excited to be here. I am from Scotland and attend St Andrews University but I have been in America since last August on my junior year abroad. Studying in the U.S. has been a fantastic experience and one that has opened many doors for me, not least because of the opportunity to intern in Washington, D.C.

From these introductory remarks it is obvious that I am not Iranian American. Nevertheless, I found a placement at NIAC extremely appealing for a number of reasons. First, my major is International Relations and consequently the issues that NIAC deals with are relevant for this area of study. I hope that interning here will better my understanding of U.S. foreign policy, as well as civil society and its influence over policy making. More specifically, the issues that NIAC deals with pertain to my major and are important from an international affairs point of view. For instance, its efforts to highlight human rights abuses in Iran; I wish I could have been around when NIAC held its conference on “Human Rights in Iran and U.S. Policy Options” since I am especially interested in this topic.

Election 2008: The Importance of Involvement

Over the past few weeks I have been working feverishly gathering information and resources concerning the upcoming elections (both Presidential and Congressional). I remain amazed at the wealth of electoral knowledge and information that is easily available to everyone. No doubt many of the people who are reading this blog have already received NIAC reminders concerning the elections (as the notices are time sensitive those who have later primaries or caucuses will not receive theirs until later) and have seen how much information is really at your fingertips when it comes to voting and participating. It is our position at NIAC that every Iranian American can help initiate change and progress and to do so requires diligence and effort.

The Iranian American vote

I have often been asked, “There are so many Iranian Americans in California, how come the Presidential candidates are not asking for our votes?”

This is a good place to start our discussions about the Iranian-American voter and our potential impact on electoral politics. There are so many factors that help determine the relative impact of any community on the political process, and certainly the number of potential voters is one important variable.

(Below the fold I’m going to start our discussion about the potential impact of our community on the political debate, and begin a series on the 2008 election cycle…)

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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