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Posts Tagged ‘ Bayat-Zanjani ’

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

Monolithic Myths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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