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  • 28 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

The Wavering Guards: Whose side are they on?

The following post is based on the experience of a trusted source in Iran.

Normally it’s the mothers and fathers looking for their arrested sons and daughters, but this time it was the son, looking not only for his mother and father, but his uncle, aunt and seventy-nine year-old grandmother. He waited with other parents in a Tehran holding facility, which doubled as a resting place for various government forces.  “Excuse me, could I just get my keys from my parents please?” he lied in the hopes of speaking with his family.

To which the guard responded, “No, just stay with your uncle tonight.”

“But my uncle’s with them.”

“Then stay with your aunt,” said the guard.

“She’s in there too,” he replied.

“Go to your grandmothers, then!” said the guard. Unlike the US, in Iran, it’s safe to assume that one’s extended family live in such close proximity.

“But, you’ve arrested my grandmother too!” he pleaded with frustration.

“Well, then you might as well join them,” the guard joked and perhaps taking pity on him, showed him to his parents.

His family along with many others were arrested near Tehran University without even having had participated in the Ashura protests.  Apparently, one Basij told the crowd they couldn’t enter a street near Tehran University. As they were turning around to leave, another guard told them to sit down causing everyone to ask, “Why?”

To which the guard responded, “Everyone, get in the van!”

The men and women were separated in the area, similar to how they are for prayer in mosques. There were about seventy women in a room, all of whom who had to turn and face a wall the moment a Basij or police officer entered the room to rest—a forced gesture of modesty.

The men, which totaled 400, were kept in another room. Guards in both rooms kept asking, “Is anyone sick? Is anyone sick?” out of fear of having someone die on their watch.

Each room was filled with camaraderie as the detained shared stories of how they were arrested. It even turned into a reunion of sorts as one fifty year-old protester met a long lost friend who had participated in the 1979 Revolution with him.

The guards’ amateurish behavior even provided the detained with something to laugh at. His mother witnessed one of the robot-dressed militia men, try numerous times to fit in through a door which was clearly too small for him with all the gear he was wearing. After several failed attempts, the guard finally realized he had to turn to his helmeted-head to the side to fit through the door.

Women in Iran are known as shirzan, the lioness, for their bravery and  cunning. Yesterday, they proved worthy of the title as they destroyed their cell phones and threw them down the toilette to avoid confiscation—leaving the guards in possession of only ten phones.

Fortunately, this one lucky family was freed with nothing more than a mark on their record. Well, not all of them. The youth’s uncle went to the bathroom during documentation of the detained, leaving without a trace.

Though the guards proved inept in their administrative capabilities, their inability to confiscate cell phones from seventy women, to walk through doors and to document who was in their custody; their intimidation tactics proved effective. One guard told a 16-year old, “Hey there good looking, I screwed two pretty assholes like you just yesterday.” The family left unscathed physically, but emotionally fired up, vowing to take to the streets more fervently than before.

Perhaps the guard’s failure to conduct the most basic procedures was due to their incompetence and lack of training. But, this seems doubtful considering the regime dealt more decisively with larger protests after the disputed Presidential elections. Or was their failure to let such straightforward tasks fall through the cracks because they just don’t care anymore? Perhaps they’ve had a change of heart after seeing women protesters rush to their rescue or their morale is low after witnessing peaceful protesters beaten by their peers? These guards can’t revolt to show their disheartenment, but they can sure do a shoddy job.

Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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