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Posts Tagged ‘ human rights ’

  • 17 March 2011
  • Posted By Todd Ruffner
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Human Rights in Iran

Watch: Answering the Iranian People’s Call for Human Rights

On March 15, NIAC hosted a conference, Answering the Iranian People’s Call for Human Rights, featuring US and Swedish government officials, human rights experts, and Iran specialists.  The conference, which was held in the US Senate, was convened to discuss productive approaches to supporting human rights in Iran, including efforts now underway at the UN Human Rights Council to establish a human rights monitor on Iran.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VJr92VA6Jw&w]

Suzanne Nossel, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCmsGTESrp4]

Jonas Hafström, Swedish Ambassador to the U.S.


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkUgvjOk4Ug&w]

Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN), House Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQyT_HS2LCE]

Nazila Fathi, former Tehran-based New York Times correspondent


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71YP0dOwOjY&w]

Panel Discussion

Nader Hashemi, co-editor of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch

Alireza Nader, RAND Corporation

  • 15 February 2011
  • Posted By Todd Ruffner
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009, UN

Crackdown Underway with Mass Jailings and Threats against Opposition Leaders

In the wake of yesterday’s massive protests, a major crackdown appears to be underway.  Radio Zameneh is reporting 1,500 people were arrested in yesterday’s demonstrations and transferred to Evin Prison.  Officials are reportedly refusing to inform families about the status of their loved ones, and “special guards” even attacked and dispersed family members who gathered in front of the Revolutionary Court.

This comes just hours after 221 hard-line Iranian parliamentarians called for the trial and execution of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and even former President Mohammad Khatami.  The large group of lawmakers shouted “death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami,” pumping their fists in unison.  Maintaining that they were responding to pressure from some unseen constituency, the MPs said they “believe the people have lost their patience and demand capital punishment” for the opposition leaders.

While conservative politicians have long called for the opposition leaders to be put on trial, today’s statement at a minimum represents a serious escalation in their attempts to intimidate the opposition into silence.

Considering the mass arrests and Iran’s recent “execution binge,” this could also mark the beginning of an even more egregious campaign of human rights abuses and repression by the Iranian government.

What is clear is that greater attention and action is needed by the international community to address this human rights crisis.

In just a couple weeks, there is a critical opportunity for the US to work with the international community to establish a human rights monitor to provide much needed international scrutiny of the Iranian government’s abuses.

International scrutiny on Iran’s abuses can extend needed protection to the Iranian people, including human rights defenders and democracy activists. The Brookings Institute has documented how these human rights monitors have a measurable impact to reduce human rights violations in trouble spots around the world. But while there are eight such monitors in place, there has not been one for Iran since 2002.

The Iranian people deserve the protection that international attention and pressure can provide in the face of an increasingly abusive regime.  If ever there was a time for the UN Human Rights Council to act, now is it.

  • 1 February 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 3 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Execution of Dutch-Iranian Woman Demonstrates Need for Greater International Pressure on Rights

Zahra BahramiOn Saturday, Iranian-born Dutch citizen Sahra Bahrami was executed purportedly on charges of drug smuggling.  Bahrami was first detained in December 2009 for “security crimes,” but her family believes that she was executed for her involvement in the 2009 Ashura protests while visiting family members in Iran.  In violation of Iranian law, Bahrami’s own Iranian attorney, Jinoos Sharif Razi, and family members were not even informed of when her execution took place.

Despite her possession of Dutch citizenship and passport, Bahrami was denied access to the Dutch consulate because Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.  Gharib Abadi, the Iranian ambassador to the Netherlands, even went so far as to say that “the hanging was ‘an internal issue’ that should have no impact on diplomatic relations.”  Of course, it did, and the Netherlands immediately froze all diplomatic relations with Iran in response to Bahrami’s execution.  On Monday, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and the U.S. State Department called for an immediate halt on all pending executions.  The EU Foreign Affairs Committee also passed a resolution today calling for a focus on Iran’s human rights violations targeted sanctions against “Iranian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses,” mirroring the policy advocated by NIAC and implemented by the United States last September.

Sahra Bahrami’s case is yet another indication that Iran is on an “execution binge.”  From December 19 to January 19, Iran executed 97 prisoners, including four prisoners of conscience. That’s one execution every eight hours.  Such an extensive problem requires a global, systematic response, not one-off statements or reactions.

In March, the international community will have the opportunity to confront Iran’s human rights abuses at the United Nations Human Rights Council.  In particular, the Council can establish a mandate for an international human rights monitor to focus much-needed international scrutiny on Iran’s human rights crisis.  Strong U.S. leadership on the council is required in order for any substantive action to take place since other concerned countries almost always look to the United States for leadership.  Iran will moderate its human rights abuses when it comes under severe international scrutiny, as the  suspension of Sakineh Ashtiani’s sentence to death by stoning demonstrates.

A human rights monitor can create space for Iran’s human rights and democracy movement by keeping the attention of the international community focused on the abuses transpiring in Iran.  When a U.N. human rights monitor was in place for Iran from 1984 to 2002, measurable progress on Iran’s human rights was achieved.  But since the mandate for the human rights monitor was discontinued in 2002, human rights conditions in Iran have significantly worsened, especially after the fraudulent June 2009 elections.

It is an outrage that the Human Rights Council has not already established a human rights monitor for Iran, but to miss yet another opportunity to do so while so many Iranians continue to suffer would be unconscionable.

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

  • 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.

  • 1 July 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

A Half-Hearted Attempt at Accountability

A military court in Iran sentenced two men on Wednesday to death and nine others to jail for the torture of three protesters which resulted in their death last summer at the notorious Kahrizak detention center.  According to the report on Jahan News, an additional 33 others  were also accused of attacking a student dormitory in Tehran.  Despite this development, however, many human rights violations in Iran continue.

Following is a list of some of the many ongoing human rights abuses in Iran that should not be overlooked.  Unfortunately, this isn’t an exhaustive list.

-Currently, Zeinab Jalalian is on death row for moharebeh, or waging war against God, in a trial that has been roundly condemned as unfair and unjust by human rights defenders in Iran and around the world. Reports indicate that Jalalian’s trial lasted only minutes, she was denied access to a lawyer, and no evidence was presented against Jalalian during her trial.

-On June 26, approximately 50 houses owned by Baha’is were demolished in a village northeast of Tehran. According to an eyewitness, the houses were set on fire and then demolished by four bulldozers. “We informed the governor’s office that they were destroying our houses, but they did nothing to prevent it,” he said.

-According to Human Rights Watch, there are 16 Iranian-Kurds on death row in the notorious Evin prison. Their names are Rostam Arkia, Hossein Khezri, Anvar Rostami, Mohammad Amin Abdolahi, Ghader Mohammadzadeh, Habibollah Latifi, Sherko Moarefi, Mostafa Salimi, Hassan Tali, Iraj Mohammadi, Rashid Akhkandi, Mohammad Amin Agoushi, Ahmad Pouladkhani, Sayed Sami Hosseini, Sayed Jamal Mohammadi, and Aziz Mohammadzadeh.

-Majid Tavakoli, a renowned Iranian student activist, is currently suffering from a rapidly deteriorating physical condition in Evin Prison. According to Human Rights House of Iran, Tavakoli is suffering from abdominal bleeding.

Despite the concerns raised by Tavakoli’s prison mates, prison officials have yet to transfer him to the infirmary at Evin.  Tavakoli’s physical condition has deteriorated to the extent that he is no longer able to speak on the phone.  After days of no news, although he contacted his mother briefly today, he was unfortunately unable to speak to her for long due to his incessant coughing.

-Isa Saharkhiz is an imprisoned journalist who has been in prison for a period of one year without due process. He is suffering from hypotension and low blood pressure and recently collapsed for the second time. Prison officials have refused to transfer him to the prison infirmary despite his deteriorating condition.

-There is no news of political activist Mehdi Ale-Ziarat who was originally detained on June 10, 2010. He is a member of “Tose’eye Melli” (National Development) student publication and has worked on a number of articles and photos which were to be used in the first issue of this journal.

These are but a few of the many human rights abuses still going on in Iran.  This list could be far longer.  While news of the Iranian government finally punishing some of those responsible for such abuses is welcome, continued human rights violations show that the government is half-hearted at best in its attempt to display some accountability here.

  • 22 June 2010
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 5 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, UN

Obama’s Pursuit of Sanctions Came at Expense of Human Rights

When the United States’ efforts to pass new Iran sanctions finally came to fruition just days before the June 12 anniversary of Iran’s dubious presidential elections, some observers concluded that the new sanctions must have been a result of the Iranian government’s atrocious human rights violations.

The Obama Administration encouraged this impression, even though the sanctions push actually came at the expense of concerted action on Iran’s human rights crisis. The day after the sanctions vote Secretary Clinton declared. “The sanctions that were passed by the United Nations yesterday are designed to target those who are behind government actions that have increased human rights abuses, like the Revolutionary Guard.”

The truth is that the U.N. sanctions did not make even a passing reference to Iran’s human rights crisis. The Revolutionary Guards were sanctioned not for their appalling human rights abuses, but for their role in Iran’s nuclear program.

Indeed, the Obama Administration made a conscious decision to forgo a major push on human rights in Iran so as to not distract from the all-important UN sanctions push, according to multiple officials who’ve worked with the Administration on Iran’s human rights crisis.

Continue reading at the Huffington Post >>

  • 2 June 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 4 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Oh, the Irony

When I first heard about France and Belgium’s proposed laws for banning the burqa, I was outraged. As an American, I thought it ridiculous, violating the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression and free exercise of religion. I could not believe that two modern, democratic nations would not allow someone to practice their religion simply because they dress differently. As a Muslim, I was hurt.  Counter-arguments of “Well Christians can’t wear the cross either” were not even comparable to me and, quite frankly, made me angry.

But today when Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s Foreign Minister, denounced the law, saying that Iran “attaches great importance to the rights of religious minorities,” I laughed.

Mr. Mottaki, where have you been the past 31 years?

If Iran attaches such great importance to the rights of religious minorities, why are the Bahais still denied access to a university education and the right to inherit property unless they recant their faith? Why are they subject to arbitrary arrest and detention and violent attacks on their homes or property? Why are they denied establishment of places of worship or schools? Is it out of respect that Iran continues to detain seven Bahais after two years, violating their constitutional right to due process?

What of the Jews who until 2003 were not even considered equal to Muslims and Christians for compensation of murdered relatives in court? The Jews who have to build walls around their cemeteries to protect their dead out of fear that tombstones will be smashed or desecrated with anti-Israel slogans. Was Habibollah Elghanian murdered because of Iran’s great respect for religious minorities?

Why does religion continue to be on all identification papers in Iran if all religions are equal? And is imposing a hijab, with penalties for violations, really any better than banning it?

Mr. Mottaki, I ask what of all the Iranians who are not Shi’a Muslim? Before denouncing intolerance in Europe, look to the great intolerance in your own country. Iran, of all countries, does not have the right to denounce France and Belgium’s moves when it continues its much greater discriminatory practices.

And while I am still shocked at the proposed law banning the burqa, and at the fact that Spain, Austria, and the Netherlands are also preparing similar bills, I beg the hypocrites to please not speak out and demean the more valid arguments of many, rightfully-outraged Muslims around the world.

  • 28 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Regime doth protest too much

It seems that despite any claims to the contrary, the Islamic Republic is still at least a little bit fearful for its safety and survival with the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections.

This can be seen in the detaining of artists, hikers, Canadian journalists, and French academics (among many others). It can be seen in the execution of Kurds, Afghans, Bahai’s, and election protesters. However, perhaps the most controversial, the most offensive, and the most un-Islamic, is the recent declaration of a documentary to be released by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to “complete the removal of ambiguities surrounding the murder of Neda Agha Soltan” and provide “new evidence” about the West’s version of events. In other words, to prove that Neda’s murder was staged.

I understand the obsession with Western conspiracies, as there have been many in Iran’s history. I myself am often the first to point to an underlying conspiracy as an explanation for things. Nonetheless, it is clear to any reasonable person that Neda’s death is not a conspiracy. If the initial evidence was not enough to prove it, the regime’s reaction was.

Neda’s family was threatened to make false confessions attributing her death to the West. Her family was prohibited from holding a funeral for her, despite funerals being very important in Iranian and especially Muslim culture. Neda’s fiancé and the doctor who tried to save her life in the video, both scared for their lives, left the country. Her grave was desecrated by supporters of the regime. And now, after all this time, the regime brings it up, yet again, by pointing its finger to others.

But I do not want to argue that Neda’s death was indeed the work of the Islamic Republic, because there are many others who have done that before me. Rather, I would like to point out the regime’s psychological insecurity, at bringing up a death from nearly a year ago. This documentary, like the recent arrests, executions, and detentions, is to be released shortly before the one-year anniversary of the June 12 elections. These events all happening in the span of a few days are more than a coincidence; they are to continuously dissuade people from participating in expected protests. This documentary is likely meant to undermine the powerful symbol she has become as well as the legitimacy of the opposition movement in Iran.

But how long is a family to suffer? The Islamic Republic ought to stop exploiting and hurting the Iranian people simply to allay its own fears and insecurities. Besides, who is really going to believe that the blood coming from Neda’s death was from a ketchup bottle?

As one of the many who cried upon watching Neda’s death, I can only imagine how her family must feel. My advice to the Islamic Republic: show a little Muslim compassion, it is what we are best known for. Let the dead rest in peace. And let the living finally move on.

  • 21 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Afghanistan, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Ethnic Overshadowing in Iran

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially large participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has not been  emphasized for several reasons.

First of all, to emphasize the Kurdish aspect of these execution would allow the government to paint the Green Movement as a “separatist movement” similar to PJAK or PKK, which conflicts with the nationalist narrative that Mousavi has worked so hard to construct.  More importantly, however, it has been noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel can be seen in the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, the role of ethnic conflict in Iran’s internal politics has only increased in recent weeks.  Protests following the controversial hangings took place throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, but the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami.

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK.

Additionally, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou.

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday.

And Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran.

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran last week, thousands in Afghanistan protested in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. While Tehran officials put the number at six, protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges.

While the increased paranoia could be attributed to the anniversary of the June 2009 election, as were last week’s protests, this does not fully explain Iran’s recent clashes with Iraq and its “scenario” with Afghanistan. The more likely explanation is that the very overshadowing of the recent flood of news about Iran has emboldened it in its recent actions. Who will pay attention to such news when the nuclear issue and sanctions are front and center? The issue of human rights in Iran has continuously been subjugated to other issues assumed to be more important, and thus minority rights within Iran are almost completely ignored as well.

The domestic situation in Iran has been overshadowed by recent talk of the deal brokered between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, imminent UN sanctions, and Congress’s push for unilateral sanctions.

While last week’s protests against the execution of five Iranians encompassed all Iranians, there was especially great participation by Iranian Kurds. (Recall that four of these five Iranians were Kurds.) This fact has been not emphasized for several different reasons. First of all, to emphasize the ethnic aspect of the execution would be a cue for the Iranian government to point out the separatist nature of the Green Movement, which has always been looked down upon in Iranian history. More importantly, however, it was noted that these executions were more of a warning against the upcoming anniversary of the June 2009 elections than as a crackdown on an ethnic minority. The parallel was made to the executions prior to the anniversary of the 1979 revolution in February, also meant to deter protests.

Nonetheless, and despite the accuracy of both the aforementioned arguments, a recent ethnic focus on internal politics can in fact be seen. While protests did occur throughout Iran, and in several cities in other parts of the world, the protests in Iranian Kurdistan were especially dramatic. (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2010/05/iran-strikes-in-kurdistan-violent-protests-at-scandinavian-iranian-embassies-over-executions.html ) Many Kurdish cities in Iran went on strike on May 13 in response to the executions, including Mahabad, Ashnaviyeh, Sanandaj, Boukan, Saghez, Marivan and Kamyaran. All businesses in the area were closed as well as most of the schools, as many students refused to attend school. Due to growing tensions in the area, security troops were stationed in the streets and state troops reportedly threatened shop owners in the bazaar, demanding them to end the strikes, the Green Voice of Freedom said. (http://en.irangreenvoice.com/article/2010/may/13/1869 ) In response, the Islamic Republic arrested another Kurd, this time human rights activist Ejlal Ghavami. (http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/middle-east/Report-Kurdish-Rights-Spokesman-Arrested-in-Iran-93781959.html)

While this may have been the end of it, ethnic tensions seem to have only increased, this time across Iran’s borders. On the same day of the protests in Iranian Kurdistan, Iran temporarily detained an Iraqi border guard after mistaking him for a member of the Kurdish rebel group PJAK. (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE64D5H220100514)

Even more important, this past weekend Iranian artillery bombarded parts of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Kurdish rebels opposed to Tehran were said to be holed up.

“From 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) Saturday until [Sunday] morning, Iranians fired on the villages of Khanawa, Totma, Marado, Sourkan and Nalia Rach, causing extensive damage to agricultural land and losses of livestock,” said Azad Oussou. (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hH925s3QsKRthLnNPG8qheENUvJw)

In the bombardment, Iran’s security forces killed at least two Kurds near Iran, alleged members of a Kurdish guerrilla group near the Islamic Republic’s western borders according to a report by state television on Tuesday. (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE64H1TZ.htm)

In addition, Iran’s crackdown on ethnic minorities within the country still continues. According to Human Rights Watch, 17 Kurdish dissidents remain on death row in Iran. (http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/05/11/iran-executed-dissidents-tortured-confess)

Evidence of ethnic concerns for Tehran goes beyond the preoccupation with Kurds, however. After the execution of a number of Afghan refugees in Iran, thousands in Afghanistan protested last week as well in Jalalabad, Herat, and Kabul. Protesters and rights groups say Iran has executed 45 Afghans in recent weeks on drug smuggling charges while Tehran officials put the number at six. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8679336.stm)

Granted, because of the diverse nature of the population, minorities have always been of concern to Iran, and not only in the Islamic Republic. Nonetheless, with these recent incidents, one can only wonder what has spurred the recent increase in concern.

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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