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  • 14 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 1 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Sanctions

NIAC Applauds Proposal to Enable Iranians’ Online Activities

NIAC welcomes Congressional initiative to correct flawed Internet regulations

Contact: Phil Elwood
212.486.7091

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council welcomes today’s introduction of H.R.4301, the Iranian Digital Empowerment Act (IDEA) in the House of Representatives, and applauds the bill’s sponsors Representatives Representatives Jim Moran (D-VA), Bill Delahunt (D-MA), and Bob Inglis (R-SC).

NIAC President Trita Parsi welcomed the new proposal, calling it a “long overdue correction of one of the most glaringly self-defeating aspects” of US sanctions on Iran.  Due to ambiguities in current US sanctions law, companies and private citizens in the US are barred from sending software to the people of Iran, including important communication and anti-censorship tools that ensure the free flow of information.  The Iranian Digital Empowerment Act clarifies that US sanctions do not apply to software that enables the people of Iran to circumvent government monitors and censors as well as communications software and services.

(Click here for NIAC’s one page fact-sheet on IDEA)

“Sanctions alone are not going to alter the Iranian government’s behavior,” Parsi said, “but the last thing US laws should do is hinder the Iranian people’s ability to access information and communication tools online.” Recently, Microsoft and Google suspended certain instant messaging services in Iran, citing their obligations under US sanctions.  Facebook also considered cutting its service to Iran prior to the election, though ultimately decided against such a move, which would have deprived the Iranian people of a critical outlet for communicating post-election events to the outside world.  Still, current regulations are ambiguous about the legality of offering online services to Iran.

Representative Moran emphasized the importance of this legislation following its introduction: “Given the tectonic shifts in Iranian society following the fraudulent national election and emboldened democracy movement that rose from it, we need to move fast to make these sanctions smarter and more relevant to current technology,” he said.  “IDEA taks a smart approach to our existing sanctions policy by ensuring that Iranian fighting for change are strengthened–those at the front lines of the pro-democracy movement–and not the oppressive regime.”

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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