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In Iran, It’s Fun To Be A Rebel

If one asks the majority of Iranian youths why they want democracy, their immediate answers are surprisingly not freedom of speech, free elections or even a better economy. “Fun” is what most of them desire the most. Having fun without being told their behavior is un-Islamic or an attempt to topple the regime.

Since the Islamic Revolution, and the rise and fall of various government figures, the definition of fun in Iran has changed drastically. Often mixed with Islamic ideologies, some of the most basic social activities in Iran are defined improper for the youth and met with crackdowns, criticism and even arrests.

An event that aroused attention and hype in Iran last month was the gathering of over 800 Tehrani girls and boys in Water and Fire Park playing with water guns and bottles just laughing and wetting one another. The so called “water war,” which was originally organized via Facebook, spread to other major cities and became a cool way to pass a hot summer afternoon.

But a few days later, national TV aired its infamous confessions of those arrested with blacked out faces, speaking about the social media scheme in which young people had been seduced into toppling the regime through a water game.

How to respond to such serious allegations?  A mocking, sarcastic confession video of a young man explaining his extensive water gun training in Israel and America quickly spread via the event’s Facebook page. Mass emails containing photos of happy faces and soaked-in-water youth in the park made the rounds through Iranian inboxes.  Further events were planned, such as a kite flying gathering in Isfahan that promised to bring the youth together for celebration of the end of summer.  On the kites, young people would scribble a dream before flying them in the air.

Yet perhaps the allegations are true.  What seems to most of us to be a joyful assembly of young men and women could at the same time very well be a protest against a system that constrains its youth’s most basic dreams.

Unfortunately, Iranians have witnessed or directly experienced the brutal clampdown of the regime not only after Presidential election, but also through the aid it’s believed to be giving to the neighboring country, Syria against protesters of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. In the wake of the Arab spring , when hope for the future of Iran could rise from the ashes of 2009 turmoil, it is news like that from Syria which creates fear and intimidation for Iranians, leaving them to come up with alternative ways to voice their opposition.  What could be better than “fun?”

And what could be better than mocking–and reapproptiating–what the government legitimizes as proper. For example, each year, the Ministry of Culture holds a Festival for Twins of all ages–a night of (government-sanctioned) celebration, with music, performance and laughter. So, young people organized a slightly less official Gathering of Curly Haired Ones in Tehran’s Melat Park and, my personal favorite, the Festival of Bad Fashion. It has been through these events that larger gatherings such as water war were born.

Not every one is happy to see the youth of a country, who make up 70 percent of the population, coming together. So, the authorities will do anything to stop them–either with intimidation beforehand or constant crackdowns, which are promoted as acts of “restoring order” and “enforcing Islamic values.”

For those who cannot attend these events for reasons varying from obligations to fear and suspicions, social media is a great way to rebel while having fun.

Facebook invite for the "Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces"

Last week, I received an invitation on Facebook for an event called Happy and Fun Event of Raping and Splashing Acid in Faces with more than fifteen hundred attending RSVPs. For the location, organizers say the event will be held in every villa, street, garden, home and even public space.

It’s a perfect example of how Iranian youth have used sarcasm and laughter against the pressure, disorder and insecurity surrounding their lives.

Even though I don’t believe the behaviors of these Iranian youth are entirely and purposefully acts of rebellion, I do believe when you live in a country where everything you do–from what you wear and who you are allowed to sit next to on the bus, to what music you can listen to–is controlled by a select few, every opportunity you take to have a little fun can be, consciously or unconsciously, a way to rebel.

  • 2 June 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 1 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions

Are Iran hawks pushing Tehran’s narrative?

Reading Seymour Hersh’s latest piece in the New Yorker, I can’t help but get déjà vu.

Hersh reports that the recent (classified) 2011 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear weapons program reaches the same conclusion as the 2007 NIE that Iran had a nuclear weapons program but halted it in 2003.  Despite the two conclusions, many politicians and other policymakers remain steadfast in their own public conclusions that contradict the last two NIEs.

All of this brings me back to the build-up to war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Yes, Saddam was being “cagey” about his perceived weapons program, but he had a reason.  He didn’t want the world–Iran in particular–finding out that he really didn’t have one.  So, in defying the west and giving the weapons inspectors the run around, he kept the illusion alive.   He needed the idea of a weapons program to deter his neighbor and avowed enemy.

According to Hersh’s source, a retired senior intelligence official, Iran may have had a similar calculus.  Hersh reports, that the 2011 version initially included a finding that concluded Iran ended its program in 2003 because it was aimed at Saddam and since he had been toppled it was no longer necessary. That point was ultimately removed from the final draft, because, according to Hersh’s source, there wasn’t enough hard evidence to support that conclusion.

This is in direct contrast to the conclusions drawn by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and touted in his recent speech to a joint session of Congress last week.  He says that Iran stopped its weapons program because it feared military action.

“The more Iran believes that all options are on the table, the less the chance of confrontation,” Netanyahu said before Congress.  In reality, it is precisely these types of threats that may actually provide the rationale for Iran to pursue a nuclear deterrent.

So, these two contrasting conclusions bring Iran’s intentions into question.  As a European diplomat says in Hersh’s article, “is Iran behaving in a way that would be rational if they were not developing a nuclear weapon?”  The diplomat concludes, “Their behavior only makes sense if their goal is to have the bomb.”

Is it though? The case of Saddam demonstrates that sometimes states bluff or appear cagey to achieve strategic goals other than simply hiding a weapons program.  In Iran’s case, standing up to the United States and the perception that it may have an advancing nuclear weapons program gives it prestige, presents it as a top regional power

As Seymour Hersh points out in his article, former director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei discusses this very point in his recent memoir, “Tehran is determined to be recognized as a regional power….even if the intent is not to develop nuclear weapons” it “sends a signal of power to Iran’s neighbors and to the world.”

By ignoring this alternative reading of Iran’s behavior, or hyping perceived threats to advance more hawkish policies domestically, we run the risk of miscalculating Iran’s intentions or even reinforcing a narrative they seek to advance as a strategic interest unto itself.  And a policy that is based in the “popular” reading of Iran’s behavior could actually help push Iran to actually developing a nuclear weapon.  We still have time to prevent making this strategic error, but its unclear anyone in Washington has actually learned the lessons from Iraq.

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

A Majlis of the IRGC, by the IRGC, and for the IRGC



The recent battle over Azad University and its assets is not only a sign of a growing division in Iran’s hardliners. If one looks more closely, the growing importance of the IRGC in Iranian politics is also becoming clearer.

Originally created by Ayatollah Khomeini to be the Supreme Leader’s personal militia, the IRGC acts independently from the official armed forces. While it already controls a large segment of the Iranian economy, in the last decade the IRGC has also been increasingly acting like an independent branch in the government.

In recent decades, the IRGC has been used to suppress Iran’s rapidly developing civil society and student movement. Over the last two years, though, it has reached a boiling point: Hillary Clinton said Iran is becomming a “military dictatorship,” and the disputed electoral victory for Ahmadinejad last June was labeled a military coup.

“It is not a theocracy anymore,” said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs and co-author of an exhaustive study of the IRGC. “It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system.”

Now, the IRGC’s ascendancy is playing out in a battle over Azad University, its board, its 1.5 million students, and its billions of dollars worth of assets.

On June 19, Azad University’s board secured a temporary injunction preventing the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution (SCCR) from enforcing its revision of the university’s charter. In support of Azad University, on June 20 a bill was rushed through the 270-member Majlis that allowed universities to endow their properties to the public, thus circumventing the government takeover of the University.

As all political moves in Iran are protested by one group or another, shortly thereafter Basijis and Ahmadinejad loyalists protested outside Majlis, claiming the bill was against Khamenei’s will. Protesters threatened to place the Majlis “under fire” unless it backed away from its bill.

What is interesting to note is that the Basij and Ahmadinejad loyalists were not actually acting in the name of the Supreme Leader as they claimed. In fact, Khamenei came out and called for unity, saying “I object to any comment, move, action, or written text that leads to division and rift…We need to promote consolidation.” It thus seems that the Basij have actually developed a position of their own, independent of the Supreme Leader.

As a result of the heated protests, 100 legislators voted for emergency discussion of legislation that would support the SCCR’s authority in the matter. In other words, this discussion could overturn the endowment bill passed earlier on June 20.

The fact that protest by the Basij led many Majlis members to change their mind is a sign of their growing power.  According to U.S.-based political analyst Reza Fani Yazdi:

“It seems that from now on any bill that is due to be ratified by the parliament [must] be approved by the security military forces, otherwise the same thing will happen and they will bring their pressure groups to the streets and force the parliament not to make any independent decisions— even the current parliament, which includes many former members of the [Revolutionary Guard] and close aides of Ahmadinejad’s government.

As NIAC Advisory Board Member Reza Aslan said shortly after the June elections, “There is a genuine fear… that Iran is beginning to resemble Egypt or Pakistan, countries in which the military controls the apparatus of government.” If the IRGC begins to control the Majlis as well, Aslan will have proven to be right.

It is important to note, of course, that the IRGC is far from a monolithic organization. Members voted for various political candidates in the elections and of course do not all support Ahmadinejad. In fact, many former members denounced the regime’s brutal crackdown following the June 2009 elections. The effects of this great diversity on the battle over Azad University remains to be seen.

For now,  if the Ahmadinejad camp wins this political battle, they will control the billions of dollars of assets belonging to the university. The university’s campuses will be controlled by the government’s security and military apparatus. But most important, and perhaps most frightening, their victory will also serve as a precedent for the IRGC to effectively control the Majlis in the future through intimidation and violence, thus permanently overshadowing the most representative branch of the Iranian government. And with such a diverse IRGC, who knows what will happen next?

Photo Credit: Radio Farda

  • 26 May 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • 2 Comments
  • Israel

And Yet Another Great Satan

Having made some important concessions on the proposed nuclear fuel swap with Brazil and Turkey, Iran now seems to have compensated by taking a harder line at home ahead of the June 12 anniversary of last year’s election.

Iran signed onto the Brazilian-Turkish deal, marking a significant concession from Iran’s previous position which had demanded the fuel swap take place in small batches, inside Iran’s borders, and simultaneous to the delivery of reactor fuel.

But every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

The Iranian government now is cracking down on public morality and what it calls “bad hijab.”

Last week, Guardian Council member Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati in his Friday prayer called for a crackdown on Iranian women, beginning with government employees and students. He also recommended the students to dress conservatively to get good grades. Ayatollah Ahmad Alam-al-Hoda of Mashhad went on even further, describing badly veiled women as foreign agents.

Morality police squads have now begun to crackdown on people with outfits and hairdos deemed un-Islamic. This time around, though, it’s not just the offenders of the dress code who are targeted, but shopkeepers as well. According to Babylon & Beyond, many clothing stores which sell coats for women deemed provocative by the anti-vice squad have been shut down as well. The vendors were warned by the police to sell only long coats and keep customers with daring outfits out of their stores.

“We were told by the moral security police to go to court and the judge will decide how much of a fine we will have to pay to reopen,” said one shopkeeper. “From now on we can only sell [coats] with a minimum length of 110 centimeters [about 43 inches] and we must not display them in a provocative way. Boys with spiky and fashionable hair and very short sleeves … are not allowed in our shops.”

“Our enemies intend to pull the rug of religion from under the feet of our youth by spreading bad veil in the society,” said al-Hoda. “Anytime badly veiled women and girls sport strong makeup to deviate a young man from the right path, the enemy will be pleased with victory.”

With the nuclear swap deal on the table, festering public discontent, and expectations of public demonstrations to mark the upcoming election anniversary, it seems the Islamic Republic has decided it is in need of another Great Satan: improper hijab.

  • 24 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 0 Comments
  • Diplomacy, US-Iran War

Peace in our time!

The era of threat and force is over! At least according to President Ahmadinejad. During a meeting last Thursday in Tehran with Kuwaiti Speaker Jassim Mohammad al-Kharafi, Ahmadinejad stated:

Those, thinking that they can be influential through threat and force, should know that the era of such behaviors is gone.

The thought of Ahmadinejad claiming to want to engage in “logic and dialogue” instead of using force and threats to solve global issues gives a little bit of hope to peace loving individuals everywhere. Of course, I’m not holding my breath.

Iran has been reaching out to several states in an effort to strengthen bilateral ties, given the uncertainty at home. In regard to “Iran-Kuwait ties, President Ahmadinejad said both countries can run the region along with each other and guarantee full security there”. In addition, the Kuwaiti speaker has said that it has always been ready to remain by Iran and that it proved that it ” seeks fully peaceful nuclear energy and follows diplomacy of dialogue to solve all problems”.

What is ironic is that a few weeks ago, Iran was accused of running an espionage ring in Kuwait after seven people were arrested in connection with a spy cell. Iran denied it and said that the Kuwaiti government should “not be trapped by tricks”. “The claim discussed by some media on discovering a spy cell in Kuwait seeks undermining bilateral ties,” the Iranian embassy in Kuwait said in a statement.

  • 20 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 2 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Hikers and Mothers in Emotional Reunion

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The three American hikers who were detained by Iranian officials back in July were finally reunited with their mothers in Iran today.

Relatives of the hikers, Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer, and Josh Fattal, say that the trio were hiking along northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region and accidently crossed the border into Iran. A simple mistake, no? Tehran does not think so. Tehran is paranoid at the thought of anyone trying to topple the Islamic Republic and will detain anyone who seems suspicious. On one hand, in the case of the hikers, it is understandable that Iran would worry about someone crossing into the border, especially from Iraq since the United States has such an overwhelming presence there. Look at the United States. We enforce a very strict border control with our neighbor Mexico.

However, to detain them for so long and only allow them to speak to their families once is not acceptable. Yes, they have allowed the mothers to visit for a week, but it is not enough. These individuals have not been given a trial even though the Iranian Foreign Minister stated in December that they would be given one, nor have the three been charged — which is a violation of Iranian law.

So is there any hope for these three Americans to be released soon? In the past, Iran and the United States have made backdoor agreements where detainees from both sides have been released in an exchange. For this particular case, some analysts do believe that Iran will release the hikers in a prisoner swap, similar to what was rumored to have been done with the Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss. The Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi told reporters that Iran has been treating the hikers according to their “religious principles”  and “on humanitarian grounds”, and that the United States should reciprocate with Iranian detainees in their custody.

It is true that human rights violations occur everywhere and that Iran is not the only judicial system which has its faults.  It is also true that Iran and the United States have poor diplomatic relations. If the hikers were Malaysian, for example, things may have been slightly different.  The hostility between Iran and the West is not helping the situation and politics is politics no matter what. However, when an individual has not even been told what they are charged with, it is no longer politics but a violation of rights.

Here’s hoping for a safe and speedy return.

  • 19 May 2010
  • Posted By Sanaz Yarvali
  • 1 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Uncategorized

The Iranian African Connection

Since Iran has a difficult time in making friends with the West, it has been keeping its eye on Africa for partnerships over the past decade. Why reach out to Africa? According to an Iranian MP, “Iran looks at these countries through a humanitarian view based on prominent Islamic values”. Like Iran, governments such as the Sudanese and the Democratic Republic of Congo have a well known history of human rights violations. With that in mind, one cannot help but wonder what this “humanitarian view” consists of.

Instead, Iran’s efforts are political and economic.  Sudan turned to Iran two years ago for a military cooperation when China and Russia decreased their military aid. According to Sanam Vakil, an expert on Iran at the Johns Hopkins University, “Iran has been successful in strengthening ties with Sudan because the two countries have an ideological link. They are standing up against the West and imperialism”.

Meanwhile, Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently signed a “Memorandum of Understanding” forming a joint commission on economic cooperation, lifting visa requirements and political consultations. For those not aware of the DRC’s history, it is currently trying to recover from “Africa’s World War’, where approximately three million lives were lost between 1998-2003. The war was partly to blame for economic reasons, as the country has valuable mineral wealth. While one of the Congo’s two main religions is Islam, I would not be shocked if Iran is more interested in reaching out to engage in economic cooperation.  For its part, the Congolese government is planning to open up an embassy in Tehran in its efforts to expand bilateral cooperation.

Rafsanjani: National Healer?

As one of the main pillars of power in the Islamic establishment, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani played a significant role in what became the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Depending on one’s political affiliation, Rafsanjani to this day is still either highly respected or highly feared in the  internal political circles of Iran.

Rafsanjani 75, a pragmatist who deep inside believes in reforms to sustain the Islamic Republic, is the head of two very important institutions; the Assembly of Experts, which is an oversight and an electoral body to choose the Supreme Leader, and the Expediency Council that is the author of all macro policies in Iran. The Expediency Council is also a mediator for the legal disputes between the Guardian Council and the Parliament.

This past summer, it wasn’t long after the first bloody protests and after Ayatollah Khamenei issued his ultimatum to the protestors that Rafsanjani proposed his own solution to the crisis.  Eight months later today, he continues to reiterate his previous positions. He is moving forward to try to build a process for reconciling the reformists and hardliners in the hopes that they might pull the country out of the present crisis.

Hasan Rouhani, head of the Defense and National Security Commission within the Expediency Council, is now moving forward on a piece of legislation to decrease the Guardian Council’s role in the election process.  The proposal would create a new National Election Committee to oversee the election process, cutting the influence of the Supreme Leader and eliminating the role of the Guardian Council.

Although this legislation has to be approved by the Supreme Leader to become law, it is such a compelling idea that Khamenei might have to think twice about rejecting it.  If it does win approval, it just might be the momentum Rafsanjani is looking for to seek a national reconciliation.

  • 2 February 2010
  • Posted By Layla Armeen
  • 3 Comments
  • Events in Iran

“Revolution is not Completed; Dictatorship Still Exists”

The anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, February 11, is commemorated in Iran as a day to recognize the Iranian people’s stand against all forms of dictatorship.  That day 31 years ago was one of the bloodiest of the Iranian uprising that toppled the Pahlavi dynasty and its dictatorial regime. This year, the government expects massive popular protests to erupt as Iranians continue to hijack official government holidays to demand their rights and demonstrate their frustration with the disputed June 2009 election that put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in office for another four years.

In a recent interview on his website Kalameh, Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the main speakers for the opposition movement, discussed how elements of dictatorship have not been eradicated from the Iranian power structure, even after the Islamic Revolution. Mousavi stated that a theocratic totalitarianism is the darkest form of dictatorship man has seen in history, hinting that the “revolution” has not reached its goals and is therefore incomplete.  He went on to say that people should be the decision makers in their social and political journey and not the unelected officials who are currently in charge.

Mousavi’s remarks, coming at a time when tensions are at their highest level between the Iranian government and the Iranian people, are a unmasked call to stand up to the status quo. One could go a step further and interpret his comments as a suggestion that a revolution remains in progress as the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution approaches.  Mousavi said “the “revolution is not completed because dictatorship still exists.”

  • 8 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • 0 Comments
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Violence Spills into Day 2

Payvand via Radio Zamaneh is reporting that members of the Basij and Revolutionary Guard (Sepah; IRGC; Pasdaran) have stormed Tehran University and Shahid Beheshti University.

According to Amir Kabir Newsletter, Revolutionary Guards and Basij forces have entered the campuses… and engaged in beating the students with the assistance of university security.

Amir Kabir reports that the Revolutionary Guards and Basij have attacked students with batons and pepper spray, arresting some and forcing others out of the campus.

Basij forces have entered Shahid Beheshti campus in several buses and attacked the law departments, closing down the classes.

Reportedly several class at University of Tehran have also been shut down. Reports tell of plain clothes and police breaking windows of the Technical Department of University of Tehran and throwing tear gas bombs into the building. The Students have reportedly taken shelter in the halls of the building and lit fires to fight the tear gas.

The New York Times is also reporting on the violence today and further harassment of Mir Hossein Mousavi:

The violence continued Tuesday on the campus of Tehran University, where security forces were using tear gas and arresting students, according to reports and video clips relayed through Twitter and Internet postings. There were protests at large squares near the university as well, witnesses said. Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported that the clashes began after groups of pro-government students carrying pictures of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, clashed with protesters on campus.

On Tuesday, the opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi — who was reportedly prevented from attending Monday’s demonstrations — had a tense standoff with angry security men who had surrounded his office, according to opposition Web sites.

As Mr. Moussavi was leaving his office in a car, dozens of men on motorbikes, some wearing masks, blocked his way and chanted angry slogans against him, the Gooya News Web site reported.

Against the advice of his security team, Mr. Moussavi got out of his car and angrily shouted at the men, “You are on a mission — do your job, threaten me, beat me, kill me.” Mr. Moussavi’s security detail then took him back inside the building.

However, there are signs that the movement may be moving away from Mousavi:

But in recent months, it has become unclear how much Mr. Moussavi speaks for the opposition, which includes many who appear to be taking a more radical approach and demanding an end to the theocracy. During Monday’s demonstrations, there were fewer people with clothing or banners in the trademark bright-green color of Mr. Moussavi’s presidential campaign. And there were more chants aimed directly at Ayatollah Khamenei — a taboo that has increasingly eroded since the election. In addition to the now common chants of “death to the dictator,” some protesters chanted, “Khamenei knows his time is up” on Monday.

Sign the Petition

 

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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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